In February, Kodak unveiled Prinergy Cloud, an analytics-enabled cloud platform that offers print service providers (PSPs), what the company describes as industry-first solutions to minimize cost and risk while driving business growth.
Prinergy Cloud leverages production data and turns it into dashboard reports of actionable information allowing informed decision making in real-time. Customers can seamlessly integrate all Prinergy Cloud services with existing on-premise Kodak workflow software, and lower operating costs by reducing hardware and administrative overheads.
Prinergy Cloud is hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform, which Kodak describes as a fast, reliable and secure cloud delivery. Kodak customers can benefit from the 24/7 cloud service monitoring, providing security and availability.
Developed in partnership with Yellowfin, Prinergy Cloud’s Decision Analytics offers PSPs, according to Kodak, the print industry’s first analytics enabled workflow. This new capability delivers intuitive dashboards that provide visibility into production costs and system performance by continuously collecting data from operations.
All new Prinergy Cloud services are Decision Analytics-enabled. This includes the System Performance Service for print production reporting, and File Archive and Backup for protection against data loss and automated archiving for higher levels of efficiency and security.
You have to admire the persistence of Quark. I’ve seen major players in the graphic arts software cosmos come and go through the years, many falling from seemingly impervious heights. Remember Aldus – maker of Pagemaker and Freehand? Remember when QuarkXPress ruled the roost in the early days of professional digital page layout? While Pagemaker enjoyed a devoted following in creative circles back in the day, QuarkXPress had the edge with publishing and prepress professionals – especially with version 3.32 which had a tenacious following well into the 21st century!
Then Adobe turned the tables by acquiring Aldus and initiating development of a new secret weapon in the page layout wars. InDesign came along at just the right time – Quark was struggling to get their Mac OS X version to market while creative pros wanted to benefit from the latest Mac hardware and operating systems. For them, InDesign looked like the logical choice. Quark eventually brought their next-gen XPress to market, but it was too little, too late. InDesign had captured the creative imagination, and coupled with Creative Suite Adobe seemed to floor rival Quark.
But it wouldn’t be a very good yarn if Quark just faded away into desktop obscurity. The punch-drunk slugger eventually went Mac OS X in 2003 and has doggedly progressed ever since, carving a niche in the publishing marketplace by adding features requested by users and focusing on ePublishing and App development through their App Studio. Then things changed with Adobe’s move to their subscription-based Creative Cloud – suddenly QuarkXPress was punching above its weight with perpetual licensing!
With seemingly renewed purpose, Quark hit the gym and produced a significant upgrade in QuarkXPress 2016. Aside from a bevy of user-requested improvements and features in this new release, Quark has actually managed land a few sucker punches.
File conversion powerhouse
For eons digital artists and prepress pros have lusted after the Rosetta Stone of graphic file conversion – an application that could import a non-native file and render it editable. QXP 2016 can lay claim to being the first page layout application to bring this robust capability to the masses. Accessible under Styles or contextual menu, the Convert to Native Objects tool can magically turn the contents of placed text, raster or vector images to native and editable XPress objects.
File formats supported for conversion include Adobe Illustrator, PDF, EPS and Windows/Enhanced Meta file. For a newly introduced feature, I found the conversion process surprisingly easy and seamless. Users can import a supported file into a picture content box as usual, but then choose to convert the entire image, or just a cropped section. This is a boon to designers and production artists who routinely deal with customer-supplied charts and graphs they wouldn’t normally be able to edit.
While the feature works very well in most circumstances, it’s important to remember that importing a text laden PDF file, then converting it to native XPress format won’t necessarily provide nice, neat text boxes full of reflow-able content. Much as when opening a PDF file in Adobe Illustrator, text may be broken up into line-by-line elements, or even words, letters and punctuation isolated in text boxes. Also, as with any native QXP object the user will need to have the appropriate fonts active in order to correctly display converted files. However, users are giving the option of choosing replacement fonts before conversion.
Other conversion options include the ability to retain the source picture box which will keep the link to the original file as well as the option to ignore soft image masks and transparent blend modes – neither of which are supported in this version of QuarkXPress.
In addition to converting imported objects, users can also Convert to Native Object while pasting any supported format file contained in the clipboard. For example, you can copy formatted text from MS Word and convert the content by right-clicking on the destination page and choosing Paste as Native Object from the contextual menu.
