Companies that provide products and services for the clinical health care setting understand that quality and accuracy are–in some cases–a matter of life and death. A product that does not deliver at consistently high levels will, at best not be used and, at worst can negatively affect the patient experience and health outcomes.
For Arkray, a commitment to accuracy and consistency is woven into every fiber of the company: from the diagnostic test strips they produce and sell to clinics and hospitals around the world, to the labels and packaging that allow health care professionals to diagnose and treat patients with a wide variety of health needs. It’s no surprise then that Arkray would hold its suppliers and vendors to the same high standards for quality and consistency that it abides by at all of its worldwide manufacturing facilities.
Color You Can Count On
Arkray manufactures and sells a variety of diagnostic equipment for clinical and consumer use. Core to Arkray’s product line is the DiaScreen family of dip-and-read urinalysis test strips. DiaScreen test strips are a point-of-care product used in a clinical setting to check for the presence of abnormal body functions that are indicated by the presence of leukocytes, glucose, ketones, bilirubin, protein, nitrites, blood and pH in a patient’s urine—information that can indicate a clinical need for a patient. The lab technicians who use the test strips and read the results (and ultimately the physicians and patients) count on the clarity and consistency of the color on the strips and corresponding labels, which allows them to make a visual comparison between the test strips and the color block charts that are printed on each DiaScreen bottle.
Raising the Bar on Turn Time and Sustainable Quality
In 2008, Tom Kampmann, operations manager for Arkray, was looking to reduce cost and improve the quality and repeatability of the DiaScreen test strips. At the time, Arkray was experiencing an 8 to 10 week lead-time and Kampmann was looking to reduce that without compromising quality. Enter Lofton Label.
Arkray initially engaged Lofton as a print provider in 2004, and quickly found that Lofton maintained a similar set of high standards and a technical expertise that Kampmann felt would enable the printer to deliver a sustainable level of quality in a pressure-sensitive label, all in a reduced timeframe.
In order to meet the color needs of the Arkray DiaScreen product line, Lofton Label invested in digital print technology in 2010 that enabled the custom print provider to match the large range of PMS colors required by the DiaScreen test strips. Using the HP Digital Indigo WS 6000, Lofton put its technical expertise to work to explore the 55 custom-color matches of the 10-way DiaScreen product. Collaborating closely with Arkray, Lofton was able to meet Arkray’s high standards for color clarity and consistency, while achieving the goal of reducing production time.
“We were attracted to digital because the color blocks could be produced quickly and repeated consistently from label to label,” says Kampmann. “There was also the potential for cost savings depending on quantity, along with a much shorter lead time to get the labels in house. Since switching our printing for the DiaScreen test strips to Lofton Label, we’ve reduced our production time to a maximum of four weeks, depending on the quantity and urgency of the order. Lofton has been able to respond more quickly than our previous two vendors could.”
But the conversion from a flexographic label to digital labels didn’t happen overnight. Arkray and Lofton worked closely to establish an acceptable color formula that would be repeatable and sustainable to Arkray’s quality parameters. The DiaScreen product was used to obtain Labch values during the color standard development process. Once the label’s color block chart was created on the Indigo press, the colors were once more compared against the DiaScreen product to confirm an exact match.
“The process of converting to digital for our DiaScreen labels was more involved and complex than we ever anticipated. Our previous development process required us to match our product to pantone colors, to inspect the labels, and to visually match the color block chart to the label samples. Meanwhile, the digital process required us to develop true Labch standards from scanned DiaScreen test strips. Sample print runs were then compared against original Labch values until they closely matched DiaScreen product Labch values. Our finished labels are now measured against those standards. Throughout the process we were confident that Lofton provided the best solution for the end product we were seeking,” says Kampmann. “It was definitely worth the effort.”
Reading the Results
According to Kampmann, Arkray’s original goals of decreasing production time and establishing a repeatable level of color quality by converting from flexographic to digital, pressure-sensitive labels with Lofton Label have been achieved. Incoming label deliveries are on time and have continued to meet our acceptance criteria.