Looking From 10,000 Feet Up
Each year about this time I look back and remember all the wonderful people I’ve met in the printing industry. From owners and management, to operators and salespeople, this is truly the friendliest industry there is. Each year I have the privilege of being contracted to work with some of the most talented press operators and designers there are. These tireless folks endure constant industry change. From offset to toner-based digital to inkjet digital, they have had to adapt to not just the visual differences, but to the operational changes that also occur.
“It’s not just a software change, but a new way that I must look at the creative process as a whole,” said a creative designer in Pennsylvania. She continued to explain that she’s not just designing for one process, but now she now has three (offset, toner and inkjet). With the differences in ink, toner and substrates, they will produce differently. Also, variable content is becoming a designer’s task. “In the past, IT was handling and ensuring the correct data structure, now I have to look at variable formatting and design the project as an entire run” she added. “It is now critical to understand the data format, processing and design according to the variable requirements. Designers are becoming Creative Print Designers.
Press operators are also feeling the pain of change. In the past, operators were captains of their machine trade. Offset pressmen were just that, offset pressmen; rarely did they cross technology platforms. But now, with the increase of small-quantity jobs and the addition of multiple analog and digital printing presses under one roof, these tradesmen have to understand and operate offset, digital and inkjet devices during a single shift. Machine operators are becoming Print Technology Specialists.
With change happening so fast in our industry, shops are adding more technology to the workflow, but rarely additional staff. Thus we are asking our talented industry operators and designers to “wear more hats.” We are leaning on our best to take on and understand this cross-process technology in a blink of an eye. We are not just asking them to operate more technology, but to develop an understanding of all the variable pieces and how they fit into a streamlined production environment. They are now required to look from 10,000 feet up rather than directly across the production floor.