Transcontinental Inc. : Automating the ProcessFebruary 2010
AUTOMATING THE prepress process is a significant undertaking for any company. At an organization the size of Transcontinental, which is the second largest printer in Canada and sixth largest in North America, the challenges are magnified.
Transcontinental has made a concerted effort to automate operations for several years now, originally with the use of scripts and hot folders to automate specific tasks, for example, Adobe Photoshop Droplets and Batch Actions. Although they saved time and delivered performance benefits, "They were ad hoc silos of automation," recalls Matt Pugliese, technical sales and project support for Transcontinental Printing's Integrated Solution Center (ISC) team. "We didn't have an overall architecture or a standardized approach."
The firm's automation initiatives gained momentum when it was able to leverage its Kodak Prinergy system to implement enterprise-wide prepress workflows. Still, Pugliese and his colleagues were looking for ways to tie everything together and better deal with situations not involving Prinergy. "What about business units outside the WAN, and/or those sites not running Prinergy or tasks that it may not address?" he wondered.
"How do we bring other businesses and clients into current process chains using mainstream applications, such as the [Adobe] Creative Suite and PitStop, and from different inception points?"
The Missing Link
With Enfocus PowerSwitch, Transcontinental has identified the basis for a solution. PowerSwitch is a server application that enables users to set up rules-based workflows that govern file routing, processing and notifications. Based on criteria such as file type, metadata and naming conventions, it will move files from FTP servers, local hot folders, even Prinergy, into flows that use a variety of common desktop publishing applications to process files without user intervention, while notifying internal and external personnel about progress along the way.
In 2008, Transcontinental started testing Switch to help with a project involving the optimization of 70,000 images using an application called Elpical Claro, a classic example of a business opportunity that is only feasible in an automated environment. Today, clients simply cannot afford to spend the sums of money required to have an operator manually correct thousands of images. And, while it's possible to run Photoshop in a semi-automated mode using scripts and/or batch actions, as a desktop application, it is not sufficiently robust to deal with this volume of data.
However, by using Switch to drive an application such as Claro on a server platform, this is now a viable service for Transcontinental to offer its clientele. "Using our best operator on Photoshop, we could manually correct six to 10 images per hour; in a semi-automatic environment using scripts or Droplets and Actions in Photoshop, we got up to about 60; and then, using Switch and Claro, we could process upwards of 150 images per hour and gain the benefits of Claro's intelligent image analysis," Pugliese observes.