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Prepress Robotics

(October 2011) posted on Tue Sep 27, 2011

Find out how making an automated assembly line in your prepress department can help boost quality, productivity, and morale.

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By Mike Ruff

One way to stay competitive with print speed is to keep your printers printing and not sitting idle. I visit about 50 print facilities a year. I have found that most print equipment is only producing shippable product about 60% of the time. The other 40% of the time is spent waiting for files to be prepared, stopping to fix mistakes, adjust color, and wait to reprocess the same raster image multiple times before starting or resuming production. I’m not against faster equipment. But a slower printer with a faster and more accurate workflow has a high degree of likelihood to win the race over a higher priced, cutting-edge, faster printer. In reality, we can push forward the calendar on a purchase of a faster machine a year or two just by optimizing our productivity and profitability with prepress robotics.

How does prepress robotics help?
There are three areas of the prepress workflow that offer opportunities to drive productivity and improve your competitive position with existing equipment: better and more accurate robotic incoming file management, standardizing file preparation, and managing the color result to maximize the accuracy of expected results.

Robotic management of incoming files A key principle of lean manufacturing is that correct job flow cannot have bottlenecks. A bottleneck for most graphics producers is getting a file from the client into print-ready stage and in a standardized state that doesn’t require rework.

The bottleneck is created when everything else waits for the front-end work to be completed. The prepress technicians preflight and inspect files, call clients, and send files through the workflow. It destroys the productivity of the next key process area of the final product: film and proofs. Robotics in prepress can solve the problem (Figure 1).

A digital storefront can manage incoming jobs and the information needed to start the job. Clients simply log in and all their information is populated. It simplifies placing an order and saves the client time. They have the option to select preloaded job information from pull-down menus or select data needed to output their file. The client then uploads their file and, as soon as uploading is complete, the client immediately is sent a confirmation e-mail thanking them for the job and confirming that the file is in process—even if it’s midnight and no one is there.


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