Monday, 11 Jun 2018 11:44 GMT

Workflow Software

Printers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that quality software can have on a business. Rob Fletcher looks at the latest workflow solutions and how it can help boost production

Get in the flow

Love them or hate them, computers have had a huge impact on the print industry in recent years, and arguably for the better. Software and information technology now play a major role in many print businesses; from running the print machine, through to how jobs are managed.

Workflow software is often cited as one of the key pieces of kit modern printing businesses need to be successful. Suppliers argue that this sort of software not only makes life easier for the operator, but helps to improve the quality of the final printed product. Therefore, it is crucial that you do your homework.

Here, we speak with some of the leading software suppliers in the market to find out a bit more about their latest offerings and how this kit can help print-service-providers (PSPs) gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

Reliability key

One of the leading names in this sector is Agfa Graphics, which, in addition to an expansive hardware offering, has a variety of software solutions available. Russell Sheff, JDF and MIS pre-press integration technician, explains how software allows the operator to take full control of a printing process, thus helping them to achieve greater quality.

“Quality and efficiency can never be rated too highly in the printing business, that’s why having a quality workflow solution is such an important part to any printing company,” Sheff says, adding: “Agfa’s Apogee or Asanti workflows offer both these along with reliability, flexibility, and value for money.

The operator can have complete control of the production process whilst having the flexibility to be able to send to almost any device

“Investing in a quality workflow whereby the operator can control every phase of the production process from a single user interface and having the option to be able to send files to either CTP, digital presses, or wide-format presses is almost essential in today’s workplace whereby speed to market can be critical.

“The operator can have complete control of the production process whilst having the flexibility to be able to send to almost any device allowing for streamlined production, faster processing, and reliability meaning even more work can be placed through the system therefore fulfilling a company’s capacity within any prepress department.”

With this in mind, Sheff draws attention to Press Tune, the latest solution in the Agfa software portfolio. Press Tune is a comprehensive print standardisation tool that Sheff says allows users to achieve greater accuracy, consistent colours, faster makeready times, lower ink consumption, and an overall increase in efficiency and productivity.

Agfa says its Apogee Cloud minimises a customer’s investments, while at the same time maximises flexibility

Also available from Agfa is Arziro Design, counterfeiting software for the general security market. Arziro Design works as a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator Mac or PC, offering an all-digital design solution for general security printing and personalisation. Key features include complex security designs that can be created within seconds, real-time operation, and versatility, while the software runs on a standard Adobe Illustrator CC system and uses a familiar interface.

In addition, Apogee Cloud is a cloud-based solution that enables users to run workflow off-site, using the same private and secure Cloud that Agfa uses for the Arkitex workflow software for newspapers and also its healthcare business.

Sheff says: “Apogee Cloud minimises your investments yet maximises flexibility and includes hardware, software support, and expert ICT managed services. Apogee Cloud is perfectly adaptable to a customer’s business needs should they need more capacity or wish to provide an easy way to network and interact with print buyers.”

Importance of automation

Another leading name is this market is EFI, which, like Agfa, has an extensive software offering to support its hardware. Terry Garvey, partner alliance director, says in order to thrive and adapt to customer needs, investing in quality workflow software has to be on the agenda for print providers.

Garvey expands: “Demands of print providers in today’s market are more demanding than ever, expecting flawless colour and quicker turnaround on complicated and/or smaller jobs—all at competitive prices.

Quality and efficiency can never be rated too highly in the printing business, that’s why having a quality workflow solution is such an important part to any printing company

“Workflow software enables printers to provide more with their existing digital or litho presses with streamlined and automated workflows, enabling them to quickly adapt to changing customer demands, and grow with higher-profit value-added services.”

Garvey picks up on EFI’s Fiery Workflow Suite, a comprehensive set of integrated products he says boosts production efficiency with streamlined and automated workflows, maximises the use of print engine capacity and capability, processes more jobs more quickly, regardless of complexity, and helps users achieve higher profit with value-added services.

Garvey says: “Fiery Workflow Suite has solutions for every stage in the print production process. Modular offerings let print providers choose what they need now and add more as they grow. They can integrate current production systems by centralising control of print job management to make existing print assets more scalable and productive.”

