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Boosting Pressroom Productivity -- Pocketing More Profits

April 2005

He offers some examples of productivity-boosting options:

* Computer-to-plate (CTP) has enabled higher screen rulings or advanced and hybrid screening options like stochastic or frequency modulated (FM).

* The productivity gains in the pressroom due to CTP workflows are faster makereadies because of better fitting register and accurate dot gains on the plates.

* CIP4 ink key presets from prepress allow the pressroom to shorten makeready time by getting up to color faster with less paper waste.

* Closed-loop color is becoming popular because it can reduce paper and labor costs, while also increasing quality with better color consistency.

* Color management systems using ICC profiles from IT8/7.3 targets allow wide-format ink-jet to be an accurate contract color proof.

As such technologies become more affordable, it will help with the long-term survival of many printers, Kelley says. Also, some printers are more accepting of change than others.

"As history has shown, those who embrace change and find a way to make it work for their customer base will not only survive, but will thrive," he states. "Future challenges and opportunities will come from the need for new and innovative equipment and processes, as well as the development and procurement of the human element. I see the key element for success being the understanding of how to develop and maintain the workforce during this ever-changing process."

Still, it is automated equipment that comes quickly to mind when talking about productivity in the pressroom. As a result, many older presses, especially web offset models, are being replaced due to productivity and quality concerns, PIA/GATF's Prince says.

"We as printers cannot hold on to 42-year-old webs and 25-year-old sheetfeds and still expect to be competitive," he maintains. "New equipment, fully loaded, is two or three times more productive than what it replaces."

Don't Fall Behind

The sad, but realistic, result of all of this is that some printers are going to be left behind. These are the printers that are unwilling or unable to buy the latest technology and make appropriate changes in operational and personnel practices, Mason predicts.

"The unfortunate thing about this process is that some printers, with legacy equipment that is fully amortized and no longer must be depreciated, often can offer prices at lower margins than printers who have modernized," warns Mason. "These legacy printers may not endure for the long haul, but they lower margins for everyone else while they last."

RIT's Suffoletto reminds printers that no machine or product can solve all of the industry's problems. Technology may make printers' businesses more productive, but they need people to come up with creative and innovative solutions to old, chronic problems that still plague the industry—issues that technology alone cannot solve.

"Change is inevitable and will occur, if not now, then later," Suffoletto preaches. "We can sit back, resist change and then react to it, or we can be proactive, plan for change and manage it. Printers that don't invest for the future will have no future."

Suffoletto speculates that pressrooms will go through the same metamorphosis that prepress departments did 15 to 20 years ago. Manual tasks will become a thing of the past, and press crew numbers will be reduced, doing more with less. "The craft and art are being replaced with science and technology," he contends.

Mason sees much of the same for the future. He concludes that the Job Definition Format (JDF) will loom large in tomorrow's pressroom.

"JDF offers printers the opportunity to fully integrate their equipment with their print business management software," he says. "This could be the thing that truly separates winners from losers in the pressroom."

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