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Build it or buy it?, Part 2

Oct 1, 2005 12:00 AM


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Prepress

DIY workflows have come a long way
“The [build-it or buy-it workflow] decision depends on business needs and in-house resources. DIY workflows have come a long way and are much easier to use as well as more reliable than they’ve been in the past. They also allow users to graduate into a fuller featured, or turnkey, workflow system if/when that time comes.”
—Sean Hiss, general manager, North America, Enfocus Software

It all comes down to ROI
“Whether a printer goes with home-grown or a complete workflow solution, there has to be an ROI. If the vendor of the solution can prove its workflow will be effective from an ROI standpoint, then it’s a no-brainer to make the investment.”
—Chuck Gehman, director of product marketing, EFI

Turnkey is tops
“RIPit has built itself around serving the franchise, small and medium printer. For the small shop to compete, turnkey workflow is a priority and a key ingredient to their success.”
—Jeff Buchman, director of sales operations, RIPit Computer Corp.

If you build it, you will understand it
“Previously, companies paid big bucks for workflow and did not have to invest time in understanding because they could just call for support. Building your own does save money, but more importantly, it increases your awareness of everything it can do for you!”
—David Lewis, president, Lucid Dream Software

Look beyond traditional prepress
“When investing in a new workflow, don’t restrict yourself to traditional prepress processing issues. Consider all aspects of production—from estimating and quoting jobs through prepress, press, finishing, and, ultimately, delivery and invoicing. Investigate workflow systems that offer the following attributes:

  • Flexible and modular, providing the ability to easily expand as required.
  • Integration with other production areas through MIS, prepress, press, and postpress production.
  • Proven efficiency through automation that reduces makeready time and waste, especially for short-run production.
  • Based on industry standards like PDF, PPF and JDF.
  • Good support from the workflow provider.
“Find a solution that is either already based on JDF or has a clearly defined JDF roadmap, and supplier that will support your needs before, during, and most importantly after your investment.”
—James J. Mauro, Prinect product manager, Heidelberg USA

Turnkey systems ensure consistency
“Homegrown workflows tend to be based around desktop applications that typically don’t have the robustness and capabilities of server applications. Consequently, there’s no assurance that workflow settings on one desktop will be the same as those on another. What happens when one application is upgraded? There’s no guarantee that the others will work. The financial burden to support a fully staffed IT department makes it hard to develop your own solutions and to support them 24/7. Many turnkey solutions serve small printers well out of the box. That’s why integrators provide managed services where printers add customized features when needed.”
—Gee Ranasinha, director of marketing, Dalim Software

Some integration is always required
“There’s no one-size-fits-all printer, so there’s no one-size-fits-all workflow. Some degree of integration is always required, whether it’s done by the workflow vendor, a dealer or specialized integrator, or by the customer itself. Fully integrated workflows are ideal for larger printers who want one-stop shopping, but even these workflows need to integrate with customers’ existing systems for MIS, remote proofing and approval, job ticketing, accounting and timekeeping.”
—Mike Rottenborn, vice president, technical marketing, Artwork Systems

Leading technologies from a single source
“Small to midsize printers generally lack the time and personnel to combine various software components into a cohesive solution. Xitron has incorporated best-in-class technology from partners such as Global Graphics, Enfocus and Hamillroad into the Navigator RIPManager. We have taken the underlying technology and [created] a single solution—users aren’t learning and maintaining three or four different software packages. Xitron and our dealers handle all compatibility, upgrades and training issues, allowing the user to become more productive in less time. Adding a solution like Navigator RIP Manager to an existing Navigator or other Harlequin RIP allows the small to midsize printer to make incremental investments rather than the large capital outlay often required when replacing an existing system.”
—Bill Owens, director of marketing, Xitron

Single source streamlines workflow management
“Managing a do-it-yourself workflow takes time and effort. With a turnkey system such as :ApogeeX, the components are integrated, resulting in less maintenance. It’s one upgrade vs. several. It’s one set of resources, such as fonts or color profiles vs. multiple. It’s providing overall job management, automation and control within the system. Managing jobs across multiple systems that aren’t integrated can delay a job’s turnaround and increase the opportunity for mistakes.

