Exposing the barriers to effective wide-format print workflows

January 14, 2019

In an industry built around impending deadlines, there is rarely a minute - let alone an hour - to spare. Efficient and effective color management is key to a print shop’s success, helping them to maintain hard-earned reputation and secure repeat business. Importantly, sound color management is vital for wide-format PSPs looking to maximize the productivity potential of automation and ensure their workflow is performing at its peak.

So how can LFPs better preserve color fidelity and in turn make significant savings in time, money and media? Reducing the number of cycles it typically takes to get a job ready for output, and ensuring that output is absolutely consistent - ideally, first time, every time? All the while preparing for print industry 4.0 and the new age of automation?

It starts by stopping color chasing - one of the biggest workflow bottlenecks for the world's PSPs.

What are the challenges?

In a recent survey conducted as part of our two-part Color Management Guide, we asked digital print shop owners about the main factors negatively impacting their workflows.

Coming out on top was consistency across substrates – highlighted by 31% of respondents, followed by accurate color reproduction (29%) and regularity across devices (22%).

When considering the contributing factors to achieving complete color accuracy from screen to substrate, it’s not difficult to see why print operators are struggling with uniformity.

  • Firstly, not all printers are equal. Each machine comes with a unique color gamut and profile, which can cause fluctuations in output when multiple devices are used for one job.
  • In addition, using various types of RIP software can further add to these issues, leading to more potential inaccuracies. Similarly, every substrate has its own properties, such as variable white points.
  • On top of technical issues, environmental factors can also contribute to the compromise of accurate color reproduction. From lighting conditions to humidity, device performance can be impacted across the board. As a result, jobs reproduced over time will inevitably differ.
  • Moreover, canned ICC profiles don’t take these wide ranging variables into consideration, while lacking in a common standard.

Contributing factors

RIP software is key in helping to improve the efficiency of wide-format workflows.

When we asked about the most important benefit PSPs are hoping to achieve with RIP software, 45% said printer consistency. This was followed by ‘time savings’ (26%) and reduced media wastage (16%).

Despite this, many print shop professionals currently work with a ‘default solution’ over their platform of choice. In proof of this, 60% of the PSPs we surveyed said they rely on the RIP software that came with their printer.

As such, this ‘default’ mindset could be a crucial contributor in hindering PSP workflows.

Another important issue highlighted in the survey findings showed that running multiple RIP platforms is leaving even more room for error.

Two thirds of LFPs are running two or more RIPs in their shop. This is surely creating bottlenecks in the production process.

How can we overcome these issues?

Over 50%, thought that investing in new printing equipment would resolve their workflow issues. But, although this could be effective in the short-term, if a PSP continues to rely on multiple RIPs and still defaults to existing solutions, the issues outlined will remain.

Switching to an end-to-end platform that meets an individual PSPs’ needs is a more long-term fix for ensuring effective workflows, and it’s not necessarily a costly one. New SaaS models are making even the most advanced solutions more readily available.

These workflow barriers are holding back PSPs from embracing the future of print and doubling their output through automated workflows. Without a predictable output as ensured by effective color management, any productivity gains created through automation are negated by the need to troubleshoot jobs for color accuracy.

A new mindset must be adopted on an industry-wide basis, where default doesn’t mean substandard and every printer network is powered by a comprehensive workflow solution that conquers current and future industry challenges - as standard.

PrintFactory’s advanced color management tools and automated workflow solution supports wide-format PSPs to maximize their productivity and profitability.

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