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Improved Savings With Digital Proofing

October 1998
As visitors enter the lobby of Westland Printers, they're stunned by a riot of color. The commercial custom printer displays samples of its work on two full walls. There's no missing the fact that Westland prints sophisticated multicolor brochures, many of which feature diecut and embossed covers produced on-site.

Despite the complexity of the work, when Westland Printers accepts jobs these days, it's with the understanding that they'll be out the door within a week.

Typically, the Burtonsville, MD, family-owned printer has between seven and 10 working days to turn a job around. And, points out company President Barbara Westland, that type of delivery is for a 48-page multicolor brochure. "Five years ago, we would have had three to four weeks to do that job," she says.

"Today's turnaround times are half what they were just a couple of years ago," says Tom Snyder, manager of electronic prepress. "Much of our work carries a 24- to 48-hour turnaround for prep, and several more days to print and deliver. That's hardly enough time for the ink to dry."

And hardly the way Westland Printers conducted business when it was founded nearly seven decades ago. Opened for business in 1929, today the company occupies a 45,000-square-foot plant and employs 105 people.

Westland's prepress department feeds an array of 40˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster sheetfed presses: a six-color with a coating tower, a five-color press, a four-color press, and two two-color presses. In addition, the commercial printer operates two Heidelberg GTO presses and a variety of foil-stamping, embossing, debossing, diecutting, scoring and binding equipment.

"We do complete packages," says Westland. "Everything from brochures and pocket folders to embossed and hot-stamped stationery and letterhead."

"We keep a lid on costs and still get high-quality work out under increasingly tight deadlines," adds Snyder. "But that calls for good communication between us and our customers."

Advertising agencies in the metropolitan Washington and Baltimore corridor make up nearly three-quarters of the printer's customer base (the remaining one-quarter consists of corporations and associations).

Good Communications
Today, these customers are just as interested in cost savings as they are quick turnarounds, Westland adds. By turning to a digital proofing system, the printer saves time and money, and the proofing process is an excellent launch point for good communications.

Before the digital proofing system was in place, the prepress department would do a scan, make a set of films of all the images, and proof them on conventional analog proofing material.

"The process meant running films, then stripping them into position to make a proof," Snyder recalls, noting that the process moved from the electronic prepress department to stripping and proofing departments. "The films left our department for proofing. When we got them back, we'd sort them out, cut them up and send them back to the customer." That process could run between one and two days, he points out.

"Now, digital scans are sent directly over a local area network to the Kodak Approval digital color proofing system [from Kodak Polychrome Graphics], and within an hour we have a proof we can show to the customer. If there are changes, we rescan the image and an hour later have another proof."

In addition, Snyder can match the digital proof to the press. "Most desktop proofs aren't sufficiently accurate for our pressroom," he notes. "What we get on the Kodak system is very close to what we match in the pressroom. The clients look at those proofs, and know this is what their finished job is going to look like. They can mark up the proof and send it back for corrections; they're making the color call and the image call based on the digital proof. "

And the digital proofs contribute to clearer communication, particularly between agencies and their clients.

"Before computers replaced drawing tables, a designer envisioned what he or she wanted to create and made a rough comp. Then the designer went to the client, made a sales pitch, and returned to create finished work from the rough comp," Snyder explains.

Now designers do all their work on the computer. The comp is printed to a desktop color printer.

"Everyone is misled," he says, "because they take a color comp to an end user, who thinks it's beautiful and OKs it. Then it gets output on the Kodak Approval [which has been press calibrated] in CMYK on our end, and now the colors don't match. All of a sudden, there's a big problem."

Westland Printers encourages its clients to utilize the Kodak Approval for comp and design decisions, following a lead set by marketing communications firm Garruba, Dennis, Konetzka. "Their people come here first. They do color tests with the digital proofer, then sell their client on the exact colors we will be producing for them," Snyder says.

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