Hamilton--Bits and Bytes vs. Dots and Spots
I'd love to tell you that I thought of this and am patenting it, but, sadly, others beat me to the punch. Bill Ray, president of Group InfoTech (East Lansing, MI) and one of the brighter bulbs to light up our industry, has been working on this one for a while, and he's been joined by a number of others, including the vendors selling digital asset management systems.
There are several important consequences of data-centric thinking: First, many, if not all, components can be processed in parallel to increase throughput; and, the ability to complete the job no longer hinges on a single point of failure. That is, when the inevitable font is missing from an EPS graphic nested in a Quark page, you can still produce the magazine on time. But not by using a workflow based on processes. Given the conventional serial workflow, pages are created, assembled into flats and then the entire job is RIPed. That's when you get courier type, tempers flare, and money and time are lost.
The cornerstone of a data-centric workflow is the database. Far beyond helping you find digital "stuff," databases—such as FileMaker Pro, SQLServer and Oracle—provide the ability to relate multiple objects together without them having to be physically married. This is the quality that enables tasks to be performed simultaneously, such as color correction on images, while graphics are being built and pages are being laid out.
In addition, the relationship can be structured very tightly, so that only if a set of conditions are met will the elements be merged to form the magazine page. This is how we avoid the missing font issue, as the database provides the means by which the operator would know whether or not the EPS had passed a preflight; if it hadn't, or hadn't been preflighted at all, the database would not "release" the graphic for page assembly.