Moving Customer Press Checks from the Printing Plant Floor to the Home
There are many stories about how COVID-19 has transformed the way companies work and adapt to the new normal. Sometimes these measures are stopgaps. Other times, they are true innovations that ultimately could transform the way printers and their customers continue to operate long after the pandemic is over.
Take Itasca, Ill.-based Continental Web Press (CWP), which has refused to allow COVID-19 disrupt its customers’ ability to proof critical print jobs. Working with DALIM Software, it created a unique virtual proofing solution that provides customers with the same level of confidence about the press proof as if they were onsite.
Founded by Diane and Ken Field, CWP is a privately held, woman-owned company that has been providing premier printing and print marketing services to some of the world’s most successful brands, publishers, and agencies since 1973.
Its web offset and digital presses are fitted with the most modern press equipment and print to certified G7 color standards. Coupled with a dedicated binding facility, integrated mailing solutions, and fast distribution networks, CWP guarantees the most effective solution for each job, along with quick turnaround. In North America, CWP was one of the first to install Dialogue and Mistra, the forerunner to DALIM ES.
As a company serving many major print buyers with critical print projects, press check visits have always been a vital part of the print process. But what do you do when the world is impacted by COVID-19? People have been sent home, customers furloughed, and there are overarching concerns about the illness.
CWP wasn’t daunted. “We could have decided to ride out the storm and do nothing,” Ed Zepernick, CWP’s CIO and CTO/EVP, comments. “Instead, we sat down and thought of possible solutions. We thought, ‘Is it possible to deliver an online press proof?’”
Color OK, Just as They Would See On-Press
The result was the CWP Virtual Press OK, using DALIM ES with Dialogue. There were many technical hurdles to overcome, most notably color concerns. “These took the most time to resolve,” Zepernick notes. “We had to determine the best way to show the client the color OK just as they would see it on-press.”
Ken and Diane Field have always been on the cutting edge of technology, so putting CWP Virtual Press OK in the hands of sales was expedited. After all, notes Ken Field, “Anything to help our clients and help CWP weather this pandemic is beneficial.”
The solution consisted of two important components: a high-end scanner and DALIM ES with Dialogue as both a color management tool and a collaboration delivery system.
Underpinning the solution is color control throughout the entire process. Without that, creating an accurate virtual proofing solution would have been nearly impossible. At Continental Web Press, color control is achieved through the use of Dialogue’s color management capability (which CWP has been using for more than 15 years). CWP also has color-accurate monitors on its presses.
A Novel Approach to Virtual Proofs
With this underpinning, CWP could develop its novel approach to virtual proofs. First, it creates a virtual color proof that the customer approves before going on-press, then it produces a second set of color proofs. When the press gets to color, operators scan the printed press sheets into the system to compare to the virtual proof.
“One advantage we have is that we still own and operate a high-end scanner,” Zepernick explains. “A $200 scanner will not work. You’ll lose the color space immediately.”
Next, CWP press operators use the Dialogue compare tool to show the original proof and press sheet side-by-side. With a slider, inch by inch, the client can see if there are any variations, color conflicts, or anything else. “If the customer wishes, we will re-impose the job and show any press sheet crossovers to assure color quality throughout,” Zepernick says.
Mike Sye, prepress manager, figured out multiple ways to show the imposition through DALIM ES with Dialogue to offer customers their preferred view. One of the greater challenges was taking the two proofs and placing the pages at the same offsets. Some clients have page-by-page expectations, while others want to see the sheet as it appears on-press. Some want to see the front and back of forms, while others want to see in-line conflicts and crossovers. Building the system to meet the imposition challenges was a major hurdle.
Although there were challenges, CWP resolved them successfully and launched the solution in April. “One of the important facets was maintaining diligence in color control,” Zepernick observes. “You have to be engaged during the entire color process and manage it, onsite, with the presses. (We calibrate our monitors every day.) Other companies, unless they offer full prepress services and have a high-end scanner, really are not equipped do this.”
Despite the technical complexity of the solution, there was no training involved because CWP has used a DALIM workflow for years. “I drive the process on my computer to expedite the experience,” Zepernick notes. “As our client views the press OK, our press operators are also on the client call. I am just the facilitator. I’ve conducted press proofs at 6 a.m. and at 3 a.m. — without having to leave the house.”
Safety Issue Aside, Saves Time and Money
Virtual Press OK not only alleviates clients’ fears about safety during the pandemic, but it saves them money. Without Virtual Press OK, if two people from a client visit CWP for a two-day press OK, travel costs can reach $3,000. Now, if they conduct an online press check, it costs the customer nothing for travel and just a minimal charge for the setup time, the scans of the imposition, and the extra proofs they generate.
Needless to say, clients love the solution. Notes Michael Fielding, creative director, marketing solutions at Hearst (who oversees production of Food Network, Pioneer Woman, and HGTV magazines), “As a rule, we would attend press runs to assure color was accurate, especially with crossovers, and particularly for important and sensitive advertisers, like paint companies. Of course, after COVID-19 we had to be more careful about travel. With CWP’s virtual press proofs, we can successfully compare, with a sliding tool, the color we have already approved against the printed piece. It is the next best thing to seeing the job on-press.”
For functional issues like glue tabs and for extremely color-sensitive clients, press visits are still necessary. However, moving forward, Fielding plans to utilize CWP virtual press proofs for color. “If we have a proof that we can compare to a printed piece online, we feel comfortable approving the job,” he explains. “We can look at each project and decide if we can stay and review it from our offices.”
As CWP continues to experience success and rave reviews with the Virtual Press OK, they are conducting more and more press OKs online. “Our clients are thankful that they can see the results immediately, without waiting for a mailed package a few days later to see the final press sheets,” Zepernick adds. “There are no surprises. We’re successfully eliminating color nightmares.”
CWP is using the solution to gain new clients, as well. Notes Zepernick, “It gives us the opportunity to show them that CWP has many more capabilities under our roof.”
Will other customers conduct CWP Virtual Press OK permanently? Perhaps. “Necessity is the mother of invention. We have opened up conversations with a few of our clients on other processes and workflows we can offer to help them while they have a reduced work staff,” Zepernick adds.
“Our clients are breathing comfortably, knowing that what they see in print will be what they expected.”