"I feel it has opened doors because it streamlines your operation," John Scott observes. "You're able to do more work, for one thing. Secondly, you're able to take in a lot more work and do it at a better price simply because you have streamlined your operation. I can't see anything that can transition a job prepress to press any cheaper or more efficiently than computer-to-plate.
He contends that part of that efficiency is due to using polyester plate material. "Simply because, with the poly, you hold a roll of plate material in your platemaker and you're good to go for 100 to 150 plates. Whereas, with computer-to-plate that's metal, you have to load each individual plate."
Mike Benz points out how the faster turnaround time helped him with one of his customers. "I had a client that needed 30,000 four-color handouts, 4x9", for a baseball game at Busch Stadium here in St. Louis. They had completely forgotten about getting these and the event was within one day," he recalls. "I got it at noon on Tuesday and we were able to generate plates, print the job, and deliver it by three o'clock the next day. I would not have even had film until probably noon on Wednesday before, and we were delivering the job at three on Wednesday. So, just the fact that we were able to squeeze the job in helped us with our relationship with the client. Bailing them out was huge."
No matter which brand they are using, the printers agree that very little training was needed to get their employees up to speed on the systems. "Virtually none," asserts Jim Mitchell. "We have a very astute and bright young prepress guy here who is very computer savvy and he just fell right into it. It was really very easy."
"We took about a week and a half to shake down. There is a learning curve, but my people are pretty well versed in the business, so there was really nothing difficult about transitioning" Peter Savitt reports. "You have to make sure that your files are locked and intact before you make the plates. There are no shortcuts; you have to make sure your file is good."
"It's no different than what we were doing, which is preparing files for film," says John Scott. "If you do film output, you can do computer-to-plate output. It is that easy. As long as your files are prepared for the CMYK or whatever, there's no difficulty at all in transitioning from burning and developing the regular metal plates to this mode of operation."
Mike Benz had a similar experience. His wife Marsha does the company's file prep work, but had previously sent the files out to the prepress house. "There was a learning curve, but it was pretty simple," he notes. "The ease of her learning how to prep plates for going to press was just phenomenal, with very, very little training. We installed the machine on July 26, 2006 and on July 27 at noon, we were running our own plates. Literally, when they left, we were producing plates."
Victor Kishter had a slightly longer learning curve, but not for his prepress staff. "When we went to computer-to-plate, we really had to get our pressmen involved in that process. We didn't want to have them dependent on our prepress people to put out the plates," he points out. "So we got all our pressmen involved in learning about creating templates; learning about how to output the plates for themselves. We saw a bottleneck there. If somebody's out or working on a big project, we don't have our pressmen waiting around for plates to get the job on the press. They have the skill to go in there and get what they need."
Cost Savings & ROI
The printers who have converted to CTP all seem to enjoy talking about savings they've experienced. "Over time it's going to save us money," says Jim Mitchell. "The poly plates are very inexpensive. And the cost of the equipment was under $2,000, so you can't really throw stones at that. It's a good investment all around, and our return on investment is going to be great."
One of the most compelling stories comes from Mike Benz. He and his wife were trying to decide whether or not to continue in the printing business; speculating that perhaps they would fare better as brokers. "One day a salesman suggested we take a look at this new technology," Benz recalls. "I had asked him about getting some new parts for my flip-top platemaker and he said, 'Instead of that, why don't you buy this?' and he threw down the [Glunz & Jensen] iCtP literature. It just seemed so far fetched, but when I looked at the lease cost and their guarantee that if I didn't like it within six months they'd take it back, I thought I don't have anything to loose." He reports that his company's sales were up by about 20% last year. "Our profitability is much better, and we're more current with our suppliers," Benz states.