“The :ApogeeX Family was designed with solutions to suit both a do-it-yourself user with :ApogeeX Light as well as small users who want the advantage of an integrated turnkey solution with :ApogeeX Prime. With :ApogeeX, regardless of how much automation and integration you choose to start with, there is always a path to grow.”
—Lesley Hepditch, marketing manager for Agfa’s : ApogeeX workflow products

Don’t forget the training
“It takes experimentation for a small printer to build a workflow. In the meantime, a turnkey system is typically up and running in days, if not hours. Building a workflow always comes with complications. Linking to outside partners can be tough. PDF files are not standard—you learn quickly how many flavors there are. A complete Adobe Certified PDF system is a consistent tool to communicate up and downstream. “Don’t forget training. It’s easier to work with one company, rather than [dealing with] finger pointing.”
—David Mitchell, Esko-Graphics director of sales, Commercial Products, North America

A good match is the main thing
“Where many people are sending work to several output devices of the same type, a full workflow system offers efficiency advantages by increasing the control available in queues and by providing load balancing. In a smaller site, the capital cost and learning curve of a full workflow system are usually much harder to justify. The line between a simple RIP and a full workflow system is getting increasingly blurred, however. Job tracking, queue control, easy re-submission of jobs, and plate re-output are now all available without the expense and complexity of a traditional complete workflow product. Such a system may be constructed using components from multiple vendors, or supplied as a turn-key system from one, but which of those you choose is far less important than ensuring a good match with the requirements of the site where it will be installed.”
—Martin Bailey, senior technical consultant, Global Graphics

A selection of DIY plugins and software
Apago (PDF Enhancer) www.apago.com
ARTS PDF www.artspdf.com
Callas (pdfLayerMaker, pdfColorConvert) www.callassoftware.com
Dynagram Software www.dynagram.com
Enfocus (Pitstop Pro, Instnat PDF, Pitstop Server) www.enfocus.com
Heidelberg (Prinect Color and Trap Editor) www.heidelberg.com
Markzware FlightCheck www.markzware.com
Quite Software (Quite Imposing, QABOT) www.quite.com
Rennie Glen Software (PDF Snake) www.pdfsnake.com
Some DIY RIPs
HighWater Torrent www.highwater.co.uk
Xitron Navigator RIP www.xitron.com
DIY suites & workflow enhancers
Callas (process | solutions, Made to Print) www.callassoftware.com
Gradual Software (CaslonFlow 5) www.gradual.com
Markzware FlightCheck Workflow www.markzware.com
Xinet Fullpress www.xinet.com
A sampling of turnkey prepress workflow systems
Agfa ApogeeX www.agfa.com
Artwork Systems (Nexus) www.artwork-systems.com
Creo (Brisque, Prinergy) www.creo.com
DALiM (TWiST) www.dalim.com
EFI Velocity (OneFlow) www.efi.com
Esko-Graphics (FlowDrive) www.esko-graphics.com
FujiFilm (CVS, CVXS) www.fujifilm.com
Heidelberg (Prinect MetaDimension) www.heidelberg.com
Rampage (RIPing System) www.rampageinc.com
Screen (TrueFlow) www.screenusa.com

Now that’s hot!
Products such as the recently-released CaslonFlow 5 (list $2,499) are taking hot folder automation a step further. CaslonFlow, the flagship product of Gradual Software, has a substantial European customer base. According to Gradual Software, CaslonFlow is a desktop automation tool that glues together third-party applications into one seamless flow.

But CaslonFlow 5 goes beyond simple hot folder automation with “multifolders” that allow for subdirectories within certain types of hot folders. An FTP input folder, for example, can be separated into client subfolders. The work can then go through other task-based processes, but upon completion, can be directed back to another “multifolder.” From there it is separated into a client-specific subfolder (mirroring the input folder). Caslonflow 5 contains no integrated technology—it allows users to select any type of application they wish to perform various workflow tasks. CaslonFlow 5 contains “configurators”—tools that automate specific functions and applications such as color conversion in Photoshop—but beyond that, users are free to use the application(s) they have at hand.

About Gradual Software
Peter Camps, the founder and former CEO of Enfocus Software, founded Gradual Software in November 2004. In addition to COO David van Driessche, Camps’ executive team includes Thad McIlroy and Ignace De Bock. In May 2005, Gradual Software acquired CaslonSoft, the Danish developer of CaslonFlow. The “Gradual” name reflects the company’s goal of offering affordable desktop solutions for establishing and maintaining connections between “islands of automation” that can be deployed incrementally. See www.gradual.com.



What about digital & offset workflows?
Larry Zusman, manager, workflow marketing, Production Systems Group, Xerox Corp., comments on some workflow issues for digital printers.

How do digital printing workflow requirements differ from conventional ones?
Unlike conventional printing, digital print jobs often are short run, customized print jobs with quick turnarounds [and often involve] new applications that grow business for print providers such as digital color, variable-data printing, Web-to-print and book publishing. Xerox’s FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection specializes in helping users manage these types of volume building jobs.

