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The Digital Printer

August 1998
How can a quick print shop boost productivity by boosting digital file capabilities? How can quick printers elevate their digital file management abilities to help market their digital printing powers?

Here are some tips.

* Create a digital shell around your shop—giving customers the impression that their digital files will be managed with ease.

* Focus digital efforts on training customers to create PostScript files, since most originals printed, copied or duplicated by a quick printer are created by the customer and now supplied on paper.

* Hire strong technical communicators to work as a liaison between the customer and the sales staff. And pay them what they are worth.

"The single most important person in the digital print shop is the technical communicator," advises Bill Farquharson, president at Duxbury, MA-based Print Tec Network and a consultant to the quick printing industry.

"The technical communicator has the technical ability to create print-ready files and the people skills to both meet with and teach a customer," Farquharson continues.

"When it comes to digital printing, the glue that binds the long-term relationship between a quick printer and customers is technical expertise."

Still, quick printers must convey this technical expertise to customers. What do clients expect?

"Customers want digital standards," answers John Giles, industry consultant and technical director for the Digital Imaging Applications Network (DIAN). "They want to know what is expected of them when they produce a file.

"It is a quick printer's responsibility to teach them the standards. While many quick printers advertise the fact they want digital files, few are doing anything to really attack the digital market."

This is a mistake.

"You don't have to own expensive equipment to become digitally competent," Giles explains. "If a quick printer owns a PostScript printer, then that company has the ability to take customer files. Since quick printing is built on the concept of customer-created originals, it is a logical step to take the files electronically."

As an industry, the standard files that are now accepted are Quark, Pagemaker, PostScript and PDF. For quick printers, many of the customer files are created in Word, WordPerfect, Publisher and other software programs. Those files can be converted to PostScript.

Before you convert anything, however, make sure you communicate your intentions with clients. Giles shares a warning: "Quick printers who attempt to receive any file without a set of standards or without a dialogue with the customer about the file are doomed to failure."

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