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Making the Workforce Transition from Analog to Digital Prepress

(January 2008) posted on Mon Jan 07, 2008

As prepress technology evolves, so must the capabilities of a screen shop's workforce. Find out how to ease your employees through the changes that come with a digital prepress workflow.


By Mark A. Coudray

As I put this column together, it’s the end of November and I’m in the middle of performance reviews and general planning for 2008. This has been a very good year for us, and we’ve experienced significant growth overall. A good part of our growth has come about as the result of implementing a computer-to-screen (CTS) system a year and a half ago. I’ve written about this subject a few times over the last 18 months, focusing mostly on the technology and its influence on the prepress workflow. This month, I’d like to describe how these significant changes, which include the timing in our screenmaking area, have made it necessary to review the performance levels of the department and the personnel in it. Part of this review involves position descriptions and the salary scale of those involved.

 

Factoring change

There’s no doubt that CTS has had a dramatic impact on the way we do business. I call this the change factor. At its core is the understanding that what we’re doing today is only slightly related to the way we’ve done things in the past. The skill sets necessary today are quite different from the analog methods the industry has previously used. This should come as no surprise, because CTS is merely an extension of the digital imagesetter model in use by most larger screen printers for more than a decade now. The break comes when we find it necessary to bypass the generation of film positives and go directly to the screen. In the past, this step has been handled by some of the least compensated individuals in our industry. We simply hand them the job jacket with the film, and they position it on the screen and expose the image.

That’s all changed now. Instead of handling a physical job jacket, we’re dealing with data files. Depending on the RIP software you use, you can have a folder with multiple files in it, or a single file that’s processed and then imaged sequentially. Either way is fine, but what’s important is that you recognize the skill levels we need today are different from what was acceptable in the past. We must ask ourselves whether the workers we have are capable of doing the job.


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