Artwork Connect
For over 100 years, Volkers has provided design, artwork, prepress and storage of digital packaging data for retailers, brand owners (food and non-food) and printing companies. As a true family business, continuity is more important than the issues of the day. The world is changing faster than ever. Being open to new developments and staying in motion is the challenge they face. By switching gears in time, Volkers wants to continue to meet the needs of their customers. Under the motto: doing the ordinary always unusually well.
Artwork Connect

Volkers loves packaging. From A-brand to private label: Volkers ensures that brand owners and retailers keep control of their packaging process and graphic designs - the artwork. From initial concept to print-ready or online file, in professional terms: from Design to Publish (D2P).

But how do you get a grip in the rapidly changing world of consumables? How do you make the storage, management and consultation of large graphic files simple and straightforward for your customers? That’s what Artwork Connect does. Developed together with Ibuildings. Rudy van der Zee, IT Manager at Volkers, talks about it.

New portal for managing graphic data

As a specialised D2P company, Volkers supports its customers’ graphic packaging process. This is a complex process because graphic data consists of many different components in terabytes of separate files: images, text, logos, labels, PDFs, layers and fonts. In addition, packaging changes quickly and the requirements for functionality and security become increasingly stringent.

Rudy van der Zee: “We use an internal portal for our customers, but we noticed that other companies also increasingly needed a platform where they could store and manage their own branding and graphic files. So we decided to develop a digital portal to meet this need. The starting points? The portal must be simple and straightforward; it must not frustrate the user, but help them, in fact it must give them a ‘wow experience’. Such a platform did not yet exist.”

Critical and enthusiastic

Volkers wrote out a Request for Proposal. In a careful consideration of the two remaining suppliers, Ibuildings scored the highest. “With relatively little information, Ibuildings came up with a suitable proposal for a portal, in which they were critical right from the start. For example, on storage, version management and expandability. They opted for a flexible technology. And, very strong: they gave an estimate of the lead time for the entire project; something which the other party didn’t dare to do. They were enthusiastic: everything showed that they found it fun and challenging to build the new artwork portal with a project and development team in which our own developer also worked as a team member,” says Rudy van der Zee.

First the foundation

But before building could begin - agile, with Scrum - Ibuildings set to work with Volkers to clearly delineate the project and define a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). In various brainstorming sessions, objectives, starting points and the ‘what, for whom and why’ were recorded in clear user stories. Ibuildings then used story mapping to bring cohesion to these stories, resulting in an initial product backlog of functionality. Rudy van der Zee looks back: “We consciously took enough time for these sessions. They form the foundation of the application and are still the point of reference I regularly refer to during further development: ‘what are the starting points again?

Story mapping bridge between IT and business

Story mapping makes it clear that developing a system is more than just putting functionality together. Rudy van der Zee has found the methodology extremely valuable. “Story mapping promotes understanding between IT and the business. Every request for new functionality is translated into a user story. You soon see that a question that seems simple can lead to up to six different stories, each of which a developer works on for eight hours, and why. This way of working has definitely contributed to more support within the organization.”

Maximum of three clicks

With the design phase completed, the way was clear for the development of the new portal. That became Artwork Connect: the new, unique digital platform that gives brand owners and retailers autonomy to manage their own artwork files. Built as a scalable SaaS application, where agility, efficiency and (data) security go hand in hand and users can do what they want to do in no more than three clicks. Rudy van der Zee: “Artwork Connect is a modern, future-oriented platform on which customers can grow without limits. That applies to both capacity and functionality.”

Screenshot application menu

Wow Experience

With Artwork Connect, Volkers offers clients a grip to manage their entire workflow from design to print & publish from one source. Some even manage the entire D2P process, including communication with it. In this way, Artwork Connect is also a way of optimising the process at the customer’s site. Rudy van der Zee sees that customers are surprised by the possibilities, even digital natives. “You don’t need to have IT knowledge to recognize the benefits. Like the other day. The customer was still hesitant at first, but during the demo she quickly saw that she could do exactly what she wanted via a clear interface. And even more, “Wow, can this be done too? The application convinces itself!”

Screenshot editing

More than a partner

Rudy van der Zee sees Ibuildings as a partner that thinks along, is progressive and offers technically advanced solutions; also in the field of security. “Even more than a partner. I have a perfect experience with Ibuildings. Ibuildings dares to give push back and even to advise against a certain solution, even if it would mean fewer hours and turnover for them. That’s when you really are a valuable partner to me.”

Artwork Connect: technical infrastructure

Vue Logo

Artwork Connect is an application designed and realized Event Driven. The advantage is that all relevant activities are stored in the application and therefore you always have a traceable history. This makes it possible at any time to look back at a situation from the past and you can easily build all kinds of statistics and perform analyses, such as timelines and reports.

The portal is a PHP web application, built using the Laravel framework and a JavaScript frontend in Vue.js. Another feature is that the application has an optimized Elasticsearch search engine, which makes all the information entered very easy to find as well, but most importantly, amazingly fast.