Moving Printability Upstream
Nothing disrupts the workflow more than putting unprintable files into the production stream. Conversely, printability is a sure-fire way to ensure workflow efficiency, and save time and money.
Yet for years, content creators unwittingly submitted files rife with errors. Print service providers accepted them, only to later find the files were unprintable.
The type and extent of errors in a digital workflow depends on the kinds of files print providers accept.
If they take in PostScript, there can be problems with missing elements, missing fonts, or wrong page size specifications. Native application files with Macintosh or PC incompatibilities, or wrong versions of the pagination application, can present their own set of problems, and might not be reliable.
It would be great if the PDF format solved these problems. But PDF was designed as a format for 'universal document exchange', not for output on printing presses. It's the jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
A PDF file can look great on the screen, but traditional digital file errors can be lurking within. For example, publishers can use the wrong PDF output settings, and produce files with ideal screen fidelity but horrible print quality.
PDF files might not have all the fonts or OPI links required for printing. They can contain RGB graphics incompatible with a CMYK workflow. And there are many, many other potential problems. Unfortunately, receiving an unprintable PDF file is as bad as receiving an unprintable PostScript file. It can't be magically converted into something printable. To fix a PDF, someone has to reopen the source file and work on it.
To remedy this, printers can assign a customer service rep to train customers in the proper preparation of PDFs, giving them proven settings for each print process, and insisting they use them all the time.
Content creators can use a preflight checklist to minimize errors. However, unless the file is created to the target output specification, fully tested and certified printable before it's delivered, it takes but one problem from a long list of potential glitches to grind production to a halt.