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The Realities of Implementing Computer-to-Screen Imaging

(September 2006) posted on Sun Sep 10, 2006

Coudray reveals his own experiences with a CTS system, and how he restructured his garment-pritning business around the technology.

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By Mark A. Coudray

The result was the creation of an accelerated production cycle where 72 hours is the standard order turnaround. We have provisions for next-day delivery when the client really needs it. In addition, we designed the systems around an order size of 50 pieces. To really appreciate what this means, you need to understand that we are 100% automated—no manual printers. Our minimum run size was previously 288 pieces. I effectively created a system in which we would need to produce a minimum of 20 complete changeovers per day in order to hit our breakeven. As crazy as this sounds, the increase in potential business was huge. This combination created new business in multiple market niches. But in order to get there, we had to completely change the prepress approach we traditionally used.

Computer-to-screen (CTS) imaging would be the foundation for this transition. I detailed the extensive benefits CTS technology offers in two separate columns last year (see "The Prepress Wire" in the July and October 2005 editions of Screen Printing). The major factor for me was the size of the shop and how to rationalize the more than $80,000 investment. After all, we produced 12-20 screens per day. We went some days without making screens because we were on press all day with orders in the thousands of pieces. I couldn't justify such a purchase based on those practices. Instead, I focused on CTS's enabling aspects.

A track record

I have used the premise of enabling technology very successfully in the past. The first time was when I made the decision to put automatic film processing into use. This was in the early 1980s when a fully automatic processor started at about $25,000 plus steep costs for consumables and daily calibration and maintenance. At the time, the shop tray developed with good results, but I wanted to get the chemicals away from the employees. Auto processing brought an entirely new level of quality and speed to our work and we were quickly able to offer technical film compositing and other services we couldn't have previously considered. The investment paid off handsomely with new business we had never done before.


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