A new relationship

Widespread use of desktop publishing has changed the relationship between printers and their clients, say representatives of two of Canada's largest commercial printers.Bruce Flood, director of national training at Quebecor Imaging, a full-service, color electronic pre-press facility based in Richmond Hill,...

Widespread use of desktop publishing has changed the relationship between printers and their clients, say representatives of two of Canada’s largest commercial printers.

Bruce Flood, director of national training at Quebecor Imaging, a full-service, color electronic pre-press facility based in Richmond Hill, Ont., just north of Toronto, says printers and their clients are tied more closely than ever before.

Traditional processes

‘If you look at the traditional craft processes, you had to go to one place to get the typesetting, another place to get the camera work, another place to get the film, another place to do the printing, and, sometimes, another place to do the binding,’ Flood says.

Today, with all of the pre-press stages telescoped electronically into one, he says many clients are now looking to their printer to provide electronic pre-press services, plus training and technical support.

Major investment

Established last spring by Montreal-based parent company Quebecor Printing, Quebecor Imaging represents a $1.5-million investment in electronic pre-press technology, and the first of what Flood says will eventually become a nationwide network of electronic pre-press facilities.

In addition to advanced Apple Macintosh computers and high-resolution color scanning, color proofing and film output equipment, Quebecor Imaging incorporates a training centre that can accommodate up to four client trainees at one time.

Bob Erbstein, vice-president technology, print sector at Transcontinental Communications, a subsidiary of St-Laurent, Que.-based G.T.C. Transcontinental Group, says the incorporation of electronic pre-press services at the printing level has meant printers are taking control of the print production cycle, from start to finish.

‘Somebody has to end up taking control of the process,’ Erbstein says.

Standardization

‘Because even though everybody might use the same piece of software and the same interface, if work flows aren’t done in a standardized fashion, then the fact that customers build a page and transmit it to us doesn’t mean our people are able to work with that information,’ he says.

‘So the effect of that is we have worked with our customers to configure systems for them. We train them in the use of that equipment to ensure there are standardized work flows.

Ongoing support

‘And we provide them on-going support to make sure that if there are modifications in the software that require changes in the work flow, that these are communicated to them.’

Erbstein says Transcontinental decided to add pre-press facilities to its printing sites rather than cultivate relationships with service bureaus because the company recognized the importance of flexibility to its clients.

‘In many instances, fast turnaround is more critical [than price.] This is exceptionally important for [grocery stores,]‘ he says.

Last minute

‘Ideally, they would like to wait until the last minute to decide what price they should put an item on sale for.

‘And since all these files are in electronic format, up until the moment you create a piece of film, you are able to do that.’

At Quebecor Imaging, Flood estimates the use of electronic pre-press has shaved two to three weeks off the production cycle of monthly flyers for client Radio Shack.

‘Because we are closer to their production facilities in Barrie [Ont.,] they can fax down changes to us, or they can come in and do changes right on the screens here,’ Flood says. ‘They can come to the source hours before they need final film.’

Options

Flood says the use of digital files also gives clients the option to print at the location that makes the most sense.

Asked how the advent of electronic pre-press has changed the printing industry, Flood says there has been a fundamental shift in the way printers think about their business.

‘I believe printers now assume they are in the communications business, as opposed to being in the printing business.’