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Extending the workflow

Oct 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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An all-digital workflow and the Internet boost productivity Sexton Printing (St. Paul, MN) is like any smaart printing company trying to stay efficient while keeping up with industry demands.

Seeking ways to streamline and speed up its operations, the 50-year-old, 80-employee company - which produces multi-page, four-color publications for corporations, learning and medical institutions, and non-profit groups and associations - replaced its previous central server five years ago with Xinet's FullPress open prepress interface server software. FullPress is said to offer fast file serving, print spooling, advanced image replacement technology and other tools.

When Xinet released WebNative, a Web-based asset management package and FullPress companion product, Jeff Stoks, Sexton Printing's vice president of digital production and information services, realized it was possible to give equal access - via the Internet - to customers, production staff and customer service representatives (CSRs), while bringing clients directly into the production process.

Also installed was Heidelberg/ CreoScitex's Prinergy product, allowing for an Adobe Acrobat PDF workflow to its CreoScitex Trendsetter platesetter. With a faster, 100 percent digital workflow, however, "our prepress and printing process had become faster than our ability to communicate with our clients," explains Stoks. "We had to catch up."

By using its WebNative features, Prinergy workflow and CTP capabilities, Sexton Printing developed a service called Virtual Prepress.

With Virtual Prepress, customers can log on through any Internet browser and access current online and offline jobs at Sexton from the previous 18 months. They can also access tape archives from the past five years. Comments can be attached to a file by anyone with access, and both high- and low-resolution files can be uploaded and downloaded directly to and from the production server. An e-mail is automatically sent to both the CSR and the salesperson managing the account when an upload or download transaction occurs.

"The site works as an asset manager," Stoks comments. "We do a lot of publication work, which means a lot of pick-ups. Previous jobs are available to our customers online. The service also introduces to our customers a more readily available OPI."

The high-/low-resolution picture replacement feature has "always been a great idea but tough to implement," according to the prepress director. Now, clients can access, and design with, a low-resolution file, and have it swap automatically with its high-resolution version at the server.

"We're sharing our server - it gives us one finite-page document that both we and our clients are working off of," says Stoks.

WebNative also provides the vehicle for an Adobe PDF soft- and remote-proof in the workflow. WebNative and FullPress integrate seamlessly with Prinergy, and Sexton Printing prints jobs to both Heidelberg Speedmasters as well as some smaller one- and two-color presses.

DRASTIC MOVES Stoks estimates that FullPress has increased Sexton's productivity by 20 percent, and that WebNative and the PDF system have reduced its proofing turnaround time from three days to one day.

Once Virtual Prepress is fully up and running, Sexton Printing will work on upgrading their clients' editorial processes, to ensure that clients don't fall behind in the digital workflow. Stoks says Sexton Printing is already studying how it can supply editorial tools to its customers, so writers and editors at the client site can edit from the same document.

"The editorial process can consist of three to 20 steps, depending on the client, and customers are having a hard time with it. We want to bridge the visual and written departments within our client sites," Stoks explains.

Stoks says the key to keeping up with today's changing industry is relying on software and hardware that keeps pace with the technological evolution of the industry.

"For us, all the workflow pieces are coming together. We believed in the Internet, in being 100 percent digital and in PDF, and we followed that three-pronged path. When you do the right things, the right things happen."