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FLEXO Magazine : February 2009
PLANTS & PROCESSES CALCULATE YOUR ROI It goes without saying that a printer/converter must conduct a viable financial analysis to determine if there is a worthwhile cost savings to invest in an in-house prepress department. A wise suggestion is to start investing only if there is a definable, legiti- mate business need. Don't invest in a prepress department solely because a local competitor is doing the same thing. If plates are not available from an outsourced trade shop on- demand, many print shops focus on platemaking because there is a business need to have that capability in-house 24/7. Many print- ers find it more effective to start with a digital platemaker. They the single or two-color work, while the trade shop would do the process work. The transition becomes smoother in this way. Many printers, even when they have become rather proficient, still send extremely sophisticated work to the partnering trade shop. EQUIPMENT Particularly for the novice prepress department, it is crucial to acquire hardware and software that is as consistent and foolproof as possible. For example, digital platemaking is recommended rather than analog plates, because there are too many variables A wise suggestion is to start investing only if there is a definable, legitimate business need. Don't invest in a pre press department solely because a local competitor is doing the same thing. make the second set of plates using existing files delivered from a trade shop. There's a huge ROI just for that. Flexo imagers have a very attractive ROI. Some printers will ultimately take the middle ground and decide they are comfortable just imaging plates. It's important to realize that there are important hidden costs to think about. Remember that if a printer/converter invests in prepress, there is an extended liability if something goes wrong. If a printer purchases plates form a trade shop, it can defer a good deal of liability for content and design, because the file resides with the trade shop. When prepress is outsourced, the liability of the printer is whatever could occur on press. With a new prepress department, all of a sudden a printer is liable for that portion of the work, as well. Prepress houses went through a good deal of pain when the industry was transformed to digital prepress. What they under- stand-and printers don't-is that there is a capital investment on a continual basis. It is not a 'one-time deal' when a company buys prepress software. Designers up the ante all the time with more sophisticated applications, and continually invest in tools that exceed what prepress de- partments and software can do. Thus, an up- grade path to new software to handle updated design technology is a must. LOOK AT POTENTIAL PARTNERS We cannot stress enough how important it is to find a partner to be willing to work with someone who might be taking prepress in-house in the future. Some of the more suc- cessful printers found an existing trade shop that was willing to support them and take the upper tier of complicated work. In other words, for starters, the printer would handle in the analog process that can interfere with a consistent result. With analog, a printer would have to rely on a craftsman's level of knowledge to avoid complications. Similarly, a printer should focus on investing in standardized workflows rather than tools that require extensive knowledge. In software, it's not just automation, but the opportunity to utilize a controlled set of parameters with the least amount of decisions per job that is most important. A novice prepress department should work on global decisions that filter down, so there is less decision-making on an individual, job-to-job basis. For starters, one expert, up front, can make the global prepress parameter decisions-or an outside consultant can make the decisions- and then the printer's prepress department can mimic those pa- rameters for most jobs. The ability to take the historical craft out of job-by-job decision making can be crucial. FEBRUARY 2009 - www.f I exog ra p hy.o rg FLEXO
Sustainable Winter 2009