When converting a file containing raster or vector objects in addition to text, QXP 2016 embeds the object on the page while maintaining the original object format. That means your vector graphics will stay vector within QXP 2016. However, the graphic will not be available as an external image file like other imported QXP support files.
Also, users have limited export options when saving these embedded objects out to a file – either PNG or JPEG. That means vector objects will convert to raster when exporting from QXP 2016. Most users will find this isn’t a big detriment to their workflows, as the convenience of converting these files into native editable QXP objects far outweighs the limited export options. And there are workarounds if needed.
Digital publishing uppercut
Few designers can live exclusively on print these days. Increasingly clients demand digital publishing options along with their collateral designed for print. While Quark has provided a variety of digital publishing capabilities in prior versions of QXP, QuarkXPress 2016 has rolled their App Studio and eBook production tools into their new harmonized Digital Layout workspace. When creating a Digital Layout, users choose from a variety of predefined pixel dimensions for popular devices ranging from Kindle and iPad to a selection of popular mobile phone screen sizes.
Users can also define unique dimensions for content that might appear on a Web page, which harkens potentially the most significant new digital publishing feature in this release – the capability to export a project as an HTML5 package. HTML5 is the latest version of the markup language used to power the web and was famously championed by Steve Jobs when he refused to support Adobe FLASH technology on the first iPad – instead suggesting HTML5 would be the future framework for digital content.
Turns out Steve was right! Since Job’s endorsement HTML5 has evolved to become the leading technology used for online publishing due to its ability to provide application programming interfaces for complex web functions while natively streamlining the delivery of graphical and multimedia content. Increasingly HTML5 is being used to produce cross-platform mobile applications as well.
QXP 2016 also enables designers to convert print projects to digital layouts which can then be supplemented with interactive elements such as video or slideshow galleries while maintaining the aesthetic of the print layout. Additionally, many QXP 2016 text and typographic features survive the jump to HTML5 including run-around text, support for justification and hyphenation as well as embedded OpenType and TrueType fonts. Users are also able to launch a preview of their HTML5 layouts from the QXP 2016 desktop.
So does Quark’s HTML5 export feature make every print designer a savvy web coder and online creator? Hardly. Creators of static print will need to study the digital layout paradigm before building compelling eBooks, mobile apps or web content.
On first inspection, the QXP HTML5 tool palette offers a beguiling collection of media and interactive content options to the designer such as 360º image, audio, video, zoom, scroll zones and animations. Not all of these interactive elements and enhancements, however, will be effective in every digital publishing channel – standard ePub, fixed-layout ePub, Kindle, Kindle Fire and iOS all have varying capabilities and limitations that will determine what HTML5 can do. This translates to more homework for the newly minted HTML5 producer before undertaking a digital publication for their client.
Not every new QuarkXPress 2016 feature came from the coach in their corner. As I alluded earlier, many of the new features are enhancements requested by die-hard QuarkXPress users.
In a nod to technical writers and textbook publishers, QXP 2016 now supports the insertion of cross-references for Endnotes, Footnotes and Numbered Item. Additionally, the Footnotes feature introduced in QXP 2015 has been enhanced with improved formatting options. Also, HTML5 export supports bullets and numbering as well as ‘pop-up’ footnotes when creating a digital publication for fixed-layout ePub format.
A long overdue eye-dropper style colour picker tool has been added to the Colours Palette, enabling users to sample any colour from an image or imported object. And another welcome colour capability added to QXP 2016 is a powerful Colour Blends Palette. This tool does precisely what you’d expect, enabling users to build complex multi-colour blends within QXP 2016 in a range of styles including linear and radial. Users can even set different levels of transparency for each colour in the blend!
For typography fans OpenType stylistic sets are now supported in QXP 2016 to take advantage of any fancy ligatures, fractions or swashes you may have hiding in your font. QXP 2016 includes a number of UI enhancements geared towards productivity, most notably for the Windows version, which has lagged behind the Mac look and feel. And thanks to their Xenon Graphics Engine QXP 2016 continues the tradition of delivering the best onscreen display experience of any page layout application. They had me at 8,000 percent zoom!
At one point in time Adobe seemed to have the graphics world boxed into a corner with their software suite. Creatives depended almost exclusively on Illustrator and Photoshop to bring their ideas to life, while using InDesign to aggregate the graphic content into printable pages.
Today’s creative pros have many more software options at their disposal with applications such as Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Pixelmator making inroads into what was once Adobe’s exclusive domain. And like Quark, these contenders have avoided the subscription model in order to appeal to the software libertarians out there.
