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Automating imposition of multiple jobs

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  • Automating imposition of multiple jobs

    Hi all,

    I would appreciate some input regarding our variable data conundrum -

    We do a bunch of small jobs that vary in quantities from 50-1000. We print and mail all of them

    They could be various sizes but we typically do 5.5 x 11 and 5.5 x 8.5 postcards.

    Right now, we have our list department put the smaller jobs together for postal discounts and run the postal paper work and break out the data files for each job in that group. So after the group of jobs goes through list processing, we typically end up with a few PDFs and the corresponding data files for each PDF.

    Our pre-press department then takes each job, opens up Indesign, lays the PDF out in a template, then links the data file through XMPie Udirect manually and sends the job as a variable data job to our digital press.

    This is a very manual process and mistakes can be made i.e. wrong data file tagged with the wrong PDF etc. So we have to have a time consuming QC process to make sure that does not happen. The more pressing issue is that it is a very slow, tedious process and as we get busier, it is not a sustainable model. We want to automate the composition/imposition part.

    Can you give us some suggestions. Ideally, this is how we would want it to work in the following example -

    We will have a group of smaller 5.5 x 11 postcard jobs that are going together to qualify for bulk postage -

    The art files will typically be named as follows -

    A123.PDF
    B123.PDF
    C123.PDF

    The data files will be named similarly -

    A123.XLS
    B123.XLS
    C123.XLS

    Ideally, we would just drag them into a hot folder set up for 5.5 x 11 - Pre-Sort Standard - 12 x 18 sheet.

    The software would then add the address block into each PDF, add the right indecia and spit out the imposed final PDF run file. I am not even sure if this is possible but this would eliminate most of our headaches and automate one of our biggest bottlenecks.

    It does not have to work exactly this way. Any process that automates even part of this would work better than what we are doing currently.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Does XMPie have a server version? We do something similar to what you are trying to do, but we use HP SmartStream Designer in conjunction with HP SmartStream Composer. I think that SmartStream Designer on Windows has a "min-server" capability without the horsepower or price tag of the full-blown Composer server.

    Designer is the InDesign plugin, probably a lot like your XMPie. We build the basic layout with address panel and use a variable image box to bring in the correct postcard art (obviously this needs to be called out somewhere in your data.) We also make the indicia a variable image. We also apply an imposition using this tool. After everything is tested and we like the output, the job gets packaged (via SmartStream, not the standard InDesign packaging) for Composer, which is the server version of the same software.

    The result is a packaged HPD file (HP's custom zip format) that has a unique name, such as PC.hpd. This .hpd file gets stored on the Composer server, and then we drop data onto a hotfolder. The data is prepended with the name of the desired HPD so Composer knows which one to use. For instance, the data for this one would be named PC_DataFileName.csv.

    Composer takes the data and flows it through the HPD template and the result is your imposed file as a PDF, ready for printing.

    We take things a step further and use Redpoint automation to process the data and push it to Composer, and then Prinergy SmartHotfolders to move the result wherever we want it to ultimately go.

    Hopefully XMPie would have something similar so you wouldn't have to completely overhaul the way you are used to working.
    Dan Curry
    Prinergy 6 • Preps 7 • SmartStream Designer

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    • #3
      Not a hot folder solution but why don't you add the postcard art (A123.PDF) as a variable field in the data when you combine all the lists. Then set that up in XMPie as an image variable pulling in from Assets folder? You'll probably have to seperate out front and back but that's what I'd do. That way if it's correct in the data then it's correct in the merge. Output one print file cut and stack and you're away laughing.

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      • #4
        Hi Dcurry, we did explore the XMPie server option a while ago. From what I remember it was very expensive and was not a feasible option then. I will follow up with them again and see what the pricing is. Josh, thanks for the suggestion. We are going to try it. That should save us a lot of time until we figure out a way to automate it more....thanks.

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        • #5
          Hey guys, another question...do you run into issues where the address panel is not on the same spot for every postcard. While 80% of the postcards we do, have the address panel in the same spot, some don't. How do you deal with that during automation? In our case, it is possible that the address panel might be very close to or overlap part of the artwork on some of these postcards.

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          • #6
            For our setup, we build a separate layer in InDesign for the mail panels that are in a different location and use a SmartStream rule to choose which layer appears. However, this only works if you know ahead of time which postcards need the adjustment so you can have something in the data that tells what layer to use.
            Dan Curry
            Prinergy 6 • Preps 7 • SmartStream Designer

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            • #7
              If the address block is changing positions I'd setup the different clients as layers and use visibility rules to choose their artwork and have the address block also on that layer. It's kind of risky in case someone forgets to merge each block correctly.

              Another option is if you can identify say 3 places it could be, give each and name and set that in the data too. Then you'll have 3 different address layers and set visibility rules to show the correct ones.

              I'd continue to do the ones that break the norm layput as separate jobs probably. Keeps it simple.

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              • #8
                Another thought. Are you submitting your mailings via .dat files? If you are Full Service you could could get an exemption to mail these smaller standard mailings as single pc 1st class on your permit (no 200 minimum). Take some of the work out of trying to gang them up for STD rates.
                (2) Ricoh Pro 7110SX digital printers
                OKI C931e with Straight Shooter Envelope feeder

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