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Five Keys to Automating Color Output

(April 2015) posted on Thu Apr 30, 2015

Delivering accurate color time after time is no longer the sign of a skilled craftsperson – it’s a prerequisite for getting the business.

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By Mike Ruff

Printers often ask me if it’s possible to deliver predictable color to clients every time, in a foolproof way. The answer is yes. Color is just numbers that have been standardized under L*a*b* (See Figure 1), a non-device-dependent color space that is the same anywhere in the world. Therefore, if you control the variables in incoming files, the process-control elements in your workflow, and your output devices diligently targeting L*a*b values, you can automate color reproduction in your facility. Many companies have already done so and are enjoying a huge surge in output capacity and profits.

Consider what would happen in your business if eliminating the downtime it takes for color corrections and adjustments increased your output by only 10 percent. It may not sound like much, but it would make a huge difference to your bottom line. You would most likely fill that production capacity very quickly as though you had bought another print device, producing more prints with the same labor, floor space, and equipment. You cannot do anything more valuable for your business than increase production on the equipment you already have.

But the best part of automating color is that it takes very little overhead. You probably already own the required color-management instruments (See Figure 2) and the software tools you need are more reasonably priced today than ever before. A bonus benefit of automating color in your plant: You’ll be able to get higher quality products to your customers more efficiently.

How are printers accomplishing this? I’ll look at five key decision points and the steps you must take in your business.

Decision Point #1: Buy Into Automation
Color results must be as close to automatic as possible. In a fully automated color workflow, there is neither time nor need to showcase a press operator’s art skills. This may sound impossible to those who feel that custom color tweaking is a necessary part of the graphics production process, but color management software and instruments are now able to manage color to very close tolerances.

So, the first step of color automation, and it can be a difficult one at older facilities with veteran personnel, is to buy into the process and make sure that every person in the organization is on board. I believe the future of our industry is at stake.


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