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The Collaborative Workflow

(August 2005) posted on Mon Aug 08, 2005

Customers want more access and control of jobs through the production process.


By Stephen Beals

Collaboration: It's something you probably are already doing to
some degree. But get prepared to do even more because it has
steadily become one of the hot-button issues of printing workflows.
When your customers begin asking how they can be
more involved in the actual production process"?and they
will"?you will need to come up with answers that will work for
you as well as them.

The essential concept of collaborative workflows is to give both
the print provider and the print customer access to and control of
jobs going through the production process. That sounds good to
most designers, and scary
to most print shops, but it's
starting to happen in a big
way, whether you like the
idea or not.

Some workflow companies
are making collaboration
capabilities a big selling
point for their products. In
the commercial arena, for
instance, Creo (now a subsidiary
of Kodak) has made
a big push on its Synapse
InSite product, which provides interactive tools for marking up
proofs, on-line job approval, and even the ability to make
changes to a job, job ticket, or job schedule through an Internet
connection. But the concept is by no means just for commercial
printers.

Of course, the biggest advantage is the ability to zap files
across the Internet virtually instantaneously, eliminating the
cost and time loss of sending hardcopy proofs. The time and
cost benefits can be particularly important in the wide-format
market, since speed is almost always an important factor; in
addition, the short-run/one-off nature of the business makes
the cost of a hard-copy proof a much higher percentage of the
total cost of producing a job.

From basic to sophisticated

On the most basic level, it's a fairly simple matter in many of
today's workflows to create a PDF of the final output file and email
it to the customer for approval. If you are already working in
a PDF environment, you don't have to invest thousands of dollars
and have a custom-designed workflow to begin collaborating
with your customers.


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