Maximizing Production Efficiency
Four industry vets offer must-have advice.
From improving workflow to enhancing efficiency and adding value to the organization, four production industry professionals addressed their biggest concerns and how to overcome them during a panel discussion at this year’s FOLIO: Show.
“An automation process is the best way to streamline,” said Kenneth Pecca, director of pre-media imaging for Hearst Magazines. When Hearst eliminated pre-press and brought editorial and cover production in-house (also converted to PDFX4 workflow), they eliminated three manual production steps. Hearst’s tools include K4 and MatchPro Virtual, and the company has implemented internal virtual proofing. “It’s a tough buy-in from creatives who want a hard proof.”
Second to automation, Sports Illustrated’s production director Bob Kanell stressed “good old-fashioned information control,” especially in large, decentralized companies. “Editors don’t want to support everything on the ad side,” so Kanell makes certain that he is in the room whenever dialog takes place between departments. This way he can regulate, deliver on the ad side and confirm that “editorial remembers what they promised.”
Uncontrollable factors in every step of the production process can drive up costs. “Work with financial to come up with a pricing tool. Price out version A and version B of a mock up,” Kanell said. “This way, you can show an editor the change they are looking to make, what it will cost, and an alternative solution.” It may wind up costing as much to re-print as to add a last minute change, he said.
Pecca’s solution for managing late-coming ads: “We’ve taken manual processes out of the hands of operators [on Hearst’s 18 core titles] so that every magazine has an image specialist working on color correction and someone on staff is doing archiving.” By creating more accountability upstream and closely monitoring the system, Hearst has streamlined its process, going from 10 percent to less than 3 percent in efficiencies.
Bigger Challenges for Small Publishers
“The stakes are higher, the costs are more, and more attention is paid when mistakes are made,” said publishing consultant Claudia Smukler about small publishers managing fewer resources. “Even changing from Quark to InDesign is a technology transition that forces you to find windows of time where you can get the software and get it in place and make a training plan. But don’t use mistakes as opportunity to lobby for efficiency.”
Dedra Smith, president of Printmark West, suggested looking at where the process is going awry—usually back in the sales and editorial departments—to come up with a solution.
When the printing has been completed, it’s important to do a cost analysis on bill. “Its production’s responsibility to review invoices and form breaks that everyone would have otherwise been oblivious to,” said Smith.
As a final step, Pecca suggests “hiring pre-press savvy people.” Through an apprentice program, Hearst trains recent grads in the back end of the business.
In the last four years, Pecca has seen about 10 people through this program. “By learning these essentials, they understand why things happen and can bring this knowledge to a magazine staff on the creative side.”