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FLEXO Magazine : July 2010
Prepress Providers Roundtable FLEXO Asks: Do you stress adherence to FIRST guidelines in preparing art files? What benefits do you associate with the practice? How can you see designers and prepress providers work together to implement FIRST into the packaging development chain? Greg Platt, President, GMF Flexo Prepress, Inc., Missis- sauga, ON, Canada: We don’t stress adherence to FIRST, but do promote it. Following a standard will ensure projects printed around the world will have the best opportunity to have consistent color. This follows for contract proofing to the FIRST standard. It is, however, very difficult to tell a printer who has existing business that is locked into an existing ink series that every time he does our job, it’s a complete press wash up to get it into FIRST. At GMF, we follow standards devel- oped by various printers, including those designed for specific processes, i.e.: Opaltone, G7, Gracol, etc... The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from! Having a print standard has become mandatory now to many end users. Big companies like Walmart, P&G and others are now demanding their projects follow standards often dictated by them. To get FIRST implemented, designers, prepress and printers need to meet and agree as a team they are going to follow it. The proper homework needs to be done ahead of time to get the press fingerprinted and the contract proof formulated to FIRST, meaning that they both adhere to an established standard. Now, design, prepress and print are all matching to the target and not chasing each other. With this team in place pres- ent the benefits of FIRST to the end user to keep their brand consistent and repeatable. Mark Coffman, Sales Manager, Dixie Graphics, Snell- ville, GA: Somehow we need to increase the awareness of the designers to the FIRST guidelines. I know that FTA created a design guide out of the FIRST 4.0 manual and have made that available to designers at no charge, but we still need to get the word out. We need to work with the designers to share with them the tools that we use, including FIRST guidelines, when it comes to the flexo printing process. I recently had the opportunity to work closely with a designer at press side. While we were attempting to run to the numbers, I was told by the designer that sometimes you have to throw the numbers out the window to get the desired result. We still have a good deal of work to do. Prepress providers need to take the lead. We need to edu- cate the designers about the FIRST guidelines and how they can make everyone’s job a lot easier. Ryan Dufour, GM, 360 Imaging Inc., Gardner, MA: Designers who follow our recommendation to use FIRST prin- ciples and practices have better files, so we always recom- mend it. The primary reason a designer would not use FIRST is that he or she is unaware of how much easier it would make the job. An e-mailable PDF of FIRST basics would be helpful information we could provide during the initial discus- sion stage of the prepress process. More needs to be done to get this information out to the designer population as a whole. We see designers and prepress providers working together to implement FIRST principles by having it be the cornerstone that design work is built from. If a customer sees a design concept and loves it, but extensive changes are needed after the fact, there is a level of resistance to change. Chris McClain, Head of Press Fingerprint Team, PRP Flexo, Indianapolis, IN: In working with multiple printers for CPCs, consistency is one of the biggest challenges we face. FIRST guidelines are an essential tool for us and really help to construct a road map for success that is based on data. Some designers have embraced this, and those that do have always found that subsequent projects run more smoothly and with fewer revisions. Technologies & Techniques • Run to the numbers. • Eliminate resistance to change. • Use FIRST as the cornerstone that design work is built from. Chris McClain compares printed samples against color target proofs for accuracy. Having a more systemized approach is a great start. Utilizing data and check sheets to process work, rather than relying on opinions, is the only way to get there consistently. It may involve changes in Standard Operating Procedures for many people, but once adopted, the process becomes much more efficient. Bob Dauses, Business Development Manager, Mark/ Trece, Inc., Greensboro, NC: We use FIRST guidelines, as well as some of our own internal procedures. I believe more designers are using FIRST and many are happy to have a resource available. Just like everyone else in the supply chain, designers want to get it right and avoid re-works or last minute changes. For the flexo industry, there is not a better set of speci- fications or standards to follow. Designers and prepress providers are ultimately trying to service the same customer. To truly provide the customer the highest quality package, in the most efficient time, and to meet their budget, we need to work together. Karen Leet, Graphics & MarCom Manager, CSW, Inc., Ludlow, MA: We stress adherence to the individual converter’s specs. FIRST is a good “rule of thumb” training document for our employees and our customers, but the variance from one converter to another is fairly broad. We find that designers de- pend on us to act as an extension of the design firm’s produc- tion arm, because most designers do not use these guidelines and probably have not ever heard of them. In fact, anyone who is not a FLEXO magazine subscriber, or is not a professional in this industry, is probably unaware of these guidelines. Publishing these guidelines is a good FIRST step, but FTA needs to do more to bring them to the source. They should be talked about in design programs at colleges like Pratt or Fashion Institute, and in technical programs at schools like RIT, Cal Poly or Clemson. They should be advertised and/or written about in design publications such as Print, HOW, or Communication Arts, whether online or in print. Packaging is one of the few print niches that has not yet been overridden by digital replacements such as e-books, blogs, or banner ads. We should be reaching out to print designers who have no idea that the flexo industry even exists—I certainly didn’t, before joining CSW 12 years ago. Pat O’Connor, Production Manager, Southern Graphic Systems, Philadelphia, PA: We do stress FIRST as a com- mon sense starting point for any flexo packaging design project. Many designers are used to litho and can be quite surprised by the unique challenges of flexographic printing. By familiarizing Studio’s design staff with FIRST, and test run- ning design phase concepts through the prepress process to spotlight any downstream production issues, before a design is extended or produced, we reduce project management costs and increase speed-to-market. Though we feel our unique alliance with Studio is the ultimate answer, of course not every prepress provider can launch a design studio and not every design studio can build a prepress capability. Ultimately, to implement FIRST properly; designers and prepress providers must begin working together as design team members dedicated to the same goal, instead of rivals working at opposite ends of the spectrum. n 32 FLeXO july 2010 www.flexography.org FLXO_July10_v2.indd 32 7/16/10 9:36 AM
Sustainable Summer 2010