Thu, Jan

Change your default setting

Sticking with the status quo is stalling progress for the world’s print shops according to Erik Strik, CEO at PrintFactory. Here’s why.

All PSPs understand the value of colour management for ensuring consistency, quality and print buyer satisfaction, yet for 21%* it remains the most significant workflow bottleneck, stalling production and damaging the bottom line. Why?

While the intricacies of colour management may be well known throughout the digital print sector, recent research reveals there is more contributing to colour management issues than meets the eye. A widespread reliance on default solutions and inconsistency across traditional wide-format set-ups could be compounding colour-related efficiency problems on the shop floor and holding LFPs back from reaching their full potential.

So, is your business being inefficient by default? 

Rip software is central to the efficiency of the entire wide-format workflow, with its role in colour profiling and converting files for output on each device essential for consistent and accurate output. Despite this, very few operators are actually relying on the Rip software of their choice - or even a single platform - to ensure absolute colour accuracy across devices. According to recent research, 60%* of PSPs rely on the Rip technology that comes with their printer, and 63%* are running two or more Rips in their shop.

This ‘default’ mindset is a key contributor to inconsistencies and production inefficiencies. Colour management issues can arise from the fact that a PSP’s software is often dictated when they purchase their device, rather than selected as a system that suits their current workflow setup. 

By relying on multiple Rips, wide-format operations could be unknowingly creating major bottlenecks in their production process. Using a different Rip for each device requires operators to switch between terminals in order to process jobs, therefore creating inconsistencies when reproducing the job across different printers, leading to wasted time, ink and media.

Furthermore, over 50%* of PSPs stated they would invest in new printing equipment to resolve any workflow issues. Although this could be effective in the short-term, if a PSP continues to rely on multiple Rips and still defaults to existing solutions, inefficiencies, inconsistencies and colour management issues will remain.

It is only when PSPs have effectively dealt with these demands on the Rip and/or workflow that they can hope to fully optimise their operations and their colour output. A single, centralised, end-to-end solution addresses the many complex parameters involved in preserving colour fidelity and can help PSPs save money, time and reputation. 

The first step to ‘boosting business’ and eliminating efficiency bottlenecks is identifying and stripping back these layers of additional complexity with differing capabilities.

One way PSPs could challenge the status quo to deliver clean conversions, consistent colour, ink savings and accurate recalibration across devices, is by embracing the switch from traditional ICC to DeviceLink profiling.

While ICC profiles are the accepted standard across the printing industry, they come with a number of inherent issues - leading to additional bottlenecks and complexities in the workflow. Some examples are ICC’s indiscriminate gamut compression, its limited control over conversion of the black channel and how profiles must be regenerated regularly to account for environmental changes.

DeviceLink profiles, on the other hand, allow for standardised printing (ISO, GraCOL) - or creating a custom common appearance - by directly converting from one colour space to another. This bypasses the need for an interim colour space, where many conversion issues occur and files are most at risk of ‘breaking’.

While DeviceLink technology is a forward-thinking feature, it’s important to remember that, actually, resolving colour management issues and eliminating bottlenecks is not so much an issue of staying ahead of the printing technology curve, but rather, having the foresight to question the norm.

As long as PSPs continue to rely on conventional colour management and workflow systems, it remains difficult for these print businesses to capitalise on the true benefits of next generation, automation-led technologies and print industry 4.0. Without a solid foundation of consistent colour across devices, any efficiencies created by an automated workflow are lost through time spent tweaking colour issues on jobs.

The technology to eliminate bottlenecks and deliver identical output across printers exists. Setting a new status quo for the wide-format sector with comprehensive, future-proof workflow software is integral for not only tackling today’s challenges but also for leveraging tomorrow’s opportunities. Wide-format can’t efficiently move forward without it.

* Note: this data is from an online survey by PrintFactory that polled 86 members of the global print industry from March to October 2018. The survey findings are explored in detail as part of PrintFactory’s latest white paper ‘Breaking colour convention for a more productive wide-format workflow’. 

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