The difference between digital and conventional printing workflow requirements is also driven by the nature of the business model. For example, shifting to digital printing means managing multiple print orders from multiple customers—customized jobs are in short runs and often yield many more jobs from several different customers.

How does company size impact the digital workflow decision?
Smaller print operations may be more suited to the workflow components strategy where they buy only what they need. FreeFlow components are sold separately so that print providers can buy what they need at an affordable entry price. Larger print operations often make their workflow purchase decisions based on what can be integrated into the existing environment. Many are integrating and automating disparate systems. To that end, Xerox recently announced that FreeFlow Process Manager—software that automates document preparation—now connects to third-party products, such as Enfocus Pitstop and Creo Preps. Automatic connections speed up the process of preparing documents for print.

Is it better to build your own workflow or buy a turnkey package?
Print providers should invest in workflow tools that maximize their current technology and make their existing environments as automated and integrated as possible.

It was only five or six years ago that some larger print operations would opt to write their own workflow software, but that’s no longer necessary. Several FreeFlow components can integrate with a print provider’s existing technology. Xerox also offers software development kits (SDKs) that allow industry solutions from third-party providers to work within the FreeFlow framework. If you view workflow as a train, with each separate car being a workflow component, consider that in the past, print providers would attempt to build the train from scratch. Today, it makes more sense to buy the cars (i.e., components) you need and then arrange them in the order that makes the most sense for your specific environment.

Suppose you have offset and digital equipment?
FreeFlow provides ways for print providers to either manage an all-digital workflow with an end-to-end solution or easily integrate offset and digital print processes through open interfaces and industry standards such as JDF and PDF.

A new solution for digital and offset integration is available exclusively through Enovation Graphic Systems, a Xerox workflow partner and reseller. The solution, which enables print shops to handle more jobs with greater speed and efficiency, combines Rampage Systems’ prepress software with Xerox FreeFlow Print Manager software to automate JDF-enabled job ticketing and document preparation.

At PRINT 05, Xerox and Heidelberg demonstrated how digital printing can work within offset environments. The solution, based on open architecture and the industry standard JDF technology, showed a Heidelberg Prinect JDF connector linked to Xerox FreeFlow Print Manager software for printi preparation with color output produced on a Xerox DocuColor 8000 Digital Press with a FreeFlow DocuSP color server. Xerox and Heidelberg showed job ticketing, pre-press, printing and finishing integrated into one JDF pipeline, expediting workflow from start to finish. Users choose the ideal print process—digital or offset, or a combination of both.



That’s the ticket!
MetaCommunications (Iowa City, IA) announced that Sandy Alexander has purchased and implemented Virtual Ticket at its Clifton, NJ, production facility. Sandy Alexander uses Virtual Ticket for process-specific order entry, prepress project management, centralized electronic job tickets and production digital asset management.

Sandy Alexander wanted to augment the capabilities of its existing print management system, EFI’s Hagen OA. The goal was to convert paper job tickets and quality control forms into a centralized electronic repository as well as integrate workflow and in-process production file management. At the same time, the printer wanted to leverage the information and benefits already being realized with Hagen OA.

“We needed an intuitive system which could quickly and easily computerize our manual job ticketing system to facilitate better communication and process control,” says Howie Swerdloff, vice president of production and prepress services for Sandy Alexander. “Virtual Ticket was the only solution we found which was flexible enough to accommodate our environment without locking us into a customized system that would be costly to maintain and impossible to upgrade.”

Sandy Alexander selected MetaCommunications’ Virtual Ticket software in January 2005. Within 30 days, Sandy Alexander’s staff replicated paper job tickets in Virtual Ticket, configured the software and seamlessly integrated it with Hagen OA.

Using MetaCommunications’ integration toolkit, Sandy Alexander was able to automatically populate Virtual Ticket with information collected in Hagen OA, eliminating any double entry. Sandy Alexander currently is implementing integration of Artwork Systems’ prepress workflow product, Nexus, with Virtual Ticket to further automate its prepress operation.

“Virtual Ticket has more than exceeded our expectations,” says Swerdloff. “This cost-effective system is having a profoundly positive impact on our order entry and production workflow by allowing us to automate many tasks that once were performed manually.”

Swerdoff adds that Virtual Ticket has earned accolades at all levels of the company, from management to operators. “And few operators actually like MIS,” he notes. “Most despise any kind of data collection, but Virtual Ticket has been a very popular innovation. It has improved communications between shifts and departments.”

