Is the prepress timer ticking down?

If prepress isn’t ticking, somewhere, something must be broken

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Prepress is the key. Photo Ralph Hunder Unsplash
Prepress is the key. Photo Ralph Hunder Unsplash

The first reaction from the prepress department when they hear the word ‘automation’ is dread for their job. Prepress is a hectic, relentless place to work. If prepress isn’t busy, somewhere something must be broken. All roads lead to prepress. So, anytime there are business changes or workflow changes, prepress is affected. Bringing up automation causes such a panic because it’s about reducing repetitive tasks, removing touchpoints, and standardizing processes. All of these things are what a prepress department does. It’s completely understandable to conclude that they are being replaced by software.

The folks in prepress have learned their skills by enduring years of poorly prepared files, badly planned projects, over-promising salespeople, and under-performing tools. Preflighting print job files is a talent that only comes with experience. Sure, there are checklists and standards and that one person who knows what everything does. But, teaching a person to ‘prepress’ has to be done with their heads in the game and their hands on the wheel. This makes the prepress department uniquely qualified to have all of the input when automation planning gets started. It also makes the concept of automating all of the variables in prepress overwhelming.

Photo Campaign Creators, Unsplash
Photo Campaign Creators, Unsplash

Automating prepress shouldn’t begin with the idea of replacing man (or women) hours with software. Instead, it should start with making the prepress job easier. Ask what things are done over and over and over each day that prepress is frankly weary from dealing with. Retrieving files from FTP, renaming folders and files, and placing them on a file server might be a nice thing to relieve them from. Setting bleed boxes to 3 mm from trim and removing objects outside of the media box might be another. This is not even the beginning of the preflight process, but mundane file touching that doesn’t really need humans. Most prepress techs would appreciate not having to search in ten different places to find bits of a job, every time they pick up a job ticket.

Automation can make prepress job easier

Make prepress easier with automation. Give the staff more time to work on jobs that require extra attention. The term ‘low hanging fruit’ is tossed around at the start of an automation project. Think of it more so as ‘rotten fruit’ and let the software do the things that humans don’t want to do. Mitigate the fears by including prepress in the automation plan, thereby proving to both prepress and management that process knowledge is quite irreplaceable. No number of experts will know exactly how jobs get done in any one shop. Automation gets increasingly less valuable when it asks a business to work differently from their proven formula.

An effective investment in automation makes strides toward reducing human touches, but that doesn’t mean reducing headcount. Prepress talent will become more focused and more valuable when the monotony of their jobs goes away. Customers who require more attention and jobs that need extra handling receive the attention needed to be successful. The prepress timer is ticking, but it’s signaling a change in responsibilities, not a change in employment status.

Note – The above article was submitted to us by Enfocus. (https://www.enfocus.com/en) We believe it has useful information for our readers.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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