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PREPRESS OPERATIONS -- Grounding Your Clients in Preflight

February 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to change. File preparation for print almost fits that definition, except no one has really expected the results to change.

For going on 20 years, the graphic arts community has been vexed by missing fonts, RGB images, inadequate image resolutions and other issues that result in "bad files." What has made this situation all the more frustrating is that the problems and remedies are commonly known.

The disconnect between the design/creative and production stages of the process helps to explain why issues with files have persisted to today. Those creating the files have been largely shielded from the pain their actions cause. As a result, they haven't been sufficiently motivated to change their ways.

Printers face an uphill battle in getting clients more deeply vested in the process, but technology is helping them find a way.

According to Scott Borhauer, central premedia manager, Brown Printing is entering the final stage of a major initiative to bridge the divide between file creation and production, client and print provider. Its initial steps were reported on in the August 2003 edition of Printing Impressions ("Making Customers' Work Flow Better," page 36). Roll out had been slated for the end of 2003, but was pushed back into the first part of 2004.

The printing organization, headquartered in Waseca, MN, primarily produces weekly publications. That means each edition must be completed on a tighter schedule than in a monthly environment, Borhauer points out.

Prep Work Is Vital

Client turnaround time demands don't allow for much of a fudge factor to deal with problems, should they arise. "Therefore, we do a great deal of work up front toward educating our customers on good file preparation," Borhauer reports. And yet, "only about 60 to 70 percent of customers routinely send in good files," he adds.

The company is taking a tiered approach in deploying digital connections to its customer base. Providing the foundation will be DALiM Mistral, a JDF-based automated production and communication system, and DiALOGUE, a Mac OSX-based soft proofing solution.

Borhauer says the intent is to apply as much automation as possible to the preparation of plate-ready files. Through the combination of e-mail alerts and browser-based, online displays, MiSTRAL will keep clients informed of the status of their jobs, including any problems encountered. DiALOGUE enables the final files that will be used for platemaking to be viewed and approved online, in high resolution and at the line screen intended to be output.
 

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