See www.meta-comm.com.



HOT PRODUCTS
An open & affordable solution
Michele Zajac, workflow product manager for Screen USA, says Trueflow Rite, the entry-level version of Screen’s PDF/JDF-based Trueflow workflow management system, makes it easier for small printers to implement PDF processing and automated CTP output. With Trueflow Rite, the small printer receives a fully upgradable and expandable workflow that includes integrated automated trapping for the cost of a RIP system.

Using JDF, PDF and 1-bit TIFF, Trueflow Rite provides job management, JDF-based RIP operation, PDF trapping and connectivity to multiple output devices from a single application. Trueflow Rite uses a fully automated workflow path with intuitive hot folders for output-ready jobs. It accepts standard PDF data files. Imposed PDF and PostScript data can be used in job files. Trueflow Rite also can output CIP3/4 PPF ink-key preset data for press and postpress systems. Since the components come from a single vendor, service issues can be resolved with a simple phone call.


Manage your RIP without leaving your workstation
Xitron’s Navigator product line targets small and midsized printers. Navigator GPST is an integrated product that combines the Navigator RIP with the new Navigator RIP Manager. This tight integration lets prepress operators manage RIPs from workstations on their network.

Navigator RIP Manager, available for both the Mac and PC, enhances the standalone Navigator RIP—users can create job workflows that include PDF creation, preflighting and onscreen soft proofing.


Fiery-based RIP for Presstek users
Presstek and EFI have teamed up to develop a range of products for smaller quick, commercial and in-plant shops, and the franchise print market. Presstek Facet RIP, the first product, can be used with Presstek- and ABDick-branded digital output devices, including DI presses and Dimension, Vector TX52 and DPM platesetters.The RIP will be available in Q4 2005.

Features include:

  • Automatic in-RIP trapping.
  • Ability to re-map spot colors from the desktop without returning to the native application.
  • Advanced proofing and ICC-based color management functionality based on Best Technology.
  • ImageViewer local and remote soft-proofing and color editing capabilities.
  • Drag-and-drop hot folders for automation of repetitive tasks.
  • Easy integration with EFI Print MIS solutions, including PrintSmith.

Affordable & versatile
Rampage Systems’ workflow solutions are open, scalable and affordable. The company’s JVX.2 will ship in Q4 2005. Key features include:

  • Automatic imposition using JDF-based templates.
  • Integration with third-party MIS packages for job creation, tracking, costing, and analysis via JDF exchange.
  • Remote job submission, preflighting, and content proofing with notifications.
  • Optional integration with PitStop Server including support for Action Lists.
  • Expanded controls for ensuring print-ready PDF.
  • Proofing enhancements, including softproof overlay, ink density highlighting, and bookproof printing on duplexing printers.

Automated in-RIP trapping
Lucid Dreams’ I-Trap provides many high-end tools such as remote and local job viewing, ink settings and trapping controls. I-Trap is a raster-based trapping software offering automated in-RIP and interactive trapping. I-Trap integrates with Harlequin and other RIPs to enable trapping as in-RIP technology for PostScript, EPS, and PDF. With the client server model, clients have full color, full resolution viewing with a complete set of controls. The server is on the RIP station, with unlimited remote clients and both can be Mac- or PC-based.


Entry-level workflow for novice operators
At PRINT 05, Global Graphics launched Harlequin Print Production Manager (Harlequin PPM), a process control and job management solutions for small and midsized print operations. Harlequin PPM simplifies print-job management via a print driver or a hot folder from file submission to its progression to the Harlequin RIP and the final output device. To date, ECRM, Presstek and Polkadots have debuted products based on Harlequin PPM. Harlequin PPM specifically targets low-end CTP and entry-level digital press users. Visual process control makes it easy to use, even for novice operators. If the RIP is disabled, for example, a green button on the operator’s desktop turns red. Up to five concurrent clients can be accommodated across the LAN.


AlphaGraphics selects RIPit workflow
RIPit Computer Corp. recently announced that AlphaGraphics has selected RIPit’s OpenRIP symphony workflow as the solution of choice for all of its print centers with offset presses. AlphaGraphics has sourced RIPit’s Speedsetter platesetters for several years. OpenRIP can natively control more than 100 imagesetters, platesetters, printers and plotters, as well as a wide range of PostScript and TIFF-it devices from a single interface. OpenRip Symphony is an Adobe PostScript 3 RIP that integrates scanning, trapping, proofing and imposition into a single package.


Part 1 | Part 2