Will the Real Digital Workflow Please Stand Up?
Everything is done without human beings ever touching the job. The process is defined, documented, doggedly repeatable, error-free, and absolutely precise. And it's all viewable and reconfigurable over the Web.
Powerful stuff? With truly automated production, that's only the beginning. Using the example of magazine production, imagine the publisher, prepress department, and printer (or printers) all have access to a real-time status view of the job, via a Web browser.
Not just a page. Not just a PDF. Not just a file. Not just a checklist. I mean the entire job. For example, the production team can see that page 42 hasn't been received from the publisher, pages 18 and 37 have been received but not processed, page 22 has been proofed but not approved, and all other pages have been sent to the printer.
Color-coded icons, complete with page thumbnails and downloadable previews, are presented on a flatplan view of the pub. Stir in Web-based conferencing, and the production team (and other invitees, such as advertisers) can discuss the same soft-proofed view of a page. Live. From anywhere on Earth.
And the printer, unconcerned with individual pages, sees the relevant sections to print. Even the impositions are viewable and changeable through the Web browser, using submitted JDF templates.
While the job is being processed, a continual data stream is fed to costing, billing, and MIS systems. Prepress production software is polling and working intimately with the production database, recording how much time each portion of a job requires.
Pages and proofs are automatically tracked by unique bar-code identifiers. Managers can conduct statistical analysis, and rank publishers and publications by costliness or efficiency.
With a truly automated digital production workflow, managers can make informed decisions about the cost basis of each pub or department. Maybe trapping should be billed more than it is, or perhaps preflighting fees are too high. The facts that form the basis of good business decisions will be there, in black and white.