You’d think that printers would have had enough of inadequate process control practices. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so. Oh no…Printers may be focusing on expanding into new services even as they let their core competency stagnate.
When Paul Mc Cartney wrote his catchy little disco-influenced ditty, it was his own answer to critics who thought he should be addressing more serious topics in his music, since “love” seemed to have been pretty well covered. Today, process control advocates within the print industry seem to be being hit by similar attitudes. Conventional wisdom seems to hold that offset printing is about as good as it will every get, and that printers should concentrate their efforts on more serious topics, such as how to get out of printing and find a new field of endeavor. Focusing on process control is just….silly.
Is the process really under control?
Certainly forward thinking printers need to be looking in new directions, whether that may be web design, PURL campaigns, social media , or any of the dozens of other avenues being suggested by industry gurus. But is process control really all taken care of?
Most printers sincerely think that they are already printing efficiently and that their process control efforts are successful, but a look at the recycle bins of most printing plants tells a far different story, a story of wasted paper, wasted ink and wasted time as pressmen struggle to match proofs using manufacturing methods that would be considered hopelessly crude in most modern industries.
Most of the pieces are in place but something is still missing
So what’s the problem? With all the sheet scanning, ink key presetting, closed loop gadgetry now commonplace in modern printing plants, what more could possibly be done to improve process control?
Well, not to get too poetic about this, but the printing process too often lacks the same ingredient that is vital to Sir Paul’s favorite topic of love and relationships, and that ingredient is communication.
Press operators today have more access to vital measurement data than ever, but that data too often stops at the delivery end of the press, and never gets properly shared with the prepress department, where it could be used to form a better working relationship.
To have value, information must be shared
Answers to this dilemma do exist. Press measurement data delivered directly to the prepress department could enable them to create accurate curves for correct net TVI and proper gray balance, allowing press operators to run to target densities for fast makereadys and accurate press to proof matches. The technology exists today, and the price can be very low, yet relatively few printers have yet embraced this common sense approach to waste reduction and process control.
I try to keep all my posts product promotion-free. If you are interested in the subject, please check out my other posts and browse my website for more information on achieving accurate color and effective prep-press collaboration.