EFI’s Fiery Workflow Suite products all integrate with each other, as well as with other EFI products and third-party solutions

Importantly, Fiery Workflow Suite products all integrate with each other, with other EFI products and with third-party solutions—thus making it for easier for implementation, deployment, and use across the board.

Garvey adds: “With EFI’s workflow solutions, print providers can exceed customer expectations of value and turnaround time through increased automation that drives down costs and speeds production.”

Also able to help PSPs in this area is Imprint Business Systems. Wayne Beckett, sales and marketing director at the company, says automation is key to success for PSPs in the modern market.

Beckett says: “As run lengths reduce and margins tighter it’s important to reduce the touch points of a job through production. PSPs need a workflow that will enable them to fully automate their business.

“Systems that can take a web-to-print job, process the artwork, create a job, schedule it, and then produce a delivery note and invoice with very little or no human intervention can only help to improve margins.

Imprint Business Systems works with original equipment manufacturers to improve integration with workflow software

“Imprint-MIS has been in the market for 40 years and has grown and developed with the market—every new customer adds something to the system and over the years we have developed a very powerful system with dedicated modules that cover the direct mail, packaging, labels, and commercial print both digital and offset.”

Beckett goes on to speak about some of the latest developments at Imprint and how its ongoing work with OEMs is helping to improve integration.

Beckett says: “‘Lights out pre-press’ is the big topic at the moment and we are working with companies like Fuji, Kodak, and Agfa to push this along. I think the market is a way off total prepress automation, but we have customers who are pushing hard and that can only be good for our system.”

On time, every time

Also active in this market is Creation Reprographics, which specialises in pre-press solutions for packaging origination, reprographics, and flexographic plate production. Matt Francklow, managing director, says increased competition is placing further strain on PSPs in the modern market, and quality workflow software is an effective way to gain an advantage.

Francklow says: “In today’s highly competitive, high speed, print, packaging and retail business environments, it is more important than ever to deliver right first time, on time, every time with the minimum of waste and error in the process.

“Combined with reducing lead times and run lengths, and increasing demands for high quality, sustainable print and packaging solutions, complete digitalisation of the pre-press environment is critical to creating competitive advantage, minimising waste, and delivering speed to market for brands.

O Factoid: Although computers are seen as a relatively recent invention, English mechanical engineer and polymath Charles Babbage actually conceptualised and invented the first mechanical computer in the early 19th century. Babbage is now referred to as the ‘father of the computer’. O

“At Creation we believe that sustainable packaging development must incorporate  the use of a sustainable pre-press environment—minimising waste in terms of materials and energy. Brands are starting to recognise this, as well as the economic advantages of digitalisation of the workflow process.

“Minimising the number of press trials and approvals reduces the number of journeys involved in a job, as well as material, ink, and solvent losses. Digitalisation of the process ensures human errors are minimised and right first time production can be achieved, as well as full transparency of the job from artwork to delivery.”

Solutions available from Creative include Creation Link, which Francklow bills as a streamlined and automated digital workflow process that can deliver enhanced production efficiency and client satisfaction.

Matt Francklow, managing director of Creation Reprographics, says PSPs are now under more pressure to deliver the right print on time, every time

With Creation Link, the company combined its MIS and Esko Web Center programmes into an advanced system that fully integrates all business activities into a single, automated process.

Francklow comments: “Creation Link delivers faster workflows, accelerated service for repeat work and 24-hour
production, maximising operating capacity with very little additional manpower, while removing the risk of human error.

“The enhanced MIS enables everything from production, distribution, and accounts information to be held in one computerised system. The information is then integrated with other applications within Creation, allowing the company to collaborate and communicate with all partners in the packaging and printing supply chain.”

Francklow adds: “Not only is Creation Link simple and user-friendly for our clients, it provides them with real-time feedback of our shop floor activity. It allows our customers to access the latest up to date information on the status of their product, with all parties involved regularly receiving notifications on developments with complete transparency.”

Although perhaps not as likely to grab trade media headlines as a new press might do, the importance of workflow software is undeniable. PSPs are under increasing pressure to deliver printed work to clients at a faster rate but also in high quality.

As touched on by the selection of suppliers here, control is key in today’s fast-paced market and PSPs are on the lookout for anything that can help them gain an advantage over their competition. Quality workflow software is certainly an effective way to do just this, allowing you to take control of production as you take on more work as a result.