The impact of the recent recession is still on the minds of printers as they walk the show floor of GRAPH EXPO in search of the latest prepress technology. Economic pressures have elevated production efficiencies to the top of everyone’s “to do” list and vendors are geared to help printers make the most of the prepress technology available.
Printers can see the latest prepress output devices at the show. Computer-to-plate is becoming the standard in even smaller print shops and many printers are concerned about the environment. New green technology for prepress will get a close look as chemical free solutions continue to grow.
Many manufacturers boast faster throughput with new RIPs built to handle PDF workflows. Workflows that automatically correct files, color correct and impose mean that more work can be done in prepress with fewer workers. The ease of use of most new workflow systems and more industry standards mean that training is easier and printers can see a faster return on their investment.
Automation helps to cut the number of steps in the prepress process. As PDF workflows become more common, software developers are creating products that can take the guess work out of file management. The printer can now use one set of workflow procedures to control both offset and digital work. Printers are now able to integrate a workflow that can be applied to almost any printing devices.
Automation isn’t limited to proprietary workflow packages. A number of software vendors are displaying applications that can be used to create a “home grown” solution or interface with existing workflows. Companies such as Dalim Software, Enfocus and Quite Software offer products that deal with specific prepress workflow solutions, but can either be handled individually or as part of an automated system. Printers can now pick and choose from the features they want in a workflow and customize it to their production environment.
One way to eliminate the number of touches during the production process is to automate order entry. This is being done with web-based products that use the Internet as a customer portal to give customers greater control over their job. The Web-to-print solution allows customers to reorder jobs from their document library or create a new job from preapproved templates. The 24/7 access means the printer can serve customers without worrying about geographic barriers.
Workflow management solutions available from EFI, Xerox, Kodak, Agfa, HP, Oce, and others offer turnkey solutions that can interface with a Web-based customer portal. The order entry system can allow an order to flow directly into a workflow system that simplifies file handing by correcting files and preparing them for output. As the number of vendors offering this type of system grows, the services become more economical for even the smallest printers.
The push for printers to reinvent themselves as Market Service Providers (MSPs) continues. A number of vendors are showcasing their MSP online services that make the transition from being a printer to marketing company much easier.
Companies such as PageFlex, MindFire, Printable, interlinkONE, GMC, EasyPurl and others continue to make adding complicated software solutions practical. In addition to now standard online ordering systems for template type of work, printers are now able to provide sophisticated marketing applications where users can measure results.
The software companies are offering printers cross media programs including personal URLs (PURL) programs. Several have integrated QR (quick response) codes into their offerings so printers can take advantage of the new mobile marketing technology. Printers can now provide additional services including search engine marketing, social media management, customer landing pages, manage and measure email campaigns as well help customers generate sales leads.