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Mapping a Realistic and Fluid Workflow

(October 2005) posted on Tue Oct 25, 2005

Sit down, analyze your shop, and make appropriate modifications.


By Stephen Beals

For many of us, it often seems easier to just "fix" improperly prepared
output files than to step back and take an overall view of
how these problems affect our entire workflow. To truly address
the problem of bad files"?whether they be files you created or
files supplied by a customer"?you need to know: what files are
causing problems; why they are causing problems; and how you
respond to each problem (and if there are better ways to
respond). You also need to account for how the stop-and-start
nature of encountering bad files affects your entire operation,
not just the person who
actually has to deal with a
particular file.
It may be that you are
spending time, money, and
energy fixing files, when
what you really need to fix
is your shop's workflow.

Mapping reality

At a recent workshop presented
by Working Words
and Graphics (www.work
ingwords.net) on behalf of Enfocus, the presenters suggested
the first step in evaluating any workflow is to sit down and map
your system on paper. Seems simple, yes? After all, you know
your workflow. Files come in, you preflight, RIP, proof, and output.
Right?

Well, not usually"?not in the real world. If that's the map you
are using for your workflow, you're missing all the detours,
U-turns, traffic lights, and potholes. Your map should not be
drawn on the basis of your ideal workflow, but rather on the
basis of your actual workflow.

Also important to keep in mind is that the goal of mapping
your workflow is not to find someone to blame when it doesn't
work. Instead, the idea is to give you a good snapshot of just
how things are working in your real world. Take the attitude that
everyone wants things to work correctly, and that they will be
just as happy as you are to see corrective action taken.

One approach to avoid, however, is just looking at the problem
jobs. Evaluate all of your typical day-to-day jobs"?good ones
as well as problems. Consider not just what goes wrong, but
what goes right, too. Keep in mind that it's easier to see what has
really gone awry when a job goes bad if you can compare it to a
job that has gone through smoothly.


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