Managing files streamlined
The entire process of managing files is now very streamlined, as job organization and data management tools allow for fast location of product status and data throughout the prepress workflow. “We are able to keep everything pertaining to the job right there,” says Downey. “We no longer put paper in job jackets—we’re all digital now. All the information relating to the job is in the folder, and anyone in the department can find out what they need to know.”
The process of normalizing PDFs is also much more efficient. When the file was rasterizing through Nexus, depending on the file complexity or size, it could take upwards of an hour to travel through the workflow. With the file now staying in Illustrator or as a PDF, it takes between 30 seconds to a minute to normalize. “It’s not quite instantaneous, but it’s about as close as you can get to it,” says Downey.
Trapping, too, has become simplified running Automation Engine 10. “We did upgrade the server that was running Nexus before we bought Automation Engine 10, but it didn't fix a lot of the problems,” notes Downey. “We deal with a lot of agencies and they get as creative as possible and the files are pretty complex. The trapper would have problems; it wouldn’t know what to do with some areas. So we would have to delete what the program did and manually do it. Now, it’s all automatic, and instead of it taking us 20 minutes to trap a file, it’s done in 2-3 minutes. Occasionally we edit that traps, but 85% of the time it traps just fine.”
Automation Engine 10’s extensive quality control tools allow the prepress department to run “an environment that is more mistake-free,” says Downey. The Viewer module lets the prepress operators find errors early in the workflow—95% of mistakes are caught ahead of time. “We can compare the customer-supplied file to the one we are working with, making sure all the corrections are applied,” Downey explains.
Automation Engine 10’s automated imposition or step-and-repeat reduces the need to prepare impositions manually. “We used to manually step-and-repeat in ArtPro,” recalls Downey. “Now we take the engineering drawing, type in the stepping data, get a ticket and it is automatically stepped. When setting up a job it takes about a minute to enter the data; if it’s a difficult job it takes another four minutes — if it’s a one-color job maybe it takes 30 seconds. All told, a job usually takes under 5 minutes; it used to take us 20 minutes. Also, we are making fewer mistakes, because we are catching them earlier during set-up, before we step-and-repeat.”
Since the Automation Engine 10 implementation, everything is faster, says Downey. “We are trapping faster, stepping faster,” he says. “We have no paper trail—instead of spending time looking for paper we are double-clicking on a folder to find info. It all adds up.”
Job turnaround times have been reduced by a full day, from five days to four, and even the most complex projects are running smoother. “A couple of times a year we receive a job from a high-profile customer,” notes Downey. “The job always choked on Nexus—it would take days to get fixes to run through. We just completed 5 jobs for them, and were able to stay in Illustrator to build the files. There were no issues—it all went very smoothly.”