A reliance on prepress

This article was first published in the November 2020 issue of AP – By CMYKhub customer experience manager Glen Francis

Prepress has always been seen as the department of a print business where digital meets physical. For CMYKhub, we have been inching towards a more holistic approach where digital technology is utilised right throughout the supply chain, from quote to delivery.

The way we handle prepress affects the entire manufacturing process. Imposition is vital to streamlining the manufacturing, to ensure that DIFOTIS (Delivery in Full on Time in Spec), levels are met and ultimately, so is profitability. We develop our own software to align with external prepress platforms that provides visibility on efficient manufacturing and order management.

Why such a reliance on technology? The workforce expertise and specialisation in the prepress field have all but left the industry. The challenge CMYKhub and many of our trade partners have faced over the past five years has been employing qualified prepress operators. We spend considerable time training new staff with rules-based pre-flight processes, but often the foundation print education is lacking.

Ten years ago, there was a clear industry standard in how to supply a print ready file to a printer; however, the competitive print market has led to acceptance of any file just to win the order. As a trade printer, CMYKhub has always required print-ready PDF files to provide seamless pre-flight, planning, imposition, plating, production and finishing.

We have spent considerable effort educating our trade partners in how to provide print ready artwork, however in recent years they have found this more difficult. Knowledgeable prepress staff are either undervalued, unattainable, or uneconomical in today’s average print business. This has encouraged us to find low-cost solutions to help these businesses generate artwork that will pass our pre-flight every time.

When you outsource a print job, you want to send the file and forget about it until the delivery date. By offering a comprehensive prepress service, you reduce the annoyance of back and forward emails and phone calls explaining the artwork issues.

Software is vitally important in promoting efficiency in our business. We rely on a number of rules-based automation features for pre-flight and imposition that allows our operators to handle thousands of files a day. This enables us to provide a daily cut-off time for file upload and we can still dispatch hundreds of orders the following day.

Without a reliable plate supply and high platesetter up-time our presses would stand still. As a gang printer, we consume a massive volume of plates and are often reminded by our supplier our use is some of the highest in the country. It comes as no surprise that we have a close relationship with them and when we call, they answer.

Twelve months ago, we developed a pay per fix service called artFIX that enabled resellers to request their file be amended to pass our pre-flight. This has been very popular, as the cost is only a small percentage of what their print order is worth. To pay a small fee to get their order onto the press quickly is a smart business decision.

CMYKhub Design Desk is a multi-level monthly subscription service for graphic design and prepress exclusively for the Australian print trade. This was initiated to provide our trade partners with a low-cost solution to generating artwork that will always pass pre-flight. It not only reduces a number of overheads for printers, but actually allows them to do more for less.

Whilst the Design Desk concept isn’t new, the custom-built platform the service runs on is quite unique. Developed internally, this software has the capacity to be integrated into our Hublink software in the future. This means that our trade partners could manage their artwork and then process a print order in a simple workflow.

Online print management (OPM) is the other solution that we have offered for a number of years. This is a brand asset manager web site that our trade partners can template their clients’ artwork. This is an easy way to ensure the artwork remains consistent and print-ready

These solutions are filling a gap between the time when we send a quote to our customer and imposing the file to print. They aren’t necessarily about generating revenue in that space, but about facilitating the step to ensuring that order ends up on our press.

In future, prepress will be fully integrated as part of a ‘smart factory’ model. This means connectivity and transparency feeding live data from prepress to the factory floor and back. This information provides metrics for staff and automated software to optimise on the go to keep the business completely agile.

Automation is not new in prepress, but it is a perfect way to manage a number of standardised products to ensure consistency and efficiency – anything we can write rules for in regards to size or finishing can be automated with software to assist in imposition.

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