Presently Condé Nast's all-digital workflows bolster communications and collaboration between the publisher's internal advertising production operations and its manufacturing partners.
The effort started last year, when the company standardized on Adobe's PDF (portable document format) files for digital output. Advertising production managers throughout the organization have been equipped with Adobe's Acrobat software, which is used to create, view, and annotate the digital documents.
Likewise, production managers' desktop computers have been outfitted with "hot folders" for managing the revisions process. These smart folders execute scripted business rules (behaviors) when data files are dropped into them.
When ad managers receive a PDF file, they double-click it to open, and then perform their normal checking procedures. When a correction is necessary, managers can attach electronic notes indicating what needs to be done. Then they simply drag+drop the file into a "Corrections" hot folder, and the document is routed back to the appropriate party.
Once the pages have been corrected, final approval is as simple as assigning a page number, and dropping the PDF document into a hot folder dubbed "Approved." Content that hits the Approved folder is automatically cloned and routed: one copy goes to Condé Nast's archive; the other to the assigned prepress vendor partner, via a secure Internet connection.
That spawns an automatic e-mail to the printer's customer service department, advising them of the file's arrival. From there, the vendor sends the approved high-resolution PDF files to the printing plant for production.
Should a file need a last-minute correction, it will be automatically routed to the proper party, updated, and electronically returned to the advertising manager at Condé Nast for another look. It's purely digital, purely electronic, process optimized - and it's working.
"Our goal was to improve communication between our people and our suppliers, to reduce processing time, and shorten cycle time," Arpino says. "Going digital has been very effective in meeting these goals. It provides users with a step-by-step approach to implementing a digital creation and submission workflow, covers pros and cons of various accredited and non-accredited file formats, offers an overview of digital workflow concepts, and instructions on how to prepare clean digital files destined for print."