Setting a new status quo for the wide-format print sector

December 31, 2018

With a number of potential barriers to creating effective workflows, PSPs continue to battle with ongoing material, ink and time wastage.

Recent research shows that an over-reliance on default solutions that come bundled with digital print hardware may be contributing to costly inconsistencies in output. Though, once the underlying issues have been identified, existing processes that might be leading to inefficiencies can be reevaluated and better suited software solutions put in place.

Here we provide an overview of key considerations for LFPs looking to invest in their print production suite to achieve a more streamlined workflow - starting from the basics up. For a more detailed overview, download our two-part Color Management Guide now.

Questioning ‘the norm’

1. Ways of working - Could your set-up be part of the problem?

Firstly, the hardware that’s running the workflow and color management software for a shop must be assessed.

Although the gap between Windows and macOS has grown ever closer over the last few years, there are still workflow programs that will not run effectively across the two platforms. For example, the pre-press teams tend to use Macs, running software such as Adobe Suite; whereas, the production staff will use tools that come part and parcel with their RIP, usually running off Windows or Linux.

Workflow software should provide a seamless experience across either operating system without compromising a business’ toolkit - bridging workflow and design applications and putting an end to the great Mac versus PC debate once and for all.

2. Centralizing the workflow - Who has total visibility of the job?

Linked to this issue is not just what people are working on but where they’re working.

Today, employees are rarely based in a single location. And this is also true of PSPs. Different team members are often working disparately, with the pre-press department normally based in the office and the production team on the shop floor.

Choosing a centralized, cloud-managed RIP provides operators the freedom to work more flexibly.

With the ability to integrate with the same PDF engine as the pre-press application, all team members are able to see jobs as a whole from anywhere – offering greater opportunity for errors to be spotted - before work is sent to print.

3. End-to-end considerations - Do you need the RIP to work with other systems?

Once a single, cloud-based RIP has been integrated into the workflow, some important considerations must be made to ensure inefficiencies are not inadvertently introduced into the workflow, further down the line.

For example, when establishing an end-to-end solution it’s crucial to remember that management information systems (MIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) modules don’t always integrate with workflow systems. More advanced systems will offer linking tools for end-to-end file processing and serve real-time production data. As a result, maximum efficiency can be achieved – from MIS right through to print. Assuming, that is, that the mostly costly of all barriers has been addressed along the way...

4. Rethinking color management - Could you be doing things differently?

Without doubt, color management is the greatest contributor to inefficiency in print shops. Currently, ICC profiles are the accepted standard across the printing industry, but there are many associated problems with this format.

From indiscriminate gamut compression to limited control over converting the black channel, ICC profiles can compound the already complex color management challenges.

By considering a move from traditional ICC to DeviceLink profiling, PSPs can achieve clean conversions, consistent color distribution, ink savings and accurate recalibration across devices. And they needn’t be reliant on a color expert to do so.

5. Removing complexity - What if more of your team could effectively deal with color production and reproduction?

Technology is constantly revolutionizing the way we work. And in the print industry, use of DeviceLink profiles for standardized printing (ISO, GraCOL) is rapidly changing PSP processes. Perhaps most importantly, the intuitive nature of the latest DeviceLink toolkits enables users to create profiles in less than 10 minutes - making advanced color management accessible to all members of staff - not just a color expert.

Simply put, DeviceLink profiles allow for standardized printing – or to create a custom common appearance – by directly converting from one color space to another. This bypasses the need for an interim color space, where many conversion issues occur and files are most at risk of ‘breaking’.

The upshot is printers can be effortlessly recalibrated to the original ‘golden state’, while accommodating environmental changes with just a few clicks in the color management software.

Easy does it

Advances in print production are making the once extraordinarily complex and inaccessible; more accessible. Complete workflow solutions are freeing up capacity like never before and colour management solutions are bringing a dark science into the light with a lot less intervention. What’s more, new service delivery models in the cloud are meaning print shops of any size can easily and cost effectively leverage such capabilities. Welcome to the new age of print production.

By rethinking ways of working and moving away from this tendency to stick with the status quo, industry frontrunners can make manageable changes to help transform their entire operation for the better and, importantly, for the long run.

Discover more in our two-part Color Management Guide, available for free download here.

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