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PDF and a new profit center

Mar 1, 2006 12:00 AM


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Prepress

Even though it only has 18 employees, Graphic Arts Services, Inc., a 25-year old commercial printer in Villa Park, IL, presents itself as a much larger organization to the outside world. It was a service bureau before making an aggressive transition to a full-service printing operation 10 years ago.

Graphic Arts Services focuses on what its customers want, a commitment to high quality products and prompt, on-time service. It relies on a qualified staff and the latest technologies to maintain this commitment. Typically producing five-color, short-run commercial work for Fortune 500 companies and ad agencies, projects include brochures, sell sheets, binders, newsletters, financial reports and more.

With its service bureau experience and extensive digital prepress facility, Graphic Arts Services offers scanning, color correction, color retouching, digital photography, color proofing, logo design, posters, trapping and desktop publishing.

Graphic Arts Services owns five conventional presses and three digital presses. It recently replaced two of its older five-color-plus-coater presses with a new Kodak DI press, along with a Grafitek five-color press with coater. The company plans to add another unit to its Grafitek press this autumn. Graphic Arts Services also has a two-color 19 x 25-inch press, a four-color Didde press for newsletters and a two-color envelope press/duplicator for direct mail.

The bindery is all in-house: a diecutter, a perfect binder, collator, stitcher, folding machine and inserter. Graphic Arts Services also provides mailing services.

Tackling PDF problems
A couple of years ago, Graphic Arts Services’ president, Tom Hoganson, noticed that PDF was becoming the preferred file format. At the time, Graphic Arts Services and its customers were able to send and receive PDF files only by dropping them onto the company’s FTP site. With its platesetter and DI presses, the company was locked into its existing workflow. Prepress couldn’t create PDF files of the required quality. So, Hoganson began searching for a workflow that would help them receive files from the outside while generating PDF files internally. That’s how www.PDFandaProof.com was born.

PDFandaProof.com is an interactive Web site where customers submit, verify and generate a normalized PDF file from a rough PDF file. Customers save time and money while Graphic Arts Services is assured that the files will RIP without problems.

Hoganson heard about DALiM TWiST from The Oldham Group (Springfield, IL), a Dalim Software (Strassburger, Germany) authorized reseller. It was easy to set up the workflow and file submission—it tied right into the existing FTP site using the TWiST WEBLiNK interface, an optional module that allows users to manage the workflow applications from anywhere in the world via a standard Web browser. Given appropriate access privileges, users can manage all aspects of the production workflow remotely, including uploading files, start/stopping workflows and checking error/preflight reports.

DALiM TWiST also provides a unique feature with its preflighting. If there’s a problem, a PDF file of the visual page is created with bookmarks that point specifically to where the problems exist. “The cost and the support system has been great,” says Hoganson, “and The Oldham Group has been a great help with the servers and prepress systems. They’ve done a great job.”

PDF and a Proof
With PDF and a Proof, customers can submit a PDF file online and verify it. The customer selects from three options: preflight a PDF file and request a digital proof, send the job to one of its presses or choose black-and-white output.

Often, customers do not want to go to press right away; they just want to expedite the approval process. They provide a PDF file that PDF and a Proof preflights, returning a “cleaned-up” Dalim Software PDF file. PDF and a Proof helps customers verify that what they send will, indeed, work.

Internally, DALiM TWiST helps Graphic Arts Services speed up the printing process by providing electronic approvals. The client sends a PDF file, Graphic Arts Services verifies and approves it, and it goes to press. If the client does it correctly, this can save 10 percent to 30 percent, depending on the project.

“DALiM TWiST provides terrific electronic verification,” says Hoganson. “Our customers usually don’t need a hard proof. They are happy receiving electronic approval rather than a proof. And, the turnaround is faster. Hard proofs still are critical for us, so I make sure to look at one. But, the process saves our customers money and we produce accurate color.”

Awesome automation
Although Graphic Arts Services decreased its staff, its productivity has increased considerably. Its entire push to automation, of which DALiM TWiST is a part, has contributed to this added productivity. “Automation is important to us,” says Hoganson. “Business growth is dictated by how much you can manage and how fast you can go. We’ve been able to reduce our staff due to automation.” Automation didn’t just help Graphic Arts Services become more efficient. It created a profit center, as well. “It all stemmed from an effort to gain new business,” remembers Hoganson. “We provided our customers with FTP access for years, but we wanted to utilize the Internet as a way to simplify new business.”

Right now, 30 percent to 40 percent of Graphic Arts Services’ work comes from files submitted to its FTP server. The next logical step will be to provide clients with more interactive involvement on the Web, perhaps job tracking. Soft proofing currently is not very important to Hoganson because jobs typically have few people in the approval process. If the business progresses as planned, DALiM DiALOGUE, Dalim Software’s award-winning online soft proofing system, could be helpful. “Our customers might have more reason to use soft proofing internally, but we let them handle it themselves,” Hoganson says. “We just notify them to look at its PDF files.

“DALiM TWiST is a very advanced workflow,” he continues. “The PDF format is here, and you have to give clients what they want. You still can do a lot with Acrobat and Distiller, but DALiM TWiST is very helpful and creates a great, clean PDF file. It works and it’s interactive with the Web. It’s all I’ll need.”