Is a Black Hole Sucking Away Your Future?

Is your prepress department ready for the future? The role of the prepress department will expand and evolve as more services are added to the arsenal of products sold by printers. But before any printing company can add services, it has to be sure that the prepress department can handle the services now being sold. Typesetting, design and file output are the standard services now offered by most printing companies. If you look closely at most financial statements, you’ll see that the prepress department is losing money because the printer isn’t charging enough to cover the department’s cost. As John Stewart says, prepress is a black hole. To survive the future, the typical printers will have to attempt to reinvent themselves and offer more cross media services. Most of these services will be computer and Internet based so the logical department to produce the services is the current prepress department. Print owners need to make sure their prepress department is making money today. Typesetting, design and customer file output should be profitable and not considered loss leaders. Printers can do this by using outside design and typesetting services to supplement the work produced in house. Printers can set standards for customer files and use the automation and workflow tools that come with most digital presses and direct-to-plate systems to cut production costs and increase profits. It will be very difficult for a printing company to add additional services if the prepress departments are already losing money. If a prepress department is inefficient now or the prices charged for the service too low, then there will be no way to add other services to offset the current losses. If it isn’t profitable now it is never going to be. You have to get ready for the future today. Make sure your sales people are charging fair and profitable prices for design and typesetting. Printers shouldn’t be giving away design work just to get the printing job. If you can’t produce it profitably in house, then use an outside vendor. Automate now. Require customers to provide PDF files that are constructed according to your specifications. Use the hot folders and workflow systems that come with your equipment. Make the prepress staff learn how to use the tools properly. It is up to the owner to make sure the changes happen. The owner needs to lead and make sure pricing for prepress tasks is correct and profitable. The owner has to make sure the staff is using the tools available to be more efficient. Printing is more competitive and as printing evolves it will be harder for the typical print shop to survive. You can no longer afford to live with a “black hole†in prepress sucking away profits. Unless you plug the profit leaks now, you won’t be able to add the new services that will be required to stay in business. The black hole may not just suck away prepress profits. It just might suck away your future.

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