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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.

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By Mark A. Coudray

So the questions at hand are these: Are we seeing the end of the traditional, analog craftsman on which our industry has evolved? If we are, what does this mean for us as managers and owners? Can we simply upgrade our existing workers into the new positions, or do we need to replace them with more highly educated individuals?

Based on my own experience, I think the answers are not so clear. While it’s evident digital technology is more sophis- ticated and requires a broader knowledge, I’m not sure we require everyone to have diagnostic skills. It is possible to make the technology and the decisions associated with it more user friendly or transparent. This is the key to our success in transitioning from analog to digital. The easier we can make it for the analog operators, the fewer problems we will have overall.

This means the burden for implementation falls clearly on the owners and managers to design, develop, and implement workflows that are compatible with the skill levels within their organizations. Purchasing and installing sophisticated software and digital imaging equipment can lead to disastrous results for those who fail in this area.

Recognizing the value of the employees allows us to make the transition successfully. You would not be where you are today without their efforts. However, past performance is not an indicator of future success. In fact, as we have seen, the skills necessary for your future success are not the same skills at all. While there are some legacy foundational skills, more and more of them are being replaced by automation, leaving the human operator in a position of peripheral involvement. This trend extends beyond CTS to automated reclaiming systems, automatic coaters, and more.

All of this automation reduces the need for technical labor. As the labor cost per hour continues to escalate here in the US and other industrialized economies, the ROI for fully automated systems becomes more and more attractive. This is especially true as the cost of digital controllers, stepping motors, and imaging technology continues to decline. On top of all this, the original patents on digital imaging are beginning to expire. This means an increase in competition, and more and more suppliers will have access to the core imaging engines.


Embracing the next step


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