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Customer Training Programs -- Showing Some Class

October 2003

Selecting the right press for the job 3.6

Source: MAN Roland survey.
Rating out of a possible 5.
Responding to a separate question, 91 percent said they would be willing to attend a free seminar to acquire more graphic arts expertise.

"Clearly, a lack of communication exists between printers and creatives," says Yves Rogivue, CEO of MAN Roland, in announcing the survey results. "Our study shows that the gap today seems to be wider than ever. That is alarming because advancements like digital workflows and computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) require closer cooperation between the creators of printed products and the experts who reproduce them."

Asking Your Customers

The survey, which polled over 500 designers, art directors and other creatives who buy printing on a regular basis, asked respondents about specific topics in which they might be interested.

"Controlling color more precisely" led the list with a 4.6 (out of 5) rating. That top topic was closely followed by "What to look for on a press check" and "Ink and coating options," each of which received a 4.5 score. (See chart on right.)

Printers are not oblivious to these figures—they know that training and seminars for print

buyers are an asset for all involved. Parsippany, NJ-based L.P. Thebault Co. (LPT), for example, has pioneered collaborative experience-based learning, and offers a spectrum of training programs depending on the skill set of its customers.

"We provide an introductory seminar (LPT University), 'Graduate' programs and customized, account-specific seminars," explains Don Seitz, senior vice president of sales and marketing. "We believe that in order for customers to remain competitive, there must be constant change and innovation by way of new ideas, new energy and new techniques that are shared with our customers."

LPT University is an interactive print production seminar, which is an event that covers all facets of printing at an introductory level. It provides the latest advancements in technology and ways to enhance projects—from reducing costs to increasing workflow efficiency.

The presenters include Professor Lloyd Carr of the New York College of Technology and members of the LPT Operating Committee. Topics include: prepress, press, paper, e-business, scheduling and finishing, with an emphasis on the importance of preplanning. They also cover proofing, handling a press OK and fulfillment.

LPTU-The Graduate Courses were recently introduced. The first in the series was "The New Frontiers of Color." The seminar included both outside and internal experts covering hot topics such as ICC color management, Staccato enhanced screening and Adobe's InDesign software.

Something for Everyone

"These formal training programs are offered approximately every other month," notes Seitz. "We rotate the introductory seminar and graduate courses to reach as many customers as possible. We also provide customized training programs on an as-needed basis, addressing topics such as Staccato printing, digital asset management and fulfillment."

Out in Santa Rosa, CA, Ani Morse, co-owner of Santa Rosa Printing, provides customers with individual, one-on-one computer and graphic arts training. An accredited art teacher, she has also taught in the Computer and Information Sciences department at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The one-on-one graphics courses (available in English and in Spanish) are suited for companies that design their own marketing materials, newsletters, etc. The ins-and-outs of the use of PageMaker, CorelDRAW, Illustrator, Photoshop and introductory Web design for in-house marketing departments are provided, usually to people who have had little or no previous art or computer training.

Morse teaches clients how to set up files for both film and digital output. She also is often faced with "God-awful, ugly designs," and will do make-overs and give basic design training.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, Consolidated Concepts offers individual training on software such as Quickbooks, Illustrator and Freehand. However, company Founder Todd Cazin reports he is also currently working on developing a seminar for next year's PIASD Print Week, called Print 101.

"I hope to cover the basics of printing," Cazin remarks. "It will begin with desktop publishing, then press, bindery and end in fulfillment. As a print broker we do a variety of printing, (and) I hope to incorporate it all. My goal is to make people better aware of what is needed to get a successful printed piece."

Once he gets the Print 101 program going, Cazin says he would like to offer it once a quarter. This, he maintains, should help eliminate some common problems printers face—the most plaguing being dealing with digital files.

"Our biggest problem is dealing with the Internet," Cazin assesses. "We have clients who assume that they can send us images downloaded from the Internet. They don't realize that 72 dpi doesn't cut it for printing."

Other issues he hopes to resolve include: file format—getting JPEGs and GIFs versus EPS and TIFF files; and color mode—getting RGB files versus CMYK files.

Not only does training reduce the number of problems and questions customers may have, adds LPT's Seitz, it also serves as an opportunity to share new technology and new techniques.

"Training helps significantly in helping customers in the creative and preplanning stages," Seitz observes. "By introducing customers to the workflow and processes, the planning and prep stages can be shortened—reducing turnaround time and, in turn, cost. Training also helps customers understand the overall printing process better by improving communications and generating synergy in the creative and printing process."

To try to help rectify the findings of its training survey, MAN Roland is developing a "Printing for Creatives Seminar" that will be offered to the North American creative community. "Our plan is to address some of the more common challenges that designers and art directors face when going to print," notes Christian Cerfontaine, director of marketing at MAN Roland. "As part of the program, we're also going to be publishing printing tips in the publications that creatives read."

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