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Diving into Digital Workflows

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

Key features to consider when assessing workflow-management software and its role in digital imaging.

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By Bill Hartman

Graphics printers have been very aggressive in investing in digital imaging technology; however, many have forgotten that once capacity has been increased on the back end, print providers need to be able to handle their work efficiently from design to print to cut.

Time to market is mission critical. Therefore, optimizing the process between customer files coming in and printing or cutting is essential. Reducing waste and minimizing errors are key factors in remaining competitive. The idea of automated workflows for graphics producers has gained steam over the past couple of years. We see it in two fronts: First, RIP manufacturers are identifying that, to maintain competitive, they have had to add new features. Color management quickly comes to mind.

While shops have experimented with commercial print workflows, they have never been very specific to the unique challenges of producing signs and displays. So, while many existing workflows have been customized to do an ample job, a new class of solutions suddenly appears: off-the-shelf workflows specifically for the production of signage and graphics. Built with modular features, they allow a print provider to choose the features that are most important to them.

What do workflows do that make them attractive? How can they help resolve some of the challenges and offer opportunities to a graphics producer?

Getting the design ready for print
Many customer-submitted files are not capable of going through a RIP. In most shops, there is usually only one expert—the person everyone turns to when they can’t process customers’ files. This person can usually look at a file and almost immediately determine where problem areas might be, and fix them. Unfortunately for the print provider, this is labor-intensive and costly. The alternative, returning the file to the customer, is time consuming and not a very good example of customer service (and value-add).

One of the traditional challenges for a graphics shop is that the files they receive are far from being traditional. While some sophisticated design shops are capable of delivering a good PDF file, or a design created by a more popular design package, such as Adobe Creative Suite, the sad truth is that many files are delivered from a diverse set of applications. Have you, for example, ever received a design from PowerPoint? You probably have.


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