The computer-to-plate digital revolution is in full swing, but print buyers are finding that turning their back on film hasn't led their organizations to the promised land.
While film production processes are largely linear, slow, and inefficient, they are, in the eyes of many print buyers and manufacturers alike, supremely manageable.
Contrast that to digital computer-to-plate (CTP), where content moves at a dizzying pace, with dozens of people-including content creators, prepress suppliers, and printers-interactively massaging, moving, tweaking, sharing, and perfecting the digital data files that, at many shops, have pushed film and hard-copy proofs aside.
While going digital and working in real-time offers many advantages for print buyers and manufacturers, project manageability isn't one of them. It's all too easy for digital production processes to weave a tangled web, leading managers to impose ever-tighter workflow controls.
But advocates of pure digital CTP aren't allowing these barriers to go unchallenged. Innovative publishers and printers are working more closely than ever to iron out the wrinkles in digital production, reaping huge productivity gains and cost savings in the process.
HEAVY PROCESS, HIGHER COSTS
Digital data exchanges are typically accompanied by quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) phases, manifested as preflighting, proofs, QC inspections, and things like press OKs.
These get the workflow in tow, but can also backfire by weighing down the process. Indeed, many organizations are discovering that applying process control to all-digital workflows is more art than science. Too little or too much oversight can balloon costs, and push deadlines to the limit.
"Cutting costs is one of the driving business forces today," says Alan Darling, chairman of the Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications Association (DDAP), Marblehead, Mass., a graphic arts industry association. "When process control becomes an obtrusive part of the process, in operations like preflighting and proofing, aren't we creating more cost?"