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FILE PROCESSING SOLUTIONS -- Getting into the Flow

September 2002

The computer has been an amazing enabling tool for the printing industry. The problem is, it has put capabilities in the hands of anyone with a computer and some software, but not the expertise that goes with the craft. Creative types have been lured into attempting more production-oriented tasks by the potential to gain greater control over their work and save money.

In bridging the boundaries between creative and production functions, digital technology also has blurred lines of responsibility. Too often, the outcome has been disappointing printed results and/or frustration with the process, now broadly called "workflow."

But wait, here comes CIM—computer-integrated manufacturing. Just automate wherever possible and take the human factor out of the equation whenever possible, and everything will come out great. How all this integration is accomplished is the tricky part, especially since the print customer needs to be a partner in the process for the full potential of CIM to be realized.

One option for print providers is to turn to a major workflow system vendor for a turnkey solution. Or, they can opt to do their own system integration using third-party components. The latter option will be explored in this article, with an emphasis on the core functions of preflighting, trapping and imposition. These function must be addressed for virtually every job, and now are potentially within the reach of the print customer.

At Kaye-Smith, preflighting was set up as an independent department to get it as far ahead as possible of the company's production workflow, says Matt Beals, preflight engineer. "We don't want to get caught by a problem on a live job when it should have been resolved at the preflight stage," he explains. "Once I finish my preflighting, the job is turned back over to the salesperson, who then submits it through our order-entry process. Only then does a file become a live production job."

Kaye-Smith still considers preflighting part of its production process, but it does encourage customers to try doing it themselves, Beals says. "Most are still leery of taking responsibility for preflight and don't feel comfortable with the process," he adds.

With an emphasis on document management services, the Renton, WA-based firm designs, prints, stores and distributes an array of business documents. Its clients range from Fortune 500 organizations down to small businesses.

Right From The Start

According to Beals, native application files are still the typical—and generally preferred—format for the shop's incoming work. "We do accept PDFs from some customers at their request, but we don't just automatically accept the format," he says. "We've found that most clients don't yet know how to produce press-ready PDFs."


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