As the printed page vies for relevancy in the digital ring, developers of graphics software take two distinct approaches to iterative improvements… either empower your application to create content for diverse delivery channels, or rely on other specialized applications to collaboratively re-purpose content. Quark has chosen to empower with XPress 2016.
Is QuarkXPress 2016 perfect? While the Convert to/Paste As Native Object feature is a remarkable bit of engineering, improving the flow of text into boxes would be nice perk. Also direct InDesign import/conversion is still not an option, though possible through a third-party application from Markzware. And having the capability to produce HTML5 digital publications doesn’t make a printer into an ePub designer – though having the tools sure gives them the option to grow.
Having said that, QuarkXPress fans choosing to upgrade to QXP 2016 can actually step into the ring with some confidence, knowing this heavy hitter could be a contender. And others struggling to justify a monthly stipend for page layout finally have an option in their corner!
pdfChip contains a built-in barcode library that supports 119 barcode types, which have special features and parameters that previously could not be used in pdfChip. From pdfChip 1.2 on, these specific parameters can also be used in templates. It is also now possible to use many more colouring schemes for barcodes, opening up a greater range of creative barcode uses.
pdfChip templates can be created with a range of text editors or with a tool specifically targeted towards Web design. For those people who feel more comfortable with design tools, such as Adobe InDesign, callas released the pdfChip template generation export filter for Adobe InDesign with the pdfChip 1.2 release. This export filter converts an InDesign document into a correct pdfChip template, correctly taking over the positions of all elements on the page, the colour and styles of page elements and more. This allows users to reduce the time required to build a correct pdfChip template.
Creating a template that correctly loads fonts and images can be difficult, explains Callas, because of the asynchronous way pdfChip (and the WebKit engine within) handle those page resources. In pdfChip 1.2, there is a new way to handle this problem.
pdfChip is capable of outputting more than one PDF document. When generating business cards, for example, each business card could be saved in a single PDF file. It is now also possible to cross-link between those files, which means each generated PDF file can contain links to one or more of the other generated PDF files.
The fifth edition of DALIM ES (enterprise solution) is aimed at a range of final output, including print, packaging, large format, web, e-book, and video, among others. “DALIM ES is an extremely complete enterprise solution for producers of marketing – or any other – content,” said Frédéric Sanuy, DALIM SOFTWARE, Solutions Architect, DAM Manager.
Sanuy explains, for the enterprise, there are really two implementations of digital asset management systems: "One is as a traditional asset management system that acts as a conventional file repository to archive and host content for syndication, or to hold content for future use and repurposing. The other – and this is the less common example – is a tactical work-in-progress system that makes it easy for companies to access and produce content.”
Sanuy states DALIM ES 5 is an example that offers both of these scenarios, as well as a media production and business management system to oversee and create content, particularly for the print production chain.
For the new DALIM ES 5, the company worked with Silicon Publishing to offer its plug-in for integration of DALIM ES 5 with Adobe Creative Cloud, offering digital rights management and check in-check out file sharing capability. This feature allows Adobe Creative Cloud users direct access to content within DALIM ES, along with metadata capture. As a result, users can work from within any of the Adobe Creative Suite applications to access content from DALIM ES and then move forward within DALIM ES to prepare the content for print, Web, or other media forms.
The DALIM ES DAM features can also automatically catalogue, enrich and share 3D augmented reality models. A new link to CHILI Publisher Link lets the operator edit a document directly inside ES. When a document is selected, CHILI Publisher is automatically launched and the document can be remotely edited. DALIM ES also has open connections to extensive content libraries such as IDSPictureDesk and Getty Images, sharing metadata. Images can be selected and published to DALIM ES for use in work in process.
More specifically, the two companies explain Ultimate TechnoGraphics’ Impostrip, imposition intelligence, combined with Ultimate Bindery JDF automated finishing hub, offer the imposition and finishing automation requirements needed to empower a complete workflow for all types of commercial print and book productions. Ultimate’s software technology will be offered to Canon’s digital press customers.
“Through the seamless integration of Impostrip and Ultimate Bindery with Océ PRISMAproduction we can offer our customers better efficiency and flexibility on their Canon digital devices,” said Ed Jansen, Vice President Professional Services, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions.
Ultimate TechnoGraphics explains its Impostrip tools are aimed at creating a lights out, hands free automation for digital printers, Web-to-print businesses, and on demand book production, among other environments.
