Travelling through the north-western part of the Netherlands, you cannot fail to notice Probo, one of the largest printing houses for resellers in Europe and still growing, nestled amongst the meadows just outside the old city of Dokkum. Inside the new buildings an extensive range of new printing and finishing equipment is now available to handle the approximately 2200 orders arriving daily from resellers in the Benelux, resulting in around 15 to 20 thousand files per day.
Automation a must
To achieve this, it would be almost impossible to manage these orders, files and the resulting products by hand. A very high degree of automation is required to handle these stages with appropriate care, precision and efficiency and to send the printed and finished products back to the resellers across the Benelux in time. Jordy de Jong, product owner and member of the marketing team and Mirko Vrielink, head of the technical team, explained to us what is happening at Probo in terms of production automation, marketing and development. Mirko related that he is also involved in the purchase of new equipment and the integration of these printers and cutters into the company’s different workflows: "The innovation stream is virtually endless, and never stops. This means that every two weeks the workforce has to be briefed on ‘what it is, what it is used for and what can be produced with it’. Training, instruction and education are ongoing".
Never a dull moment
The same applies throughout the entire chain directed at end customers, ultimately to serve resellers even better with existing and new products. Jordy and Mirko explained: “As far as we’re concerned the line runs from innovation to production to the customer. Initially we have to manage the innovation associated with new equipment, then we have to instruct the production people on how it works and what they should do with it. Data and information are extremely important throughout this process. In a subsequent stage we have to inform resellers - usually via the website – on how they can use it.”
Training and instruction
As mentioned earlier, the training and instruction of employees on production lines is a particularly important aspect of Probo’s operations. Mirko Vrielink: “Together with Zünd, which has supplied us with a whole range of equipment for our production lines (currently 15 machines), we developed a system of training sessions involving the people in the factory to ensure that the systems are operated with maximum efficiency. We refer to some of these employees as ‘gurus’ because they have received intensive training and can instruct the operators on the different Zünd cutters, to ensure that ultimately the latter can work independently and solve problems themselves. We also use a job rotation system, giving employees an overview of our evolving production environment every week.”
Diverse production lines
There are currently five production lines, four involving Zünd equipment. One line for through and kiss cutting foils currently includes 15 HP Latex printers. Zünd cutters are doing the Kiss-Cut-Work. Mirko Vrielink: “This production line includes a new Zünd G3 L2-500. With the Centre Winder, the 2500 mm long cutter and extra 2500 mm cutter extension we can handle materials whilst the cutter continues to cut. The variety of jobs is such that we cannot really automate the unloading of the extra table. However, at the front end we can intelligently combine jobs, reducing the amount waste. The new Over Cutter Camera OCC from Zünd reads all registration marks in a flash and with the ICC camera we can read the necessary job information via QR codes. A second Zünd G3 L-2500 cutter will be added in due course.”
A 2nd line for routing and cutting of dibond, plexiglass/acrylic, re-board, forex, wood, and propylene plates includes three Durst printing systems. Soon there will be four new P5 systems, together with an Agfa Anapurna just to print on wood. In terms of finishing three Zünd G3 XL-3200, with a width of 2300 mm, are in place. Two of these systems are equipped with the 3.6 kW router RM-L. Jordy: “We offer templates to resellers to combine the best opportunities. In fact, the reseller can even serve the Zünd remotely to establish the most profitable division, for example after uploading a file for a large billboard.” Printing UV Banners and soft signage is handled by another four Durst systems while cutting is, amongst others, done on a Zünd G3 3XL-3200. This accommodates a width of 3200 mm and length of 3200 mm. Probo opts for a width and length of 3200 mm in measure critical cases, which is less tricky due to the accuracy of textile printing and sensibility of the substrate.
Services to resellers
Probo.nl, which is in fact an extension to the reseller company, produces printed products exclusively for professional resellers in the graphics industry. It offers smart services that promote growth, fast and reliable delivery and the latest innovations in print. Resellers have direct access to the largest range of print products available, much more than they would be able to produce on their own equipment. Probo continuously provides resellers with useful sales tools and services such as the division tool that operates some of the Zünd Cutters remotely, a feature that surprises customers time and again. Probo also organizes lectures and inspiring events and maintains Probo Educate as a knowledge base. Probo also extends the already large portfolio of possibilities, for instance with free templates to create decorations for exhibition stands, offices or parties. Resellers can then have these printed again as desired. Another good example is the wide range of frees letters offered by Probo, which resellers can order in diverse materials such as Plexiglas, Dibond, Dibond butler finish, Forex and Re-board. There are numerous solutions for both indoor and outdoor applications. Jordy de Jong commented: “We are not just another printer. We offer logistics services to deliver end products to resellers, enabling them to focus on growth and save time and money.”