The many facets of Web-to-print could fill an encyclopedia. Consolidated Graphics (CGX), headquartered in Houston, offers tools that manage, grow and effectively leverage databases across various media, including print, e-mail and the growing use of personalized Websites, according to Ryan Farris, president of CGXSolutions. Online ordering systems enable users to customize materials as needed and immediately execute their delivery, decreasing time to market.

Other services, including digital asset management (DAM), can provide a central online resource to organize and protect files, while providing instant access worldwide (if needed) via a Web browser. Farris finds that DAM often integrates with the online ordering system, creating an enterprise application.

And the applications? Certainly the stationery and inventory functions are basic, yet popular. A higher tier of complexity allows for the customization of nationally branded marketing campaigns at the local level, swapping out offers, headlines, price points, imagery and regional disclaimers. Such high-end offerings entail systems integration and database work, where information is funneled into pre-designed templates to generate a production file and execute a program automatically.

The attractiveness of Web-to-print solutions can even provide a windfall for third-party solution providers who don’t own a single press, digital, offset or otherwise. Willie Brennan is owner of Custom Print Now Solutions, which customizes Web-to-print solutions to a client’s specification by building on universal back-end applications, including an inventory module, pick-and-pack solution, and customized collateral, direct mail or premium marketing solution.

“The entire user interface is highly customized to a particular user of that particular client,” Brennan says. “It’s got to be doggone easy for each user.” He also recommends keeping the fulfillment aspect as simple as possible.

Parent stresses the importance of ensuring that the Web-enabled customer interface covers all of the aspects of the order and production cycles. He favors systems that contain the universal elements, including file uploading, preflighting, online proofing and approval, automated and customized pricing, quotation, estimating, job tracking and variable data. Variations of the print workflow are supported within the ready-made solutions, depending on the price point, Parent notes.

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