Strong Control of Your Print Workflow? Or Is It Your Master? Advice Here

Creating communications today is a business that takes strategy, planning, and optimized execution. As brands and organizations create communications with the intent to deliver in both electronic and physical formats, managing the production is crucial. The printing side of information production often requires finishing considerations. For example, publication printers juggle the printing of book blocks, bindery operations, cover printing, and book assembly. Direct mailers may print in multi-up layouts that require complex folds, cuts, and perforations as they are prepared for insertion into the mail stream. Even transaction printers manage complex cut, perf, and fold processes in addition to inserting into envelopes, sometimes with additional pre-printed material.

In this SolimarSecrets ROI Boost video series, Drew Sprague, President of Solimar Systems and Pat McGrew, Managing Director of McGrewGroup, discuss finishing and why defining the workflows ahead of it in the print production environment are critical to an efficient time to market (or delivery), and to gain optimal cost containment and savings. The Return on Investment (ROI) that recent customers are enjoying from taking a look at their print workflows has been eye-opening, especially in this labor, ink, toner, and media (paper) challenged market.

We invite you to listen in on this discussion with Drew and Pat, both knowledgeable players in the print and electronic delivery industries. They will set the table by describing the requirements for finishing and why it is important in today’s communication design, production, and delivery. From there, they will be your guide on how these multi-variant workflows can be managed and optimized while remaining flexible to the rapid changes and high-speed pace of today’s customer demand.

Whether you already have PDF as the heart of your print and digital/electronic delivery environment or still manage legacy file formats and structures such as AFP, IPDS, PCL, PostScript®, VIPP, or others, Drew and Pat have advice that can help your business. They will also share how production environments can leverage software and technology to create repeatable, manageable optimized workflows.

Then, join Drew and Pat for the rest of this ROI-boosting video series! Watch the other videos in the series where they tackle how Piece Level Tracking (PLT) and assembly considerations in production print and mail, as well as, electronic delivery.

So, Drew, you know, it’s funny when you think about software, sometimes you don’t think about finishing, right? And finishing is everything, isn’t it? It’s not just what we think of as like the bookbinding or the inserting. There’s this whole workflow that precedes finishing and PDF as it’s risen has really come to the forefront of the options that you have to create the right opportunity for a multivariate print and finishing set of workflows.

Well, Pat, what we have seen is, of course, there’s been a very strong migration from cut sheet devices to continuous feed, and there’s a need for people to map some of those features that they’ve been using in cut sheet devices on the continuous feed devices. And so, for example, white paper workflows in many respects are a finishing problem.

It’s getting content that you normally would have printed on shells and pulled from a tray onto a spool of paper. But, it goes beyond that because some workflows, people still prefer to go on cut sheet, and yet they’ve moved from data streams that they no longer can sustain or want to sustain and move to PDF and need to be able to implement the features on those, for example, stapling sets of pages in the case of maybe an insurance policy or something, or just pulling from the different trays. And, so we help people with a broad array of issues related to finishing, whether it be moving from cut sheet to continuous or just continuing to use cut sheet devices.

That makes it a really strong workflow component if you can support organizations that are in transition. One of the other things we’ve heard from some Solimar customers is that they discovered the sort of the hard way that when they support multiple hardware vendors in their print environment, sometimes they run into interesting challenges in their physical finishing environment as well.

You’ve got a lot of options that allow you to sort of normalize how the print image actually gets positioned on the physical piece of paper so that it can go into a common finishing workflow.

Well, that’s right. Our Rubika product, as you know, is very PDF centric in what it does and can therefore lever edge the capabilities that you get with PDF, which includes that nice PostScript model for handling content yet device independence that you get from the PDF architecture. And so yes, we can help people with features like imposing content so that goes on to a wide platen and prints very efficiently or scales content so that if you have a margin that you’re concerned about for a barcode, you can move content away from that margin so you can stick a barcode somewhere or even adding trim marks, for example, so that in some other finishing step, you can know where to trim content away.

But I think in addition, we’re a little bit we benefit from our 31 years of experience and our two-footed nature because we’ve got one foot in the past and one foot in the future at all times. And, that really helps organizations that themselves are migrating from something to something else, because many of our users have been migrating from, whether it be legacy, Xerox environments or PostScript or AFP/IPDS environments to PDF centric workflows. And for many reasons, because for one reason being that their new systems in the enterprise are generating PDFs and they want to have a holistic approach. And, so our ability to efficiently take the content, not just the dots on a page, but the ancillary content like the finishing instructions and other information, metadata and migrate that into this more holistic workflow allows us to help them maintain the finishing requirements they have across platforms as those platforms change. And as you know, there’s a lot of platform change going on out there, whether it be host or print device.

I guess it’s not even just migration from one to another, but you give them the opportunity to integrate their production so that they can support multiple vendor hardware options without having to have different workflows for every single one of them.

Well, that’s right. And of course, the CIP4 group has as long targeted JDF as a broad form platform to help people manage devices holistically. And, we are seeing definitely an increase in the number of people who are deploying systems that can use and leverage JDF. Some people don’t know that they’re using JDF, because for example, when you configure the controller, you may be actually configuring a job ticket that is a JDF job ticket, but our concept of JDF kind of goes a bit beyond that because we do it dynamically. We can generate variable finishing information on the fly when we create the JDF ticket. And, a leveraged benefit of that is you can also pull back consumption information like how many pages paper used and how much colorant you used in the job.
So, it’s it really has a lot of benefit. And, if you think about JDF, it’s only taken us 20 years to get to the point where we’re actually using it the way the original group of CIP3 people really thought.

Yeah, sometimes the start up on technologies is a long time. But, you know, we even still have people using Bus and Tag hardware after it must be 60 years. It’s just incredible.

You know, there’s this philosophy I hear in printers, in print shops, everywhere. Well, it’s working for me. I don’t have to change, but it’s good to know that you’re there with solutions that will help a customer no matter where they are on their technology journey. And, I think that’s one of the things I really like about that whole Chemistry Platform approach, is that you can help a customer no matter where they are.

Well, we do try to be forward looking and any time you get into a technology, you have to be patient because the take up is often driven by financial cycles, right? We just bought these printers in five years we’re going to buy some new ones and of course, the platform is going to change in that time, of course. And, so we find that users make gradual progressions. It’s not a mass move because everybody’s on a different cycle, but progressively more and more uptake of these features as the platforms migrate.

We’re starting to see platforms that actually have longer lifespans too, right? Because when we were in that mid-tier sort of 80 page-per-minute, we thought 150 pages-per-minute was huge. There was that five-year cycle turnover, and now if you’re investing in one of the big, heavy, high-speed inkjet platforms, you’d like it to last more than five years. But, you know, the technology will change while it’s sitting on your floor.

Yeah, well, certainly there’s been a lot of pressure for organizations to invest in inkjet technology, and many of them are working out how to fill the capacity of those devices now. Yeah, so they’ll be wanting to onboard content from a number of different sources, and of course a lot of that content is going to come from PDFs where they find it. And, in fact we’re seeing a lot of content that’s being pulled in to PSPs, service providers that’s just being generated by a third party and being outsourced from them to the service provider.

So, it makes perfect sense.