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Making Critical Prepress Upgrades

(May 2012) posted on Thu May 03, 2012

"So as we move into faster printers and bigger files, don’t we also need faster and more powerful prepress equipment?"

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By Craig Miller

The economy continues to improve and our business has been growing faster than the recovery. As a result, we have recently bought two wonderful grand-format printers and are now looking toward a third. These machines print better and faster and do things I couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. So, we’re set, right?

Well, no. As wonderful as these technical marvels are, printers are not capable of making money in and of themselves. It’s what we feed our printers – jobs – that makes us money.

Obviously, it takes sales and marketing to land the jobs. And it takes customer service and project management to coordinate the jobs. It is our prepress department, however, that accepts the files for the jobs and has to get them print-ready.

Even though we have nearly more work than we can handle, our printers will occasionally be idle and staff will be standing around in both the printing and finishing departments. The prepress department is working like mad to get work to them. The print room waits on the prepress department. If files aren’t ready, our printers are idle. When they’re just sitting there, our printers are costing us money – not making it.

On the printer side, we can talk about performance in terms of thousands of square feet per hour. But, a $100,000 printer is making zero income when it’s idle, no matter how fast it prints. Printer manufacturers continue to develop machines capable of higher resolution and expanded gamut. We can now print files 10-feet wide with an image quality I never thought we’d see at that size. On the capture end, cameras continue to take pictures in ever-increasing megapixels – it’s no longer unusual for us to get files in hundreds of gigabytes. It takes considerable computer power to manipulate just one of these mega files and get it print-ready.