Manag­ing pre­press and print in a no-bud­get, no-time, no-staff world

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Sponsored Content - ▶ SPECIAL TO NEWS & TECH FROM GARY BLAKELEY , SOUTH­ERN LITHOPLATE Gary Blakeley is direc­tor of global ser­vice and tech­ni­cal sup­port at South­ern Lithoplate.

The re­al­ity of pub­lish­ing today has many pro­duc­tion man­agers in a per­pet­ual no-win sit­u­a­tion. You may know the sce­nario all too well and likely have a more color­ful way of de­scrib­ing it, but it is more com­mon than we all care to ac­knowl­edge.

For in­stance: The board of direc­tors tells the CEO, who in turn tells you that you have to lay off one or more of your pre­press crew. “They cut the bud­get. You’ll just have to get it done with a smaller staff,” he or she says. Or, it’s 3 a.m. Your old backup CtP unit goes down for the count and you don’t have autho­riza­tion to spend money on re­pairs (if it can be re­paired) un­til the vice pres­i­dent gets back from a two-week va­ca­tion. So you just pray that your main CtP doesn’t act up.

As this scene plays out across the U.S. among larger pub­lish­ing groups, smaller re­gion­als, lo­cally owned sin­gle-pa­per op­er­a­tions, and per­haps even week­lies or shop­pers, those re­spon­si­ble for the pro­duc­tion of the printed prod­uct may feel pow­er­less. And who could blame them?

Break­downs, down­time, short­handed staffs, in­ef­fi­cien­cies and more are the fall­out that pro­duc­tion man­age­ment has to deal with on what seems to be a daily ba­sis. Manag­ing those ob­sta­cles while also han­dling the day-today pres­sures of pushing out a news­pa­per does not a ful­fill­ing job make. And manag­ing all this alone is not re­ally an op­tion.

Con­sider this al­ter­na­tive: In­vite a vet­eran pre­press/print so­lu­tions sup­plier (a com­pany you trust, or some­one re­ferred to you by some­one you trust) to visit with you about your cir­cum­stances. Zero in on an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has a good track record, that has a his­tory of working ef­fec­tively with op­er­a­tions like yours . . . some­one who is com­mit­ted to the print­ing and pub­lish­ing in­dus­try.

If you don’t have ac­quain­tances that can pro­vide that type of re­fer­ral, con­tact one of the pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions serv­ing the news­pa­per pub­lish­ing or print­ing in­dus­try for a list of sup­plier mem­bers who play an ac­tive role within the group. These are the types of peo­ple and com­pa­nies who have an interest in help­ing and in­deed can help. An­other idea – read through the ads in this pub­li­ca­tion and oth­ers to learn of sup­pli­ers that re­flect your cur­rent think­ing and that you be­lieve are worth talk­ing to.

Rather than try­ing to find a spe­cial­ist for each and ev­ery sin­gle area of need, find a well-rounded so­lu­tions provider who can be a one-source op­tion. One that can ac­com­mo­date ser­vic­ing and sup­port­ing your cur­rent equip­ment, con­sult with you ob­jec­tively about any new tech­nol­ogy you be­lieve you need, about train­ing, con­sum­ables and other el­e­ments of pre­press and press­room op­er­a­tions.

When the so­lu­tions provider comes to your fa­cil­ity, show your op­er­a­tion, your equip­ment, your is­sues. Share your re­cur­ring prob­lems and your staff con­cerns, whether it’s too few or too in­ex­pe­ri­enced. Di­vulge the con­di­tions of your pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tion you fear may worsen, but that you can’t spend the time to look into or ad­dress.

Talk with this trusted sup­plier about new or re­cent tech­nol­ogy, about your need for en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pli­ance, about manag­ing waste, about train­ing. A fair sup­plier is one that can of­fer hon­est, im­par­tial as­sess­ments on avail­able work­flow, CtP op­tions, ser­vice and sup­port, press­room op­tions, plates and other con­sum­ables.

So, let’s throw in the hop­per some of the ar­eas that you might dis­cuss with a pre­press/print so­lu­tions sup­plier. This might help you quickly gen­er­ate a rea­son­ably solid list of is­sues or prob­lem ar­eas so that when you do visit with this pos­si­ble new sup­plier part­ner, there's a good place to start and the sup­plier can ef­fec­tively present some on-tar­get ideas for you to im­ple­ment.

Con­sum­ables con­sump­tion – What you are us­ing by way of plates, blan­kets, ink, pro­cess­ing chem­i­cals, wa­ter, elec­tric­ity, pa­per/mak­eready waste. Tra­di­tional records should have most of this in­for­ma­tion. Even if it is not dead on, it will of­fer a pro­file of your op­er­a­tion’s ef­fi­ciency.

Equip­ment ser­vice his­tory – How of­ten has your CtP been down long enough to miss your dead­lines for get­ting your printed prod­uct out the door? How many emer­gency ser­vice calls? Is the maker of your equip­ment no longer in busi­ness or no longer pro­vid­ing ser­vice?

Staff is­sues – Re­cent lay­offs, ex­pe­ri­ence of new hires, and staff’s pro­fi­ciency with the op­er­a­tion’s tech­nol­ogy, their abil­ity to fix or re­pair small or large prob­lems, train­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

Equip­ment’s abil­ity to meet pro­duc­tion de­mand – Does one of your de­vices cre­ate bot­tle­necks be­cause it can’t keep up, or no longer de­liv­ers the qual­ity?

Soft­ware – Have you re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced your sup­plier elim­i­nat­ing sup­port for your pre­press or press work­flow or soft­ware? Is your op­er­at­ing sys­tem drag­ging down your work­flow, caus­ing glitches or just not func­tion­ing?

Now let this fair and trusted sup­plier an­a­lyze this in­for­ma­tion, con­sider your cir­cum­stances, in­ves­ti­gate so­lu­tions and come up with a menu of op­tions for you. In the process, you will no doubt hear ideas you never would have thought of your­self, get op­tions you might be able to im­ple­ment right away or at nom­i­nal ex­pense (without need­ing an ex­pen­di­ture autho­riza­tion in trip­li­cate) or have the start of a pro­gram that can get you where you need and want to be.

What is the bot­tom line ad­van­tage of this ap­proach? At the very least you will learn:

1. The pro­jected true cost range of do­ing noth­ing at all to ad­dress

your is­sues

2. The cost to have some of your is­sues ad­dressed

3. What a pro­gram might look like on a bud­get that you could han­dle What should it cost to visit with a trusted sup­plier of this kind and get this kind of in­for­ma­tion? Zero to next to noth­ing, ex­cept a lit­tle of your time.

And that will also be how you know if you vis­ited with the right or­ga­ni­za­tion, one that will com­mit to help­ing your pro­duc­tion depart­ment.

Now armed with this in­for­ma­tion, you can go to your com­pany’s pres­i­dent, VP or owner with valid pro­jec­tions pro­vided by an in­de­pen­dent third party. If the bosses haven't heard you be­fore this, this should in­deed get their at­ten­tion.

Of course, there is no as­sur­ance that man­age­ment will come around to your way of think­ing. But the odds of get­ting ac­tion on your most trou­ble­some is­sues have im­proved. And if noth­ing else, you can get some of the things that are in the way of your pro­duc­tion depart­ment’s progress out of the way, whether you get a lit­tle more bud­get, a lit­tle more time or more pro­duc­tive staff.

Don’t go it alone. Get the in­put and ad­vice of a trusted pre­press/print so­lu­tions sup­plier who is com­mit­ted to print! We rec­om­mend South­ern Lithoplate.

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