Go Faster and Go Further Using Your Digital Front End as Workflow Central

Integrated workflow, unified workflow, workflow suite—there are lots of workflow terms being used in the industry, but the bottom line is this:

Touches = Cost

Increased Cost = Reduced Profit

Regardless of what it is called, the purpose of any workflow solution should be to reduce touches and the potential for error or rework, and take time and cost out of the production process. That’s why the concept of controlling workflow from one centralized point is so attractive. This includes activities such as preflighting, impositioning, color management, and late-stage editing, much of which can be automated and moved closer to the point of print for faster throughput, more efficient utilization of resources and central management of digital printers, even if your portfolio includes printers from multiple vendors.

Standalone versus Centralized and Integrated

In many organizations, workflow processes have evolved over time, and a company’s workflow often consists of separate standalone processes and products from a variety of different suppliers (or internally developed) that may or may not be integrated. These workflow components may be executed by different departments in different areas of the facility, with no central point of control.

One workflow commonality for many digital printing operations is the digital front end (DFE); moving workflow steps to the DFE makes a great deal of sense because it centralizes key prepress and job management tasks into a location manned by a single operator, using a familiar user interface. And research reveals that that is exactly what many firms wish to do.

Kaspar Roos, Associate Director for InfoTrends' production workflow and customized communication service, says, "Print service providers are increasingly replacing standalone workflow solutions with integrated, customizable solutions. In our 2012 Digital Front-End Study, we found strong evidence that print providers want to move their workflow solutions to the DFE so that they can run their workflow from a central location that easily integrates with other systems.”

Why Integrate?

Today’s print service providers typically receive files from many different customers that arrive in different formats with different print settings. But the one thing that is not different from customer to customer is their expectations: They expect the job to be completed on time, with the highest possible quality, and within budget.

When files arrive, there are many things that must be examined in order to assure that the file will print correctly, ranging from fonts and color space to format and paper sizes. When these actions are performed manually by different staff members, errors and inconsistency can occur, and that results in waste and rework—reducing already slim margins and risking customer dissatisfaction or even defection.

In an integrated workflow, these operations can be centralized with a single operator and significant automation, delivering:

  • Increased operator productivity
  • The ability to meet tighter deadlines
  • Optimization of press utilization and higher quality output
  • Decreased waste and rework
  • Flexibility in job submission with improved internal and external communications.

An effective automated workflow should also offer the ability to establish rules that govern what happens in a given situation. For example:

If preflight fails then send email to Charlie, or

If correction is successful then send job for approval.

While we often think that every job that comes in the door is different, a close analysis of a typical job mix will reveal that there is more similarity within classes of jobs than you might expect to see. This can make automation by job type, customer, or other criteria fairly straightforward.

Take business cards, as an example. When the job arrives as a PDF via a storefront or Web-to-print solution, there are several things you will want to check in every business card job. Why not automatically run all business card jobs through a routine preflighting workflow that can check and correct trim box settings, ensure that fonts are embedded, and find and correct any color space anomalies or spot color issues? Once the job passes preflight, it is automatically directed to a print queue based on which printer is most appropriate, both in terms of availability (load balancing) and capability (paper stock loaded, finishing, etc.).

Late-stage imposition can also be automated based on the sheet size at the destination printer. This relieves operators from having to perform boring, repetitive tasks and to focus on exception processing. To the extent exception processing can be accomplished at or near the point of print, the more efficient it will be.

This same concept can be applied to any number of other job categories you may establish in an automated workflow. As an added benefit, automatic, triggered communications can be sent to internal or external email addresses to ensure efficient status updates. This eliminates phone calls and running around to find the status of a job, and makes the entire process much more convenient for your workers and your customers alike.

The final aspect of an automated and integrated workflow that should be considered is optimization of print devices, regardless of who the manufacturer is. These days, few shops are dedicated to a single manufacturer, and multi-vendor environments are common. A successful and efficient centralized and integrated workflow will specifically address each digital press with two-way status communication that sets the stage for automating processing and queuing of jobs.

Taking Workflow to the DFE

EFI (Booth 2602) was founded more than two decades ago to develop technology that reduces waste and improves productivity in the creation, management, and distribution of printed and electronic products and communications. The company’s Fiery family of products clearly addresses that mandate. The new Fiery Workflow Suite is especially beneficial for businesses that see increased productivity as the key to profitability.

Fiery Workflow Suite includes modular applications for job submission, prepress, makeready, color proofing and management, and output management. Fiery Workflow Suite modules also integrate seamlessly with the Fiery DFE, of course, but also with EFI’s Digital StoreFront Web-to-print and eCommerce solution, the company’s PrintSmith Vision, Pace, and Monarch print MIS systems, and the Fiery Dashboard, which provides cloud-based monitoring of Fiery Driven systems. Combined, this delivers a fully integrated workflow from job submission and business management to scheduling, preparation, and production for a new level of productivity.

Many of the modules have been part of Fiery for some time, although updated periodically to address changing customer and market needs. But what makes this an even more powerful workflow option is the addition of three new applications:

  • Fiery JobFlow: Advanced prepress automation solution integrates tools for PDF conversion, preflight checking, correction, and editing of PDF files, image enhancement, document imposition and job approval. Funnels submitted jobs to a Fiery DFE or to Fiery Central print production solution through configurable workflows. Incorporates Enfocus PitStop Pro 11, the industry’s leading preflight solution for PDF workflows. (A 30-day free trial is available at www.efi.com/FieryJobFlow.)
  • Fiery JobMaster: Advanced makeready software that offers intuitive document assembly including fully visual tab insertion and design, page-level ticketing, page numbering, finishing, scanning, and late-stage editing features. Speeds up design and job submission processes using a flexible in-RIP solution with interactive and fully visual job previews. (Take a virtual tour of Fiery JobMaster at www.efi.com/FieryJobMaster.)
  • Fiery Central: Balances production output by splitting color and black-and-white pages, and by routing all or part of jobs to the most productive and cost-efficient printers including automated re-routing on error. Works with EFI’s Digital Storefront and MIS/ERP and scheduling solutions for accurate production reporting and seamless job submission.

The new technical advancements available reinforce what is possible today with workflow. Take it to the DFE for less cost and more profit, for more productivity and fewer errors, and for happier customers and employees.