To make it easier for the customer to create a PDF file, successful printers are using automatic PDF creation tools such as Adobe Job Ready, Prismatek's PrintThat, PagePath's PDF2U in MyOrderDesk, Global Graphic's Jaws Creator, or Enfocus' Instant PDF. The automation tool not only forces the customer to create a PDF file based on the printer's specifications and needs, but it sends the PDF file directly to the printer. The customer can't decide to send the PDF file to another printer.
Before relying on customers to create their own PDF files, be aware that many of the free PDF creation programs found on the Web are not designed for output by commercial printers. You may also spend hours teaching the customer how to create a PDF file using the free tools only to see the customer send the file to a competitor. If the printer can assure that the PDF file he is receiving from the customer has been created within a range of standards, then any problems can easily be edited and the file can be entered into production.
Printers who still accept native application files must still use a PDF workflow to improve efficiencies. Tasks such as preflighting, pagination, step-and-repeat, and color correction can be automated. An example is pagination on digital presses. A PDF file can be dropped into a "hot" folder where it is set up based on the finished size to be produced. This means a CSR could take a PDF from a customer, drop it into a hot folder, and produce the job automatically; completely bypassing prepress. Many printers already have this technology built into their RIPs, but don't use it.
Software from companies such as Enfocus, Nitro PDF Software, Markzware, and Extensis offer specialized programs to handle a variety of tasks. A good source of information on who does what is www.planetPDF.com.
Printers will have to embrace using a PDF workflow if they want to cut production costs. The next generation PDF workflow will embrace the JDF workflow, which includes instructions for the press and postpress departments. Repetitive tasks will be automated and production costs lowered as printers take advantage of this technology.
Another practical step to cut costs in prepress is to outsource file creation. Using the Internet, it is easy to link designers and typesetters from around the world with your print shop. Companies such as Affinity Express, Quadrant, and UNIK Conversion give printers a source for 24 hour typesetting services. A prepress employee or designer could concentrate on more profitable work in-house, while mundane commodity work can be outsourced at low prices. The service requires better communication skills between the printer and outside service, but the prices for the service can be very low. These companies will create anything from business cards, to medical forms, to books and provide it in a file format that a printer can use and edit.
Make Printing Easy To Buy
The technology most overlooked by printers to make the buying process easier is the Internet. Websites can make purchasing printing very easy. While some printers complain about competition from low cost, Web-based print providers, others are using the same technology to have an impact on their local market. Today's typical print website provider offers special portals where printers can catalog a customer's printed products. The customer can then order reprints any time, from any computer through the website.
Printers can also add special custom sites where customers can add text and images to templates ranging from business cards to marketing materials. Customers who have buyers in multiple locations can centralize the buying process and lower their administrative costs. Companies such as PageDNA, Pageflex, GMC, EFI, XMPie, and Printable offer either hosted, or Software as a Service (SaaS), solutions or software applications printers can manage in-house.
More important than the technology is the printer's ability to get in front of a customer and sell. Buyers don't know the benefits of these types of services. Printers need to get out and sell the services to them. You will have to set up and demonstrate sample sites to potential customers. They won't be able to understand the concept from a postcard, nor will they walk up to your front counter and ask for the service.