What! You’re not Using Web2Print?

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Raise your hand if you remember jobs coming in on CDs or DVDs. Thanks!

Now raise your hand if you remember jobs coming in on Zip Drives? A few more. Very good!

How about on SyQuest drives? Excellent! (How does if feel to be that old?)

Finally, how many of you had jobs come in as mechanicals, so you had to take a Photostat of every page and make plates so you could run it on your press? (How does it feel to be ancient?)

Having been there and done all of these over the past 25 or so years, I have to say it is kind of nice to hand a printer an 8 gig thumb drive containing a high-res PDF of the job file, a color laser print of what the job should look like, and come back for the finished work the next day. Even better is sending the job, fully composed and in printer spreads, via email, to a print provider on the other side of the country (or from another country as I did last month) and know it’s going to print out exactly as I expect. That’s the advantage of W2P or Web-to-Print. And I do love a high-res PDF!

W2P has been around for a few years and comes in various flavors that can be attuned to the needs of a shop. Some shops use more than one flavor because it lets them fine tune job intake processes to customers’ needs.

W2P Flavors
The most basic and common is job submission, which is what I did in sending that job to California from Canada last month. Packaged as an email with a PDF attached, it went to the print provider’s CSR who did the pricing, then to a prepress person who pre-flighted the file, then to the press operator. This simple approach involves only minor changes in your workflow while streamlining the entire process. Many—possibly most—print providers use some version of this approach. But W2P gets much better.

No matter which digital press or plate maker you have, its RIP probably includes “digital storefront” software that automates job receipt so submitted files can go directly to preflight and onto the digital press or a platemaker with limited human handling. CSRs (and billing staff) can track the job, bill for it, and speak with a customer as needed, while jobs with no print or production concerns can go largely untouched by anyone’s hands until they come off the press and are packaged for delivery. If you are just getting started, this constitutes a workflow change so several people on your team will need to be involved and some training is usually required. Talk with the technical rep for your digital press or RIP provider to see what you need to do.

The next level also draws on the storefront software, increases automation and can make life simpler for some key customers. Customers who reprint jobs with some regularity, things like business cards, stationery, brochures, directories and the like, can store the files on your servers, access them through your website and reprint as needed, all without even lifting the phone to call your CSR. Items can be stored as editable shells subject to business rules that your customer selects. When a print order is required, a customer can access a password-protected area on your website, edit a document, select the stock to be used, specify quantities, automatically obtain a price, and the job goes to press.

All three options are powered by Adobe PDFs and can yield excellent results. Adobe Acrobat software, which generates PDF files, is available in different ways depending on user needs. Available separately or as part of Adobe Creative Suite, some print shops provide access to Acrobat for their customers, while other customers, such as advertising and design agencies, have it anyway. Acrobat is also available as a fee-based cloud service for infrequent users. No matter how Acrobat is accessed, make sure customers select “High Quality Print” for the PDF setting to ensure the files that will print correctly on your offset or digital presses.

Bring in the Clouds
The growth and acceptance of various cloud services make W2P easier and more accessible. Some print providers use a secure cloud as the access point for file transfer, or use file transfer services such as Dropbox, Hightail or WeTransfer to move large files around. I use all three of these for both video and print files as well as for moving high res photographic images.

W2Print streamlines workflow, requiring less support by your internal teams, provides faster throughput, shortens turnaround times, and improves accuracy. One of its best advantages is that it pushes the responsibility for file correctness to your customers. Of course, this assumes customers buy into the process and are willing to sign off on the work being submitted. You can usually garner their agreement through some tests and customer training, proving its reliability. Many shops have a written agreement with customers stating that jobs submitted electronically have been approved and are ready to print. To augment this and to aid your internal processes, be sure all W2P jobs include online job ticketing and that submission forms have space for customers to add any special instructions.

If you aren’t using W2P already there is no time like the present. The technology is no longer leading edge, so you won’t be a pioneer, and the security offered by the commercially available products is more than enough for nearly all commercial print applications. Plus, it is a service you can market, which can provide an advantage over competitors who are yet to adopt the technology. Even in its most basic file transfer form W2P is an asset to your business
 
Hi Visar,
Just saw your response.
Sadly there's not a quick answer to your question. And if you don't have digital presses you have somewhat fewer options. Still, begin with your presses. The major offset press makers and the companies that sell plate-setters have digital workflow software available. Those are one place to start. There are also several "digital storefront" software products from various providers which offer levels of W2P capability. I prefer not to recommend any of these specifically, but if you do a web search on "Web to print" you will quickly find some excellent options.

One thing to consider is whether you will be adding digital printing capability any time soon. If so, almost all the digital press makers offer (and even include) W2P software with their presses. And most shops who have it do use it to some degree. In my opinion, there is almost no reason not to use some form of it, even if it it just to accelerate job intake and prepress. And digital presses, make having a full "hands-off" or even "lights-out" W2P workflow a real possibility.
 

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