The company’s Ultimate Bindery JDF finishing automation hub is geared toward dealing with the industry’s significant increases in the number of set-ups and changeovers in finishing. Ultimate explains this changeover need now multiplies the risks for errors and waste of costly material. Ultimate Bindery is a finishing automation hub that validates jobs and delivers finishing job tickets to automate make-ready on finishing equipment. It operates as an agent between the prepress and post-press equipment in order to eliminate manual setups.
“Ultimate TechnoGraphics offers a set of high performance imposition and finishing tools with the most interesting advancements in commercial printing,” said Julie Watson, Executive VP of Ultimate TechnoGraphics. “From extended barcode configuration to intelligent and conditional marking for finishing and tracking as well as job management for load balancing, our tools are geared up to meet market requirements for managing a flexible print production including managing peak times, tight SLAs and feeding the press in short laps of time.”
Published in the October issue of Canadian Business magazine and at PROFITguide.com, the PROFIT 500 ranks Canadian businesses by their five-year revenue growth. Prinova made the 2016 PROFIT 500 list with five-year revenue growth of 148 percent.
“Companies become a part of the PROFIT 500 through innovative thinking, smart strategy and sheer grit,” said James Cowan, Editor-in-chief of PROFIT and Canadian Business. “These firms demonstrate what Canadian entrepreneurs can achieve, both at home and across the globe.”
Prinova explains its growth can be attributed to the demand for its award-winning SaaS solution called Messagepoint, a hybrid cloud-based content management platform serving the customer communications management needs of large enterprises. The software and its hybrid cloud environment provides an intuitive and secure environment for business users to directly own and control touchpoint messaging content, which is ultimately delivered through print or any other channels like mobile devices. Messagepoint allows users to create business rules for their customer-facing print and digital communications. The solution recently won the 2016 CODiE Award for Best Multi-channel Publishing Platform.
“Prinova is honoured to be been named to the PROFIT 500. Our vision from the start has been to offer solutions that take the complexity out of communicating with customers, while saving costs and getting to market quickly. We are fortunate to be working with a dedicated group of outstanding employees who understand the challenges customers in our served industries face and how to solve them,” said Nick Romano, CEO of Prinova. “The result is a culture where we can exceed our customers’ expectations and experience this kind of success.”
Tucanna was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Carlsbad, CA. Tucanna products include tFLOW, a powerful digital and large-format proofing, preflighting, colour correction and automation workflow solution; RapidCheck, a print reporting system that helps operators quickly check print quality and monitor it over time for faster problem resolution; PrintControl for gray balance and TVI correction; and QualityControl, a solution that works with X-Rite’s Eye-One and eXact measurement devices, including process control capability that is currently missing in most i1 software.
“We’ve been working strategically with Tucanna for some time,” said Greg Salzman, Aleyant’s President, “and even more closely since our 2014 investment. Its product portfolio is a perfect complement to Aleyant Web-to-print and MIS solutions.
“Our corporate cultures and mission are very much in alignment, and we expect to develop even more synergies within the Aleyant print software ecosystem as a result of this acquisition.” Salzman adds that there will be no impact to the current workforce.
“This is the first monochrome Fiery DFE to bring the industry-leading Fiery technology to the Konica Minolta black-and-white print engines,” said John Henze, VP, Fiery marketing, EFI. “We are very excited to launch this new offering and give Konica Minolta customers in the in-plant CRD, print-for-pay, and commercial print spaces the ability to integrate their black-and-white and colour operations for a consolidated, more efficient Fiery-driven job-management environment.”
The new EFI Fiery MIC-4150 DFE is built on the latest Fiery FS200 Pro platform. Among a range of features, the new DFE includes Fiery Command WorkStation as a centralized user interface that allows users to manage the monochromatic bizhub PRESS 1052/1250 printers along with Fiery DFEs on colour digital presses in a tightly integrated workflow.
The new DFE also includes EFI’s Fiery Grayscale Calibration, designed to ensure consistent and accurate image reproduction by automatically enhancing shadow details and preserving upper and lower tonal variances.
The optional Fiery ImageViewer for Black and White is a full-resolution raster preview tool that gives users the ability to make black curve adjustments to maintain output consistency between multiple devices.
The optional Fiery Impose and Fiery JobMaster are visual makeready tools that streamline complex tasks, giving users more flexibility in imposition, tab insertion and design, page-level ticketing, finishing, scanning and late-stage editing.
