The Next Step
As more publishing and printing houses move to digital computer-to-plate (CTP) technologies, the production of books, magazines, newspapers and other printed material appears to be entering a new era characterized by increased speed and reliability. Still, any process is only as efficient as its weakest link, and the most state-of-the-art train is not going to get to its destination any faster if it's still being pulled by a steam engine. For this reason, a small group of software developers is scrambling to deliver new solutions this year to help publishing companies take advantage of the latest in digital innovation by further automating the workflow process.
Among the latest developments—IBM's release of its Visual Job Ticketing solution, an Acrobat plug-in designed to simplify the tasks associated with setting up and managing complex print-jobs; new, expanded versions of Oce Printing Systems' PRISMA family of digital workflow tools; the Sept. 2001 availability of MetaCommunications' Virtual Ticket 4.0; and the release of a new set of customized applications from Fuji-Xerox—including enhancements to the Xerox Job Ticketing System (XJTS)—designed to offer customers more flexibility.
The very nature of the publishing and graphic-arts industries makes streamlining a challenge. Unique project demands often require design and production staff to think "out-of-the-box", meaning less reliance on proven formulas while emphasizing the need for good team communication.
Robert T. Long, vice president of MetaCommunications, insists the very nature of the industry's development process underscores the glaring need for cohesive and efficient workflow solutions. "The graphic arts industry primarily produces made-to-order products and services, each with a variation in the way it will be produced," says Long. "In this environment, a software package that automates the production process and facilitates clear centralized communications among managers, customer service and production is one of the most valuable tools I can think of."