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Inland Label Makes a Mark with Efficiency using Preactor APS
May 2015
Founded in 1903, Inland Printing specialized in brochures, catalogs and other commercial print items. In 1944, John Glendenning, a print broker from Detroit, Michigan invested in Inland Printing with two other partners and moved his family to La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1952 he bought out his partners and became the sole owner of Inland Printing. In 1960 John’s son Jack, the first in the family to graduate college, joined Inland.

Under Jack’s direction, the company continued to steadily grow and in 1968 they invested in their first multicolor offset press. In 1971 the company was moved into a new facility, the current headquarters building, on West Avenue in La Crosse. In the mid 1970’s Inland started printing labels for G. Heileman Brewing and a few years later began producing Budweiser labels for Anheuser-Busch. As Inland continued to see an increase in label business, Jack’s son Mark, the current CEO of Inland joined the company in Chicago in 1988 and moved back to La Crosse in 1992.

Inland continued to offer commercial print while their label business expanded throughout the 80’s and 90’s, but by the late 1990’s investment was focused solely on label printing. In 2004 a 20,000 square foot addition was made to the headquarters building and a state of the art gravure label press was installed. With a focus on label printing, the company changed their name to Inland Label. Inland Label began to be referred to as the beer label printers in the industry and continued their rapid growth, printing labels for a vast majority of craft breweries as well as many of the large brewers in the U.S. and Canada. Over the course of the next decade, a 65,000 square foot expansion was made to house a new state-of-the-art pre-press department and more advanced printing presses. Inland Label continued their growth and began printing labels for other markets including food and consumer products. Today, they produce 5 different kinds of labels (Cut & Stack, Injection In-Mold, Pressure Sensitive, Blow Mold, and Roll-Fed), offer three print processes (offset, gravure and flexo), and lead the industry as one of the top label suppliers to some of the largest brands in the beverage, food and consumer products markets. Today Inland is on a growth trajectory with a global reach into Latin America, the UK, and China.

As with any successful company with strong growth, process improvement is essential, and Inland's scheduling methods needed to take advantage of automated technology to address several problems with production planning. Scheduling was taking place in multiple systems and done completely by hand.  Inland schedulers were trying to optimize the schedule and run similar operations together while continuing to meet deadlines.  Dependent operations did not link between the grouped operations to make sure that the proper sequencing and wait times were minimized.  Constraints and down times had to be factored in manually as part of the schedule.

Inland Label uses Syspro ERP. Previous integration with Syspro with a basic Preactor scheduler and employee experience made the upgrade to Preactor Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) the logical next step for Inland Label. "Our ERP, was originally loaded with a Preactor basic scheduling solution called a Graphical Planning board. This was an electronic scheduling board that replicated our previous planning tool. We knew that we had to make dramatic improvements to schedule all of our critical plant resources on one scheduling platform," recalls Garet Wetzel, vice president of Supply Chain. Quinn & Associates went to La Crosse for a presentation and Inland decided to move forward with the upgrade to Preactor APS.

Inland has unique business requirements and so the design and development proceeded carefully. The initial model and scheduling rule was developed by Quinn & Associates, and with training provided by the Preactor reseller, Inland staff became self-sufficient in modifying the basic Preactor scheduling model. "Having the capability to rapidly develop and modify custom business logic on top of the Preactor framework to help us efficiently schedule production, taking into account all of our unique business processes and objectives," says Willie Spindler, Systems Analyst and Developer. Preactor is deployed in two facilities and integrated with several systems within Inland: ERP, various in-house applications, shop floor production instrumentation systems, and reporting and analytical tools.

The benefits that Preactor has for Inland Labels are extensive:
  • Visibility of operations to maintain sequencing while ensuring maintaining due dates. 
  • Ability to help manage constraints and down time. 
  • Automation of optimization of the schedule by creating a rule to group similar jobs together.
  • Significant expansion of our production without having to add planning staff.
  • All scheduling consolidated into a single data-driven system.

Today users import new jobs and operations from custom-built software into Preactor several times a day, using Preactor as a tool to optimize the scheduling of these operations without violating constraints or due dates.  They use the tool the update the ERP system with the scheduled dates and times and to publish the schedule to the operations team.  Using Preactor allows planners to group production runs with similar requirements together to gain production efficiencies.

"The flexibility and configurability of Preactor APS allowed Inland Label to schedule their complex and dynamic process more efficiently and quickly adapt to unexpected and rapid changes inherent in their industry”   says Duane Morelli, vice president and senior project engineer for Quinn & Associates.

Mr. Wetzel concludes: "Preactor APS delivered the results that we were looking for. One platform that gave us the visibility needed to put the optimal schedule on the shop floor that sequences jobs correctly and minimizes the changes to any of our production lines and cuts changeover times dramatically." Future plans for Preactor include using scheduling pre-production activities or adding additional viewer licenses to improve schedule visibility throughout the organization.