With this certification, Canon explains the PRISMAsync Color Print Server is recognized as the first embedded complete closed loop G7 system for electrophotography and the first colour print server that provides an integrated colour profiler and G7 calibration method. Canon continues to explain it is the first digital press provider to implement this calibration directly at the digital front end.
One of the key concepts of G7 is the idea of having a calibration target to achieve predictable print results, explains Canon, which allows for a much easier match from proof to print and across disparate technologies and substrates. Canon continues to explain that print shops seeking G7 calibration on their digital engines historically had to perform a range of steps in order to achieve a G7 state, which often required creating output profiles, specialized knowledge of the DFE and external software to achieve G7 greyscale conformance.
With the G7 Calibration feature of the PRISMAsync Color Print Server Canon explains users can calibrate within minutes using a wizard-driven procedure directly at the Canon imagePRESS console. The company explains these DFE-based tools require no additional investment in software, hardware or training for the average end user.
MPM3 software includes a new user interface with a step-by-step guide for profile creation. The workflow, explains the company, is always displayed for easy navigation and operation. Knowledgeable users can take advantage of advanced features such as GCR and Black generation in version 3 of Mimaki Profile Master.
Also new in MPM3, there are three colour replication methods available for different colour workflows. Calibration achieves consistency on a single Mimaki printer, explains Mimaki, regardless of environmental or media variances. Equalization enables colour consistency across multiple Mimaki devices in the same series. The company explains this feature allows for large jobs to be load-balanced across multiple Mimaki printers with assured colour fidelity. With emulation, various brands, models, ink sets, media and resolutions can be simulated on a Mimaki printer, which reduces colour differences that can occur within a mixed printer environment.
MPM3 software, explains Mimaki, can automatically calculate and adjust for colour differences through simple colour charts measurement without requiring a high level of colour management knowledge. It is available bundled with an X-Rite i1Pro2 spectrophotometer, or as standalone software.
FusionPro 10 includes what MarcomCentral describes as major enhancements to design capabilities, data integration, and workflow efficiencies. “We’ve enhanced FusionPro to reflect the use cases our customers encounter on a daily basis,” said Coleman Kane, President and CEO of MarcomCentral. “The need for a highly functional VDP tool that offers speed, scalability, and solves more production challenges drove the improvements to FusionPro 10.”
For Adobe Creative Cloud users, FusionPro 10 brings what the company describes as a better appearance and streamlined support for Acrobat DC and improved InDesign support. FusionPro, with an ability to turn most any PDF into a live variable document through the Acrobat plug-in, now includes a Custom Clipping Path feature for more flexibility with image creation. This allows users to manipulate and overlap images and add or move control points to make nearly any shape.
FusionPro 10 includes new ad-resizing capabilities that provide more versatility in creating multiple ads or documents from a single design source. Users can specify dimensions and FusionPro automatically rearranges elements on the pages to accommodate the differences, reducing the amount of design time it would take to create individual ads for each channels’ specifications. New Multi-page Layout Management capabilities allow users to quickly adapt documents to fit any page range for production specifications with the ability to add filler pages and control the total length of the document.
“Konica Minolta understands the needs of our enterprise customers,” said Kevin Kern, Senior VP, Business Intelligence Solutions and Product Planning. “This powerful new release provides enterprise-level companies with the solution they need to best manage and control their documents, ultimately providing an improved level of customer service to their clients in less time.”
New features include Dispatcher PhoenixFailover for automated failover capabilities. If one server unexpectedly goes down, all workflow functions are automatically moved to the Dispatcher Phoenix Failover server, eliminating downtime. Also, ‘heartbeat monitoring’ between Dispatcher Phoenix servers ensures continuous operation.
Load Balancing is a document processing tasks can be automatically spread across multiple servers, preventing bottlenecks and speeding processing time. Automated redundancy, synchronizing and replicating workflows between all Dispatcher Phoenix servers are supported, thus eliminating the need for any human intervention. Dispatcher Phoenix Web Dispatcher is a Web user interface that provides centralized access to important enterprise tools as well as workflow sharing and control capabilities.
The Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) platform, integrated by dozens of print equipment manufacturers over the past decade, is already running in more than 150,000 print operations around the world. APPE is integrated in a range of systems like toner production presses and label presses, wide format inkjet printers, and platesetters for traditional printing processes (offset/flexo/gravure).
