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Back to Basics

Workflow Software

With productivity such an important factor of every printroom, Genevieve Lewis finds out how investment in new workflow software could benefit your print business

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Improving workflow can be a major benefit to your business

Maximum efficiency

When it comes to workflow software, Jacob Hededam, head of Prinect at Heidelberg NE Cluster, is the correct man to begin with. “The term workflow tends to focus minds on the prepress area of production from the point of receiving digital content from the customer to the preflighting, imposition, proofing and plated production,” explains Hededam.

Jacob Hededam, head of Prinect at Heidelberg NE Cluster

“At Heidelberg, we have started to talk instead of infrastructure, meaning the production and business processes from the first touchpoint – estimate or quotation – through to the point of distribution and billing. We have modules for all aspects and are extending our cloud-based offerings which was the thinking behind the recent acquisition of Crispy Mountain. Heidelberg is also unusual in having solutions that cover both litho and digital applications,” Hededam continues.

Thinking of workflow as a whole is important – it is all about maintaining the equilibrium within the printroom. Much of today’s jobs are automated, and there is an element of trust that all is going to go smoothly at the hands of software. One such company that also covers the automation and preflighting is Tharstern. Andy Strand, customer enrolment officer at the company, explains: “One of Tharstern’s integrations is with Enfocus Switch, which is middleware that can be used for preflighting. It is an excellent tool to bridge gaps between disparate workflows and it significantly reduces the need for human intervention. We’ve primarily seen it used for preflighting and PDF approvals, but we’ve also seen it used to enhance works instructions, deliver proof of delivery to the MIS and perform EMP analysis. This means that human touchpoints are limited, workflows become more streamlined and efficiencies increased.”

Strand does add that no workflow will ever be 100% automated but investing in a solution can often lead to investing in another to increase “workflow functionality”.

Drive production

Moving in a slightly different direction, and wide- and large-format businesses in both the print and sign and graphics industry can also benefit from implementing new software. SAi, which traditionally has more of a focus on wide- and large-format print and signage, has also weighed in on how software can improve workflow.

“For large-format print businesses, having the right RIP software can dramatically improve both efficiency and workflow,” says Michelle Johnson, director of worldwide marketing for SAi. “It is a good idea to choose RIP software that can drive all of the devices within the production line, to simplify operation, streamline workflow and minimise training. Finding a solution that ensures job preparation and increased functionality at the pre-printing stage can increase efficiency, ensuring a more hassle-free process overall. For instance, SAi’s flagship Flexi 19 software offers a complete all-in-one solution for design and output of vinyl cut and digital print graphics.

For large-format print businesses, having the right RIP software can dramatically improve both efficiency and workflow

“As such, it maximises productivity by linking the whole large-format print workflow – from the front-end design, job preparation, editing, vectorisation and RIPing to vinyl cutting, printing and print-and-cut.”

SAi’s flagship product Flexi 19 can benefit wide- and large-format printers

Obviously, an important factor when investing a new system is making sure that it can readily integrate with other systems, old or new. Focusing on the labels and packaging section of the print industry, and Jan De Roeck, managing director of Esko, explains: “While there are a myriad solutions available to help overcome some of the significant challenges faced by today’s printers, we specifically developed Automation Engine to set a new standard for packaging and label prepress workflow automation. Esko Automation Engine integrates seamlessly with any existing infrastructure and accepts a wide range of desktop publishing formats, all while being highly scalable. Not only does this serve as the heart of any size prepress production operation, but it also ensures the right information is fed to the right system at the right time, enabling unparalleled workflow automation with rock-solid quality control.”

Heidelberg’s Hededam also notes that integration is important, commenting: “By digitising all the processes and integrating them seamlessly we can help our customers save time, reduce waste, work to better standards, arm management with real life and real time information and maximise throughput. Workflow or integration is necessary for all modern printing operations irrespective of size. It standardises, controls and maximises efficiency and profitability.”

O Factoid: The word ‘software’ was roughly first introduced in the 1960s, to differentiate from tangible hardware. O

Thartsern’s Strand says that there have been previous issues with automation in other areas of workflow, but through the consistent development of software, this problem with automatic imposition has become much easier to deal with. Strand explains: “In the past, one of the biggest issues for print companies has been automatic imposition. There are loads of ways to automate the other areas of your workflow, but this has been one of the most difficult to tackle. Print companies have such a huge variety of variables and preferences that it’s impossible to have a one-size fits all approach to imposition, but Layout Library solves this.”

Andy Strand, customer enrolment manager at Tharstern

Strand continues: “This feature has created a way for print companies to ‘teach’ their MIS the way they want to impose different products and parts based on different criteria. But, as with any automation, if the flow of information is incorrect then all the efficiencies you’ve created can get lost.”

The development of workflow software is another benefit to print companies. Strand adds: “Workflow solutions in print are developing constantly – if print companies don’t keep up with new technologies, they’ll get left behind their competitors. To avoid this, investing in new solutions, or keeping the existing solutions updated, is a necessity. Companies with outdated technologies are unlikely to have the ability to integrate with new products to further their automation.

Workflows become more “streamlined” with limited human touchpoints, says Thartsern’s Strand

“For example, some software providers have ‘legacy’ versions, which they no longer receive development updates and it limits their functionality. This can sometimes result in users having to revert to lower levels of automation. Once invested in new solutions, print companies can experiment and see what other opportunities are available. New solutions can have a huge impact on workflows so it’s important that the team are willing to change the way they work to get the best ROI, otherwise, they can be a waste of money, and make your workflow less efficient.”

All platforms are go

Many print companies will have variety in the machinery that they use for different projects. Some may worry that there is not a solution that can help across all areas of the business. Esko’s De Roeck explains that Automation Engine allows businesses to automate production across a number of different print techniques – be it digital, flexo or offset. He says: “This means that only one production file is required for a combination of print jobs. The job carries metadata identifying the right printing process for each of the separations, which is recognised by the workflow automation server taking each separation through their own individual, predetermined path all the way to the output device, be is a platesetter or a digital print station on a combination press. No more manually splitting the job into its constituent sets of separations for each print process, saving not only time but also dramatically reducing the risk of errors.”

Jan De Roeck, managing director, Esko

Moving on to financing a software solution, and those looking to invest in new workflow software can turn to both SAi and Heidelberg, which offer a subscription-based services. This means that implementing a new software solution can be affordable and Heidelberg’s Prinect means that printers are able to build their own infrastructure in a controlled way.

Heidelberg Prinect is modular, allowing users to build infrastructure in a controlled way

SAi also offers Flexi 19 on a subscription model, rather than a one-time purchase as this allows for further improved efficiency. “By subscribing to RIP software,” says Johnson, before continuing: “businesses can benefit from increased flexibility and make small revenue expenses as opposed to committing to a large upfront cost.

SAi offers Flexi 19 on a subscription basis

As such, users can temporarily purchase additional licenses during busy periods to keep up with high volumes of work, enabling them to get more jobs through the door.”

By subscribing to RIP software, businesses can benefit from increased flexibility and make small revenue expenses as opposed to committing to a large upfront cost

There is a lot to take in when it comes to workflow software, but numerous suppliers will be able to help you out. Whether this is through payment plans like subscription models so you can stagger the cost, or with support when it comes to implementing the software. Investing can make your life easier and makes sure that all goes to plan in your printroom.

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