The Internet Printer
Internet-savvy commercial printers are taking advantage of new Web tools and services to better communicate with their clients and to fine-tune print production.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
If any lingering doubt existed in the minds of industry executives that the Internet would, in fact, be a critical, production-oriented tool for commercial printing, that doubt can now safely be regarded as an echo of a bygone notion.
For all those still shaking their heads at the thought of the Internet as a viable player in digital prepress and overall print production, perhaps a takeoff on the popular motion picture persona Austin Powers might bring it home: The Internet is ready, baby!
Right now, the Web is targeting commercial printing in a big way. Beyond discussions of the Internet as a digital file transfer medium, new technologies and services—entirely new Internet startup companies—are banking that the World Wide Web will be the premiere backbone for a host of new applications for the modern commercial printer.
A new name to commercial printing, Noosh, an Internet-based business-to-business communication service, recently formed a strategic relationship with Adobe, fully integrating Adobe's PDF technology for streamlining the prepress, printing and publishing process. By utilizing Noosh's Live Jobs technology, print buyers, printers and creative agencies now have the opportunity to create and manage print jobs on the Noosh system.
Impresse.com, a new business-to-business e-commerce portal, is targeting the print purchasing and print production process for commercial printers and corporate print buyers. Commercial printers can turn to the Impresse Internet print procurement service for managing projects through production, maintaining contract relationships with customers and scoring new print orders.
Launched earlier this month, Printable.com offers a broad variety of print industry content, including industry news, career information and discussion forums. Printable.com is a destination site for print industry professionals and a suite of hosting services to help commercial printers quickly transform themselves into e-printers.
WAM!NET's Internet Gateway is a new Website that acts as a managed buffer between the Internet and the WAM!NET network, managing the entry and exit of each digital file onto the WAM!NET network.
Who's actually using this stuff?
For starters, this trio . . .
Internet Objective: Over the past few years, Tim Poole, vice president of operations, watched and facilitated the logical transformation of Dome Printing from a conventional printing company to a technology-based, graphics communications business. Today, most of Dome's clients are running in mission-critical mode on all print projects. This new urgency to deliver print and related services, faster and at better quality levels required Poole and his colleagues at Dome to invest in new tools that can take the company's communication standards to new levels.
Internet Endeavor: Noosh's Internet-based print management system has become a valuable tool for Dome Printing's clients to leverage the Web as a means to share information with Dome.
The key benefits of Noosh for Dome Printing, Poole contends, are simple: accessibility, accountability and value for Dome's clients. "This business is about relationships. If we can develop better relationships with our clients and add value with Noosh, that's something on which I can't put a price tag," he says.
At Dome Printing, Noosh does everything from facilitating estimates, to managing deliveries and schedules, to collecting data related to the progress of a project. Obtaining the information needed to complete a job seamlessly is usually a challenge; Noosh creates a common interface that allows Dome and all of its business partners to be in the loop on each project through a common, Web-based interface.
Dome Printing also uses WAM!NET's Internet Gateway as the primary portal for many of its clients to submit digital files. Poole anticipates that the volume of digital file transfers to Dome will double each quarter for the next year.
Currently, Dome sees about 2GB of data per month. WAM!NET has made transferring data truly a drag-and-drop system that is not platform-dependent, Poole reports.
Internet Opinion: Dome specializes in custom print jobs, producing a broad mix of items annually for more than 250 clients. Efficiency is a top priority from top to bottom. The Internet now plays a key role in Dome's daily effectiveness to communicate, as a multi-purpose printing resource, to its range of clientele.
"There just cannot be a breakdown in the communication process," Poole states. "We do not have time for production bottlenecks."
a Printing Arts America company
Internet Objective: Executives at George Lithograph wanted to replace their outdated and fragmented system solutions. These systems were proprietary, print-specific and not Internet-friendly. George Lithograph wanted an Internet solution that could meet the requirements of the three divisions of business—print, fulfillment and consulting—as well as the requirements of its growing customer base. In addition, the system had to be Y2K compliant.
Internet Endeavor: "When we looked at the alternatives, Impresse offered significant advantages in the areas of automated, on-line estimating and pricing for customers, as well as providing tight integration with both manufacturing and business/financials," reports James Mekis, director of technical development. "When looking at the growing variable data publishing area, where the content that we print needs to be tightly bound to the business management information, the benefits of a system such as Impresse become even more apparent."
Mekis reports George Lithograph is using Impresse's Press Buyer and Press Manager modules, which integrate with the company's document management systems.
Internet Opinion: George Lithograph has been using the Internet to enhance customer relationships since 1992. "The Internet, followed by e-commerce, has dramatically changed the way business—not just print business—is being done. It enables faster response and greater efficiency," Mekis contends.
St. Cloud, MN
Internet Objective: A commercial printer specializing in direct mail applications from catalogs to direct mail inserts, Nahan Printing found itself on a quest. For several months, the company had been looking for an effective means of accepting digital files from its customers electronically. Nahan had been dependent on a Web server, taking uploads of digital files from a select portion of its client base. However, Nahan wanted something more efficient, more managed—and less dependent on Nahan personnel.
Internet Endeavor: In September, Nahan implemented WAM!NET's Internet Gateway. With Gateway on board, Nahan does not need to worry about software, hardware or electronic management systems; WAM!NET manages the Gateway. All of Nahan's subscribers are now using Internet Gateway. Lyle Myers, chief systems coordinator, reports that Nahan is experiencing an increase in file transfer traffic since Nahan started accepting files through Internet Gateway, which saves on traffic through Nahan's own internal firewall.
Internet Opinion: "We are very comfortable with the Internet and Internet Gateway, and we know that WAM!NET is providing security in the WAM!NET environment," reports Myers. "We are interested in all Internet technologies targeting commercial printing. The future calls for logical investments by commercial printers in Internet services."