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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

You should clearly see, as a manager or owner, that we’re reaching the tipping point. The graphics segment of the industry already knows this. Witness the change in the make up of exhibitors at the recent SGIA trade show. As the speed and flexibility of flatbed and roll-fed inkjet continues to increase, the competitive advantage of traditional screen printing becomes less and less.

The conclusion for us is obvious. If we truly are in the graphic-communication business, we must be flexible and adaptable to the imaging processes we use. A significant portion of our efforts needs to be focused on transitioning our traditional, analog-oriented employees into a digital model. We must be fully aware of the psychology of change and the approaches to use in order to achieve a successful transition.

One thing comes through loud and clear in my role as a consultant to companies that wish to make this kind of a transition: The technology is only a very small fraction of the effort involved. It is perhaps 15-20% of the total effort. The remaining 80-85% encompasses the psychology of change and the empowerment of employees as they move through the change process. Your vision must be crystal clear and your focus sharp and defined. If you go into a transition phase without vision and focus, you’re sure to stumble. Your employees are already wary and apprehensive of how the new technologies will impact their livelihoods. If you do not set a strong, defined course, they will sense it and resist. They’re looking for clear leadership. If it’s there, they will follow. If they sense any hesitation, the game is over before it begins.

Evolution of a business model or technology is inevitable. Recognizing change in the wind and how you face it are crucial to your successful adaptation. We walk a fine line. Jumping in too early and unprepared can be disastrous. Waiting too long can put you behind competitively and cause you to lose marketshare.

The transition from analog to digital is now a well established fact. We are no longer in the us vs. them debate. It is no longer a question of if, but a question of when, you will make the transition to digital. Your success begins with understanding what you have to work with, and this means your existing employees. If you have not already made a choice for direct digital imaging or CTS, start the process of evaluating which technology you will choose.

In the meantime, keep your focus on the positioning and transition of your workforce. Review previous installments of Prepress Wire that discuss CTS technology (Nov. 2005 and Aug. 2006). These will help you to understand the task at hand and will shorten your learning curve. The good news is that many have walked this path ahead of you. However, you must still make the choices and do the work for your own company. Now is a good time to start the process—or continue it if you’ve already started. I truly believe that it is a journey that does not end. We must continually evaluate and refine as our performance and experience increase.


Mark A. Coudray is president of Coudray Graphic Technologies, San Luis Obispo, CA. He has served as a director of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association Int’l (SGIA) and as chairman of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology. Coudray has authored more than 250 papers and articles over the last 20 years, and he received the SGIA’s Swormstedt Award in 1992 and 1994. He covers electronic prepress issues monthly in Screen Printing magazine. He can be reached via e-mail at



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