Perfecting the Digital Workflow

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The digital workflow can greatly benefit from FlightCheck, the patented preflight technology from Markzware. This pre press software can check digital files in many document types for print quality control. FlightCheck scans digital files and provides a preflight report to warn of potential print errors in the digital workflow.

Your in-plant is slick. You’ve got the latest and greatest in print engines and a stealthy prepress process. But what if the front end of the process is replete with poorly-prepared, customer-supplied content that requires time and expense to fix?

This is a problem that many printing organizations face today. These organizations include in-plants, instant print shops, large-format print suppliers (for large digital printing) and general commercial printing companies. Projects coming into many printing plants just aren’t good quality. Why is there a gap in the production workflow now, over a decade after CTP and digital workflow invaded the print marketplace? Perhaps a look back on “digital evolution” will shed some light.

Printing organizations led customers into a digital workflow, starting with the adoption of CTP and digital prepress technologies. Print providers made sure that they were able to process digital files before they asked their customers for them.

Once they started requesting or requiring digital files, many print providers learned how difficult these files were to get. Most large commercial and publication printing companies had it good. They often received material from ad agencies, publishing companies and other prepress suppliers. This demographic was far better equipped to supply content in a suitable form. The digital files were prepared by professional graphic folks who had some appreciation for the print process.FlightCheck helped these professionals in preparing print projects.

Still, over a decade later, prepress workers at most commercial printing companies continue to be plagued by bad files. The matter is complicated for an in-plant, which rarely receives jobs from clients with extensive graphic arts training. This is why FlightCheck is so valuable as a preflight solution.

Getting content right – from the start

Bob Damon, a retired prepress instructor from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI, sympathizes with print producers. He understands how frustrating it is to have a digital workflow stalled by problems originating with file creation. He suggests, “Evidence of the importance of good digital file preparation can be seen with any job entering the production workflow. Problems with fonts, wrong graphic file formats, incorrect color modes, missing elements, embedded font and graphic issues, are compounded by poor techniques and bad file management.”

Fox Valley Technical College offers a one-year vocational diploma and a two-year Associate degree in offset printing or flexography. Damon explains, “The Printing & Publishing program has two concentrations: prepress and press. Students with prepress concentrations will spend 75 percent of their coursework in classes involving file building and workflow.”

Industry-wide problems with digital print production are frequent, unfortunate and costly. Thankfully, these digital file problems can be resolved with FlightCheck. These are the principles Damon reinforced with his students:

“On average, three-quarters of the students entering the Printing & Publishing program do so with no prior printing knowledge or experience,” Damon says.

“Many graphic arts programs are more focused on aesthetics than mechanics,” he adds. “I often found students entering our program had some inner drive to design but little interest in conforming to the mechanics and limitations of the reproduction process. For some, it was too ‘confining’ to design to meet a customer’s specifications or to design with the printing and finishing requirements and limitations in mind.”

In-plant workflow breakdowns
Workflow breakdowns in an in-plant might not be the result of this ‘diva’ mentality. Rather, the corporate in-plant might find it difficult to standardize its process. Each department may have unique printing requests and methods for creating and supplying digital content.

These challenges are not insurmountable. Damon suggests the remedy lies in communication and quality control, as FlightCheck provides. He says, “You must establish and nurture the relationship between printer and client. Develop a two-way line of communication where specifications, problems and workflow solutions can be discussed — and for the mutual benefit of all parties. Communication is key.”

A good place to start is by setting basic specifications for digital content coming into the in-plant. Then, those specs should be explained to those submitting files. This doesn’t mean that everyone submitting a job to the in-plant has to become a print expert in their own right. But, these clients need to value the fundamental reason of why it is critical their files be complete to print appropriately. FlightCheck can check print readiness. They can gain from exposure to software tools that will assist them in creating and verifying digital content. FlightCheck preflighting solution can ensure print quality for document output.

Preflighting is essential,” Damon says. “As the words from an old Midas commercial went, ‘You can pay me now, or you pay me later.’ The sooner problems can be flagged and dealt with, the cheaper the print job.

Ideally, preflight is the responsibility of both the content creator, that is, the client, and the printer,” he adds. “Digital tools, such as Markzware’s FlightCheck can be used to assist in proper file creation.” By establishing file parameters or specifications, FlightCheck can warn the user of errors. For example, if the document is bound for four-color print output, it will notify the user if he or she mistakingly places an RGB graphic. This solution ensures that digital file problems are caught as early in the workflow as possible.

Virtually all prepress and printing systems are PDF-compliant, and PDFs are accessible to content creators. Damon forewarns, however, that PDF is not a “cure-all” for woes in the digital workflow. Like any digital file format, junk in a PDF means junk out. FlightCheck, by Markzware, can preflight PDF files and more for print quality control.

You can buy Markzware’s preflight software via the FlightCheck page. See more printing solutions on the Markzware Products page.

Perfecting the Digital Workflow

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