Prepress continues to be one of the most important functions in a quick printer’s workflow. Almost every job produced in a print shop must be touched by prepress staff in some way. Keeping up with the latest trends and technology can mean the difference from being profitable or losing money.
Printing companies are now offering technology-based printing services that augment customers’ print requirements. A major trend in many print shops is to evolve the prepress department into a multifunction unit that can help disseminate information using new technology tools in addition to print. The prepress staff must now learn new communication tools to compliment a customer’s ongoing marketing plan.
Printers are either hiring a generalist for prepress or retraining their current staff to coordinate work as it moves through the department. These employees become project managers for work being done by outside vendors.
Finding a single person who can support and produce everything a print shop needs to offer is almost impossible, so it is critical for the prepress staff to be able communicate the company’s needs to outside vendors. The prepress person will be an expert in some portion of their job, but they must be able to direct others, usually remotely, on what other services are needed. Those services include typesetting and design work, managing databases, creating artwork, supporting Web creation and advanced Web services, creating content, and more.
Trends Facing Printing Companies
Automation: Printers are trying to remove the number of touches as a job moves through the workflow. A number of software applications automate tasks, particularly in preflighting and correcting digital files. Almost all output vendors offer some sort of proprietary workflow system based on a PDF workflow along with hot folder solutions. Low-cost programs such as Adobe Acrobat, Markzware Flightcheck, Enfocus Pitstop, Quite Imposing, and others can add automatic steps that save hours of time. A program such as Enfocus Switch can link together automation programs you already own to build a custom automatic workflow.
The front end investment of time and money can quickly pay for itself over the long run as the production efficiencies give the printer a competitive advantage.
Web-based Services: Print is only one part of the new business communication model and printers must integrate print with the new vehicles. The latest trend is to offer some sort of Web support. Printers can create entire websites for companies or provide specialized services such as landing pages or QR codes. Printers are educating customers to the advantages of using both to better reach their audience.
Understanding Web services makes it easier to sell more print services that integrate the customer’s messages to its audience. Printers are printing more collateral to support information that is on the Web and printing more pieces to help drive prospects to the customer’s website. A printer who understands what the customer is trying to accomplish with their website can use printing to help meet that goal.
Web-to-Print Supply Chains: Buying printing in a large organization can be difficult, so printers are adding easy-to-use, secure portals where customers can reorder work or order from preapproved templates. Print buying approvals can be automated to help customers lower their administrative costs. Almost all of the website services for printing companies have some sort of portal ordering system and there are a number of third party solutions. A new W2P Finder site at www.web2printexperts.com/W2PFinder/ will help printers find the right Web-to-print solution for their needs. Web-to-print services tend to lock customers into a particular printer and make it hard for competitors to take the work.
Design and Content Creation: At one time, most quick printers would just replicate or copy whatever their customer needed to reproduce. Today, customers need more help designing projects and coming up with content for the print, Web, and social media communication vehicles.