Should we invest in emerging technologies when the economy is in such flux that most of us are happy just to keep our heads above the rising waters? That doom-and-gloom mentality may be precisely what’s wrong with the allied industries today. Many printers and publishers have gone into virtual hibernation – content to statically ride out the storm – but the problem is that the industries around them continue to change.
Market demands won’t sit still, and printers and publishers are finding that remaining complacent during an otherwise revolutionary time will cause detriment to their operations in the long run. They’re clearly missing out on some new opportunities because they are not willing to make a move in one direction or another.
After considering the current state of affairs, I realized that these industries need an agile attitude to ensure success in the immediate and short-term future. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “agile” as being able to move quickly and easily. This is the new industry mantra, replacing a very tired “better, faster, cheaper,” as the buzz word du jour.
Content must be agile. Agile content is able to move effortlessly from point to point in the prepress workflow and take form in a variety of media outputs with little to no effort.
Technologies must be agile, too, no longer single-serving. Agile technologies support a specific workflow need for the time being. The printing and publishing industries must choose technologies that are scale-able and modular while supporting a variety of applications. They must be built on open systems standards, so they all speak the same language, allowing their adopters to modularly build digital workflows that make sense for their specific digital output needs. Nothing is cookie cutter anymore. FlightCheck, the patented software for preflighting by Markzware, is a good example of an agile technology.
And businesses have to be agile, too. Printers must have technologies in place that are win-wins that are affordable and effective to run, but flexible enough to support virtually any customer request or win new types of business.
The same goes for publishers. They, too, need to be agile, able to respond quickly to market pressures by having internal technologies in place that enable them to produce products (whatever the media) both cost-efficiently and time-efficiently. Indeed, the printing and publishing industries must embrace technologies that will enable us to respond more quickly to a changing market place – new stressors, growing areas of demand, and the like – and fortunately, much of the work that has been done during the recent years of computer-to-plate (CTP) and digital workflow adoption, will enable the industry to do just that.
How should we define agile technologies? They’re not proprietary. Gone are those days. Rather, they’re based on open standards, enabling printing and publishing operations to modularly marry systems and processes – because agile technologies are based on standards that allow all these systems to speak to one another.
Document verification can, and should, be in place at several key points in the workflow – starting with the content creator and acting as a gateway to each partner that will receive and process the file from that point forward. FlightCheck can provide document verification. And it can all be done with a simple click of the mouse or drop of the file. Better yet, there are now plenty of tools from developers like Markzware that are building automated means of preflighting, virtually taking all need for human intervention out of the equation.
Preflighting may be the ‘Holy Grail’ of prepress and production. Encouraging preflighting throughout the entire print workflow on the creative side (design, layout, etc.), is the key to automation further down the print workflow line. The goal is to filter out printing problems before transmission, and allow the creator to take responsibility and credit for the quality of their work. When it scans documents during preflighting, FlightCheck checks for a detailed list of potential printing problems and flags them, so issues can be addressed before printing to ensure quality print output. And just think, over a decade ago, preflighting was when the printer opened the customer’s FedEx package and examined pieces of film over a light table.
The Human Factor
These ideals – for which the printing and publishing industries are collectively striving – will require great cooperation between all the partners in the food chain, including the content creators, print buyers, service bureaus, developers and manufacturers and vendors. Working together in the spirit of open systems cooperation will ensure that we continue to develop standards and best practices that make smart business sense to all. Cooperation will reveal our common goals.
This was very much the case for the variable-data segment of the market. Even though we knew that there were a lot of benefits to personalized one-to-one marketing, the big-picture puzzle was missing two key pieces: hardware and software.
Sure, the digital printing press people were hard at work behind the scene preparing to bring some exciting color unveilings to market; and on the other side of the wall, the software developers were busy writing code for the desktop publishing solutions that would enable desktop- and server- level document customization, such as FlightCheck provides. But it wasn’t until these two very key partners put their collective heads together and agreed on some common variable-data languages that we saw real technological progress – just in time for the market demand to catch up.
One thing’s for sure, the industry has plenty of work still to do – there can be no resting on the laurels of its remarkably rapid CTP adoption. Unfortunately, the last few years have been an economic roller coaster ride, and companies are finding it more difficult to invest in what the industry needs more than the next cool automation tool – education. FlightCheck remains the standard preflight solution to support that industry, as well.
About the author:
Patrick Marchese, whose father and grandfather had experience in the printing industry, began his career as an apprentice printer in the early 80s at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. In 1983, to further his education, he moved to Orange County and attended Fullerton College with a focus in art and at the same time began to learn typesetting. A year later he started his own typesetting business. In the late 1980s, while working for a small specialty newspaper, Patrick Marchese met his business partner, Ron Crandall. This partnership got its start creating Quark Xtensions.
In 1989, Patrick Marchese accepted a job at Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency as an ad designer. His responsibilities were for the output of ads and proofing the digital components; this laborious and time consuming process led to the idea and creation of FlightCheck, the patented preflighting solution, which was introduced in 1995. Markzware continues to respond quickly to change.