Job Workflow — Ending the Digital Divide
Even as its color digital and offset printing workflows are becoming more integrated, Ideal Printers, in Houston, has found it more efficient to keep its digital black-and-white workflow largely separate. The medical industry is a key market for the company, so it produces a lot of forms along with business cards, marketing brochures, postcards and other mailers.
The printer’s equipment lineup includes two HP Indigo press 5000 color machines (replacements for older models), two (2- and 10-color) Heidelberg Speedmaster 102 perfecting presses, several small presses and a mix of Océ VarioPrint (two 5160s and a 2110) and DemandStream (8090) monochrome systems. It operates out of one facility with a staff of about 100 people.
Path of Least Resistance
Ideal has implemented Printable Technologies’ Web-to-print and FusionPro variable data solutions for a portion of its work, but not the majority. “Customers mostly use it (Web-to-print) to order business cards, which usually are produced on our HP Indigos, or envelopes and stationery, which are done offset,” reveals Melissa Willis, production manager.
PDF files that come into the shop from the Printable system and most of its other work is passed to Ideal’s Agfa ApogeeX workflow solution. Simple variable data jobs and black-and-white pieces destined for the Océs follow different processing paths.
Color digital and offset printing jobs are handled by the same estimator, CSRs and prepress department. All work is entered into the printer’s Prism Enterprise MIS, which generates job tickets that are tailored for the requirements of the specified printing process.
Turnaround time and quantity are the primary determining factors for which production method is used, but color gradients and corporate colors can also tip the balance to offset in certain cases, Willis says. Clients are told how a job will be produced, typically at the quote stage.
“We’ll tell them the only way we can get this to you in the amount of time specified is to go digital. Sometimes they accept it, sometimes they don’t,” she reports. In the latter case, suddenly the turn time ends up being not so important any more.