Where your workflow needs to touch your clients

This article is based on a presentation made by Paul Sherfield of the Missing Horse Consultancy at the Jet Set Conference in the Fespa 2013 exhibition held in June 2013 at Excel, London and an subsequent article published in FujiFilms PRINT! magazine.

Workflow and the files created to produce the myriad of printed products starts a long time before the PDFs or application files are submitted to the chosen printer or media supplier.

 This file should be the technical ‘blueprint’ to produce the finished product, and should carry all the correct technical information needed.

However, because of the ‘silos’ the graphic arts industry works within, the design and production areas are often separated both by geography and commercial factors. This results, in what can be described kindly, as less then optimum files being supplied to printers and pre-media organisations.

 Just one uninformed ‘click’ in Photoshop can badly effect the colour of an image further down the workflow path. Incorrectly made or specified PDFs will cause untold problems.

 A modern, up-to-date workflow, such as Fuji’s XMF, used by pre-media companies needs to process many file types. The RIP/Render will be PDF native using the latest version of the Adobe PDF Print Engine, which will ensure the correct processing of the latest versions of PDFs, produced from DPT software’s.

 The ICC colour management tools within the workflow and any server based colour management systems like Fuji ColorPath will reflect the colour management policies used by the printer.

 Contract colour proofing, both physical and on screen will also be integrated into this workflow, again set to the colour management policies of the printer or pre-media supplier.

 Tools specific to the type of product produced; imposition, nesting, cutting etc will also be part of the workflow together with print queues to manage multiple output devices; offset litho, gravure, coldset web offset, flexographic, screen process, digital presses both wide and narrow format and the many ‘Cross Media devices, computer screens and browsers, tablets, eBooks readers and smart phones.

 So is your workflow ‘fit for purpose’? In addition to the above areas does it have the pre-flight tools needed? If you process ‘Office’ type files, Word, PowerPoint, can you convert these correctly avoiding issues such as poor conversions to CMYK and 4 colour black for text?

 Do you have a colour management policy and PDF settings covering all your workflows, substrates and printing devices and methods?  How do you deal with the increasing need for a ‘Common Colour Appearance’? 

So, where does your workflow touch your clients and the files they submit?

Well, just about everywhere; files formats, image size and resolution, image colour spaces, RGB, CMYK, working to standards, PDF X, the ISO 12647 series of standard printing conditions. Proofing and approval cycles; what is the proof supplied for, colour, content or just to check amendments? Is this made clear to your client?

 How often do you have to correct files submitted by clients because of range of errors.

 These can include;

No bleeds, no trim marks, pages or products are the incorrect size, missing fonts, low-resolution images, images in RGB or in the wrong CMYK profile. Coated ICC profiled CMYK images for use on uncoated papers is very common.

 All of these and many other errors cost time and money to correct in prepress. They all can result in extra proofing costs, slow make ready times and set up times in all areas of production, higher production waste and even reprints.

 These extra costs can be difficult to recover from the client. I guess we have all heard a client say, ‘My other printers do not charge me for doing that!’

 It is a good, if chastening, exercise to investigate the real un-invoiced costs in this area. Not just those, which the sale person has said, should not be invoiced, but also the other areas listed above. In this case do not include authors corrections. But this area too can result in some worrying un-invoiced numbers!

 On figures gleaned from printing companies with turnovers in the £3-4m range this un-recovered amount can be between £30,000 and £40,000pa. Just work out using net profit figures just how much turnover would be needed to add these amounts to the bottom line i.e. a  £30,000 net profit based on 5% needs an increased turnover of £600,000!

 So it would seem to be a good idea to try and save some of this cost?

 Running detailed pre-flight reports covering all the areas and submitting these to your clients can sometimes help. However this does not get over the ‘market’ issue that many clients do not expect to pay for this service or correcting the files.

 So, at last, back to the title of this article, turn your workflow into a Wide Area Workflow that includes your clients.

 Why not provide your clients with the tools to produce the correct files, usually PDFs, but for some market segments, applications files such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXPress, Artwork Systems ArtPro etc are used.

 Many printers do publish information both online and in print on how they would like files submitted. While some are well written, informed and informative, especially in the magazine area where the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) Pass for Press specifications are widely used, many are vague, incomplete and sometimes just plain wrong or out-dated!

 By providing the correct information on file creation to your client it will ensure that the files they supply will match your workflows requirements.

 This can be achieved in a number of ways. The key areas to communicate are the basic product specifications, size, bleed, number of pages, colours etc. If you do have standard products, provide your clients with Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress templates for these products.

 Colour management is an important area. By encouraging your clients to work to your colour management policy, ensures they are viewing their images and brand colours correctly, and that you are receiving the correct files, in the correct colour space for each project.

 This can be achieved by supplying an Adobe color settings file from each printing condition (.csf). You could advise your clients on which color setting file to use from those installed with Adobe CS and CC, but they do not use the best CMYK profiles, and do not have any ISO 12647 based uncoated profiles. So the best approach is to create your own color settings files, based on your colour management policies and ICC CMYK profiles, for all your printing conditions.

 These with their associated ICC CMYK profiles can then be loaded into Adobe CS and used by your clients. Once this is done these .csf can be used in all Adobe CS and CC programmes, and synchronised within Adobe Bridge.

 Now PDF job option files (.joboptions) can be prepared for use in Adobe InDesign and Distiller. These will use the color setting files and enable the production of colour managed PDF X files, again to the correct specifications.

 These colour settings files, job option files and profiles can be published on web sites with instruction how to load and implement their use. Your colour management policy should also be published online and in print.

 Proofs should be submitted with information on their purpose and position within the approval cycle. Clients should be made aware of the agreed proofing and approval cycle for each production.

 However would it not be better to have a more proactive approach? We are trying to save a lot of money and improve the value offered to clients.

 A very effective way to implement this is by offering training to clients in this area. For your more important, or problematic, clients this can be at their premises with their designers, or at their out sourced designers.

 For other, smaller clients, run training days at your premises for 2 or 3 at a time. As the training should take around half a day, this can be combined with a factory tour.

 This will result in a firm return on investment for a small outlay. Files will be supplied correctly, reducing the number of un-changeable hours in prepress. The work will be turned around more quickly with less proofing cycles.

 Working to known standards for colour, PDFs and printing will minimise waste and result in repeatable, measurable quality.

 As important is the engagement and confidence it will give to your clients in the way you understand their requirements and process their work. This should result in gaining more work from existing clients, as they will be working to your policies the settings. Also the ability to offer this information and training to new clients is a very positive, added value sales message.

 As you have seen, the benefits of creating a ‘Wide Area Workflow’ can be much more then just saving the un-invoiced costs incurred in the prepress area for correcting clients files.

 Other areas of cost, such as proofing, transport, order administration and waste should show savings.



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