I was talking about press and prep issues the other day with my friend Larry Erwin, a trade veteran with 40 years of experience in and around pressrooms, and I mentioned to him that I thought that communication between press and prep was a big issue.
“Well, prep and press don’t communicate” said Larry, “They don’t even go out to lunch together.”
It took a minute for it to sink in, but then I realized that Larry was right: Press operators and prepress workers are friendly to one another when they pass in the halls. In the best shops they try always to work as a team; but they don’t very often take lunch together.
Why is that? And what does it tell us about press-prep teamwork? More importantly, are separate lunches a symptom of other communications issues that could be costing the company money?
A part of the reason for separate lunches is physical distance: Prepress departments are almost always separated by a soundproof wall, and in many cases the pressroom may even be in a completely different building from the prepress department. Workers don’t usually have a reason to go out of their own work area, and this lessens the chance to the casual contacts that lead to lunch sharing.
Press operators who get ink underneath their fingernails and wear ear protection while running a roaring offset press may see themselves as being different from prepress operators who sit in front of computers in air-conditioned rooms listening to podcasts through their Dr Dre earbuds.
But the biggest reason press and prepress operators don’t go out to lunch together is because they think that they don’t have anything to talk about. No shoptalk. No comparison of experiences. No collaborative projects: just different guys on different sides of the wall doing different jobs, without much to say to each other about it.
But this idea of separateness conflicts with the reality that press and prep are members of the same team, working together on every single job that goes through the shop, and the lack of communication between departments, reflected in separate lunches, is costing the company untold thousands of dollars every year.
How can we turn this around? Sponsoring company lunches with prearranged seating to put press and prep together might seem like the obvious answer, but we know that wouldn’t work. Press and prep will communicate when they discover that they have common interests and challenges, and when they discover that they can help each other to achiever greater results together than they could achieve alone.
The reality is that prepress is at the service of the press department. It is their job to help and support the press operators by providing them with accurate proofs and accurate plate curves. To do this job well, they need current and accurate information from the pressroom, but press operators sometimes misunderstand and can even resent pre press operators coming into the pressroom and asking questions.
As always, communication is key, and effective communication leads to enhanced as all players learn to work together on the same team.
Standard pressroom measurements, such as density, dot gain and gray balance, matter to the prepress department because having this information enables prepress operators to provide the best possible support to the press operators, and to make their jobs on press easier.
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