“As the print industry’s predominant imaging platform for the last decade, PDF Print Engine renders more print jobs, day in and day out, and also more types of jobs, than any other technology,” said Adil Munshi, VP and GM, Print and Publishing, Adobe. “Adobe PDF Print Engine 4 will take customers to the next level – improving workflow efficiency, increasing job throughput and reinforcing printer competitiveness.”
APPE 4 includes key new features like Tile Parallel Processing (TPP), which brings the platform’s branded Mercury RIP Architecture to wide-format printing. Adobe explains TPP is designed to accelerate system performance by breaking up large assets, like a poster, retail sign or architectural drawing, into smaller sections, each of which is assigned to a separate instance of APPE, running on a separate CPU core. By processing multiple tiles in parallel, then seamlessly re-assembling them, Adobe explains TPP significantly reduces overall rendering time.
With APPE 4, Adobe also explains performance is now 10 times faster for graphics consisting of a pattern, which repeats over an extended area. As well, the copany explains continuous shading effects are more fluid than ever, as new algorithms developed by Adobe colour scientists smooth out long gradient blends, particularly at inflection points where hue can shift abruptly.
Spot-colour handling has also been expanded in APPE 4, where as up to 127 colour channels can now be specified and used in any given region. PDF Print Engine 4 will become available to printers throughout 2016, as equipment manufacturers integrate the technology into their next-generation technologies.
Impostrip’s Nesting Optimization Engine enables a printing company to nest labels, foldable boxes for marketing campaigns, in-store displays, stickers of all shapes and sizes, banners, among other applications. The nested files can run on a wide-format device, toner press and flatbed or roll inkjet systems.
“Impostrip’s Nesting Optimization Engine is made to eliminate manual job planning and automatically produce smart, print ready layouts, rapidly and effectively,” said Julie Watson, Executive VP of Ultimate TechnoGraphics.
The new Nesting Optimization Engine connects to an upstream and downstream system and receives orders systematically, analyses them and automatically places the irregular shapes in the most optimal way and delivers print-ready files. The automation of nesting is offered as a PDF workflow.
The technology will be officially launched at drupa 2016.
Scanning a 70-page PDF of the official WWI military record of Lieutenant Collins, veteran of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, had me thinking about the army of paper pushers it took to coordinate a battalion of troops in the days before computers.
This all started a few years back when a family trip to Victoria, BC, my mother-in-law’s birthplace, led us to the provincial archives in search of family documents. Since then, the military records, which were only partially available to the public, have been scanned and organized and are available online. A few searches through the military site today and my wife and I were staring in amazement at the 100-year-old scanned outer envelope, forms, medical and dental records, pay stubs and injury reports of her grandfather.
In 100 years, the look of record-keeping has not changed that much. Spreadsheets have replaced columns in pre-printed forms. Bank statements still look the same, although they were once hand-written. Schedules still appear as rows and columns of time, date, place, activity – much like a production schedule looks today.
I started to imagine the huge effort it took to pre-print the forms, store them, keep them dry while on duty, complete them accurately, stamp and date them over the course of the soldier’s service. More than 600,000 Canadians enlisted during WWI. If each had 70 pages of documents, it means that 42 million pieces of paper were pushed around just for troop records. These records kept a record of their location, health status, financial standing, vacation history, means of transport, the names of superiors and mentions in dispatches (testimonials). Sounds a bit like a LinkedIn profile of today.
Real-time, real value
Technology has put a lot of those paper pushers out of work over the years. But keeping and sharing vast amounts of information has only become more important. Working in the printing sector, we are faced with logistical challenges every day. There are a lot of tools we can put to the test in our environment – and they will be a lot more effective than pre-printed forms, hand-written scribbles and rubber-stamped itineraries.
In my last article, I wrote about SmartSheet.com. This online shareable spreadsheet on steroids is great for collaboration in a team. If that tool had existed in 1914, those 70 pages of documents would have been available for review anywhere in the world, at any time, and updates would have been relayed to superiors, and family if necessary. Some 42 million pages of records would be in the cloud: Searchable, shareable and secure. (Refer back to last month’s PrintAction if you are curious about my thoughts on SmartSheet’s use in print production.)
There are other tools that are also worth considering for your print production environment. Sometimes these make the internal workflow more effective. Other times they can bring a client into a more active and collaborative role, which they usually appreciate, and help to lock you into a great relationship.
