The New Prep/Press Relationship

After years on opposite sides of the wall, press and prep departments are forging new bonds, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Everybody who has seen “Casablanca” at least once (and isn’t that everybody?) remembers the last line of the movie when Rick says to captain Renault, “Louie, I think this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

A similar sort of relationship has been developing between the prep and press departments at successful printers everywhere. It is as clear-eyed and unsentimental as Rick and Louie’s alliance, and is proving fruitful in unexpected ways.

Throughout most of the movie, Rick and Louie had been friendly opponents, personally fond of one another but forced by circumstances to work at odds. In the end, realizing that their fates are bound together, they form a strong friendship and walk away into the fog of the Casablanca night, with plans to work together.

In print, the dynamics between prep and press have been if anything, even more complicated than those between Rick and Louie. We’ve been on the same side all along, and there has been full agreement that working together is an absolute must, yet true communication has been difficult to achieve, and we often failed to achieve the results of the teamwork we pursued.

One of the difficulties stems from the differences in the type of work being done, and the nature of the equipment being used. Prep departments work  “upstream”, just a bit removed from last-second time crunches that often happen once the job hits press, and they work with equipment…monitors and proofers….that tends to be relatively stable over time.

Press departments are in the absolute thick of things, when all the extra delay time has already been spent; and they work with equipment…printing presses…that can be as difficult to control as a semi truck heading through a mountain pass in a hurricane.

Finally there is the physical barrier. Press and prep departments are in separate rooms, split apart by walls that hinder collaboration.

All these factors traditionally contributed to uneasy alliances at best between press and prep; but a change has come with the arrival of color tracking software that takes full sheet measurements from the press and shares it in real time  with the prepress department. Giving the prep department a pressman’s view of  actual conditions on press makes it easy for them to make more accurate and up-to-date plate curves. The result is greater overall efficiency and better collaboration.

I try to keep my posts informative and 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 effective prep-press collaboration.

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