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WORKFLOW INTEGRATION -- Getting Connected

January 2002
BY MARK SMITH


Since the early days of desktop publishing, the term "workflow" for the most part has been associated with the processing of files within prepress operations. The focus of the discussion—and product development—now is being extended forward to the customer's operation and back through the pressroom and into the bindery.

Prepress and printing operations have to navigate a web of sometimes-sensitive issues when they touch on their customers' internal processes. Concerns about control, internal politics and resistance to change can present barriers to a better way of doing things.

Tanagraphics Inc. in New York City strives to deepen its relationship with clients by being a solutions provider, but it makes sure to do so at the client's pace, says Mark Cordova, COO. A key focus of that effort currently is the TANA Interactive Publishing System, or TI:PS, which is an Internet-based content management system that can enable services such as browser-based dynamic print document generation and Web publishing, Cordova adds.

"Our asset management system provides a very fast, lightweight method for clients to index and organize their content," he notes.

The other key to the system's success is an intuitive, browser-based interface that is used across the tool set, adds Peter Forster, who heads the TANA Interactive division. "The person who is using this system, in most cases, is not going to be a graphic artist," Forster says. "We are striving to put the means of publishing into the hands of the people who have ultimate responsibility for the results, not the graphic artist."

Fast to Market

To clarify that point, Cordova points out that the TI:Print module is designed primarily for the production of sell sheets and other structured materials that need to be brought to market quickly.

Tanagraphics is not looking to take over the design function, the company execs agree. Templates define the look of a page, whether for print or Web, Forster explains. But, the look and feel of those templates is still developed by a client's graphic artist using traditional design tools, he says.

The company also has built a browser-based extranet site for use by clients of its fulfillment services. This system enables users to remotely manage their inventories and place orders that flow into the firm's PSI management system for processing. In addition, the shop is working with printCafe to implement Internet access to its MIS.

Kennickell Printing in Savannah, GA, has to overcome a geographical challenge in connecting with its customers, says Al Kennickell, president. "We sit on the coast, which means our market only extends about 180°, so we have to go further to get business."

Most of the shop's business is marketing and advertising related, and it typically works directly with marketing departments, Kennickell says. "We've worked very hard not to be a commodity producer just going after jobs. We want programs, so we've developed special services such as fulfillment, database management, online proofing and other things that make us a little unique," he explains.

The company's Website increasingly is serving as a portal into its operation, Kennickell adds. Like Tanagraphics, it offers fulfillment services that clients can interact with online 24/7, notes the company president. However, he says the bulk of its online client interfaces currently are done through Synapse InSite from CreoScitex.

Customers use the system to send and retrieve files, as well as collaborate online and do remote proofing. "We like using InSite because it cuts down the distance and time barriers between us and our clients," Kennickell says. This is particularly true when it comes to remote proofing, the printing exec reports.

InSite also supports job status tracking by clients, but so far Kennickell Printing isn't using that capability. "Printers don't necessarily want customers to be able to track the flow of their jobs on an hour-by-hour basis," the company president explains. "More importantly, our clients really haven't expressed any need for that capability. All they really care about is when the job is going to be ready."

Since Kennickell has elected to stick with a Brisque-based workflow instead of the PDF-based Prinergy system, it also doesn't have a need to provide clients with the Synapse Prepare application for generating files. "We want to be able to help our clients with files," explains Dave Snyder, prepress manager. "That's part of the value-added we provide."

As a printer primarily serving smaller publishers of short- to medium-run regional titles, the situation is a little different for Hudson Printing in Salt Lake City, UT. The company gives clients a financial incentive to provide well-made PDF files in order to minimize processing problems, notes Paul Hudson, vice president. Yet, the printer has to stay flexible enough to accept jobs in a variety of formats.

As part of its purchase of an Agfa Galileo digital platemaking system, the publication printer also received a number of licenses for the Apogee Create software. The application is intended to be used by print creatives in order to generate PDF files optimized for processing through the Apogee workflow system. Hudson has given copies to some of its clients that provide a volume of work and have growth potential, the company president reveals.

The printer does still allow customers to use Adobe Acrobat Distiller to produce PDF files, but it has developed specific instructions for them to follow in creating the files. Hudson says he can foresee buying more copies of Apogee Create to give to other clients, but the licenses are little too expensive for him to make it a standard practice.

Hudson believes users of the application can quickly recoup their cost since files generated by Create can be more efficiently processed through an Apogee workflow. "We price work from PDF files a little lower than PostScript jobs, and clients who give us Create files get a further break," he reveals.

Regardless of how its boundaries are defined, that has to be the bottom line for any print workflow—making the work flow efficiently.
 

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