The mother of all of these collaborative toolkits is Google for Work. You may have a free Gmail account, but this is more substantial. You pay for each user and you are not bothered by the advertising that clutters your free Gmail account. There are over five million organizations using Google for Work (including PrintAction) and 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies subscribe. It knits all your contacts, calendars, email, documents, spreadsheets, intranets and presentations together. You get a chat network and an online meeting place where screens, cameras, microphones, etc. can be shared so members of your team can choose one of many ways to share information. Oh, and it’s mobile too, so it works well with your phones and tablets.
One of the best parts – You do not have to host this on your own servers and Google is almost never down. Handy tip: Buy a backup package from another company like Backupify. It only costs a few dollars per user, but you can backup all of your information and retrieve it quickly if anyone deletes files, emails, etc. that you need to get back. Once again, it’s not hosted at your facility, so there’s no need for storage, servers or technicians.
When I started using Google for Work (it had a different name then), Microsoft had not yet launched a cloud-based office suite, but it should be mentioned here that Microsoft Office 365 Productivity Tools is now a very comparable tool. If you do not want to learn a new platform and your team is already very familiar with Office, your time might be best served looking at Microsoft. You can find comparison articles and charts online by searching “Google at Work and Office 365 Comparison”. The details there will help you decide which is best suited to your work situation.
Having these tools should change the way you work. You have more choice but you still need to work smart. You have many channels to choose from to communicate with colleagues and clients -- email, chat, a net meeting, a shared document, a shared spreadsheet, voice over Google Hangouts, VOIP phones on the desk, an SMS text to a cell phone or walking over to someone’s desk and asking in person.
One exercise we conduct with teams is asking each person to describe how they prefer to be reached under differing circumstances. It’s best to know if someone does not mind being texted on their cell phone in an emergency, but prefers not to conduct day-to-day affairs that way.
When do you escalate the level of communication to a phone call, or does that person even keep a cell phone handy all day? It’s something we did not have to think about, but the context of the communication can determine which channel you use to reach out. Botching it can send the wrong message, erode collaborative efforts and cause friction. One person feels slighted when an email is left unanswered for 30 minutes and another has a tolerance of two days. One hates a voice message and another does not know how to use call history to see what they’ve missed and get back quickly. The changes in your work do not come without some preparation, but with the increased options, you can reduce the amount of back and forth, shrink your inbox and keep more people in the loop with fewer back and forth.
Shared calendars also mean you can cut down on the ping-pong of email and phone calls. You’ll easily find openings in your team members’ schedules so you can plan a meeting, invite attendees and be pretty certain they will all be free. This was always available to the larger users of Microsoft Office, but now even two-employee firms can have this affordable option, and share it with colleagues, freelancers and clients, so that they can all have visibility to plan meetings and projects.
Shared docs are another simple time saver. I’m writing this article on a shared doc and I’ll have an offsite editor look it over. We can work together on it from distant points, leave each other comments and save it in an easily searchable form for future reference. I’ll just search PrintAction 2016 in my Google Drive and up will pop articles with that content or title. As easy as searching the Web for an article, the power of Google now searches your files and helps you find what you need.
Collaboration software also has a whole category that is filled with virtual workspaces. It’s the software equivalent of pushing all of your team members’ desks together in a room instead of having them all on different floors. Virtual workspaces are great for teams who work at a distance. They can help with client/vendor planning, project management and internal collaboration. During the planning of a recent direct mail campaign that had a designer, client and ourselves in three distant cities, we worked with Trello.com, on the suggestion of our client. It seemed to keep all parties abreast of the three weeks of production.
Re-writes, edits and art files could be dragged and dropped into Trello and status updates posted as each user progressed. There are other options such as Slack and Sharepoint that have similar capabilities. Once again I recommend searching for comparison articles to find the one best suited for your situation. Then, read about how to best use the tool, practice with it, explain to the other users what you expect to see communicated through the virtual workspace, how frequently and with what level of detail. There is a whole new etiquette and set of expectations that comes with each of these new work environments.
This tech collaboration thing can seem daunting. The new options just keep rolling out at a fearsome rate, but take some comfort in it. We never want to return to the manual paperwork, manila folders and file cabinets of the past. These new tools will make information more accessible, shareable and just could make you a more profitable printer in the process.
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LabelExpo Americas 2018
September 25-27, 2018
September 30-2, 2018
Canadian Printing Awards
November 8, 2018