Will the Real Digital Workflow Please Stand Up?
So you've implemented an FTP or e-mail file delivery system, a preflighting system to check your PDF files, some trapping software, an imposition package, and a way to send it to the platesetter or printer. Finally, a real "automated digital workflow," right?
Maybe. But it's not automated production. In printing and publishing, when people say "workflow," they usually think they mean "automated production." In practice, digital workflow, which should leverage the computer for full automation, instead often means computer generated, human powered.
A lot of people think workflow software means automatically creating PDF files, for example, or being able to trap. My suggestion is, they're not seeing the whole picture.
From where I'm sitting, as a vendor of digital workflow software, there's workflow and there's automated production. Sharing and moving digital files around in a semi-disciplined way is certainly better than no process at all.
But not by much. To computerize the workflow in a coherent fashion, so you can identify, quantify, and reap benefits beyond mere efficiencies, is real automated production.
In industries other than printing and publishing, the term "workflow" means analyzing how work is done, and using something called message-oriented middleware (MOM) to route work properly.
MOM provides reports that present metrics on how efficient (or otherwise) a production workflow actually is. It also enforces the workflow, making certain that documents are seen and signed off by the right people, preventing document duplication, managing document versions, and checking files in and out of repositories.
Why isn't that the case in our industry? Imagine a production process where the job data from the customer (a publisher or a brand manager) is automatically imported into a workflow system.
Imagine the prepress production workflow dynamically configuring itself according to the customer's specs. Files are fed into the system. Pages are preflighted, trapped, imposed, color corrected, the correct soft or hard proofs are made, routed, transferred.