For vendors, it all boils down to one word: Service, perhaps the crucial differentiating factor in this highly competitive, recession-bound market.
"Increased service is what customers value most," says Mark Jones, senior VP of customer solutions with Quebecor World North America, in Greenwich, Conn. "We need to support the customer's requirements and [popular] industry standards, and not the other way around."
Jones' organization practices what he preaches. Quebecor World recently made significant investments in its enterprise computing infrastructure. The company upgraded the front-end of its digital workflow offerings, the primary point of customer contact for electronic content submissions.
Rather than require people to exchange files according to some arbitrary Quebecor World standard, the printer now allows customers to submit files in a variety of ways: Group Logic's MassTransit, WamNet's WAM!NET, secure extranet connections over IP (Internet protocol), removable media (including Iomega's ZIP, CD-R/CD-RW, DVD), and industry-standard FTP (file transfer protocol).
In addition to expanding support for popular file exchange technologies and media formats, Quebecor World's computer department developed valued-added capabilities, such as automated e-mail and online reporting notifications, to help customers better manage their data transfers.
It's progress, but it hasn't closed the gap. While the vast majority of Quebecor World's content creators now submit content electronically, many of the digital files received are not prepared according to accredited specifications, company officials say. That means they require additional time and money to repair.
It's a problem that only partnering and better communication between creator and printer can solve. "We partner with customers to create seamless digital workflows; it's the only answer," Jones says. "This enables them to gain the necessary level of control with less capital investment, and more efficient labor utilization."
HARD KNOCKS FOR SOFT PROOFING
Content creators are also implementing design methods for digital proofing, to abolish dependency on hard-copy proofs. Doing so can dramatically speed production cycles by eliminating the trafficking of hard copy.