As 2006 gets rolling, production and manufacturing executives across the industry are looking to a variety of new-or at least not-so-old-technologies and best practices to help them continue to bring in more revenue while simultaneously cutting costs.
At Reed Business Information, the long-talked-about Job Definition Format (JDF) is finally set to reap some benefits for the company, one of the earliest adopters of the technology. JDF enables the machines on the publisher's side to communicate with those on the vendors' side in one common language, eliminating a multitude of problems.
"Right now, we fax instructions, and rekey a lot of data and deliver files in kind of a dump-and-run sort of way," said John Blanchard, VP-manufacturing at Reed. "JDF will allow us to be way more organized and efficient." Reed plans to roll JDF out over the next two to three years.
Some of the savings will come from vendors passing back savings on their end to Reed; other savings will come down the line when JDF leads to a reduction in manpower, Blanchard said.
On a smaller scale, Vance Publishing is focusing on bringing in-house its advertising preflighting, a process in which files are checked for such things as fonts, bleeds and rules to be sure they can work in a printer's system. "I know we're in the middle of the pack on this, but there are many who haven't done it yet," said Ron Brockman, Vance's production director. "It's been our philosophy to kind of sit back and let a few others screw up before we jump into something new."
Vance is also moving all of its digital storage of advertising resources from a printer to in-house. The publisher's IT department developed a system to archive the materials and launched it last month.
As for automated preflighting, Brockman said the use of PDF/X-1a-an upgraded PDF format in which all fonts and images are embedded in the file-has really caught on. "That's the wave of the future," he said. "Getting people to send in one standardized way will make all of our lives much, much simpler."
CMP, which is often at the technological forefront, is concentrating its efforts on multimailing, co-binding and providing a Web portal for all advertisers to send in their materials digitally.
Marie Myers, senior VP-manufacturing at CMP, said co-binding, in which different magazines are bound simultaneously on the same bindery line, will give her small-run magazines the power of larger titles. "It may change some deadlines on monthlies for us, but the overall savings would mean a lot to us," she said.
As for the ad portal, Myers plans on initially keeping it simple for advertisers by just providing a place to drop in their files. "After that, everything should be automatic," she said. "With time, we can add other things, but there's no need to initially confuse anyone."
Myers said she also expects to see paper proofs disappear this year. As for complaints by some that digital proofs won't match up exactly in terms of color, she noted that paper proofs have never been spot on either. "It's basically the same, except we save a lot of money," she said.
A switch to digital proofs is also the goal of Patricia Wisser, production director at Edgell Communications. "We were waiting around for a package of proofs the other day that didn't come through," she said. "So we wasted time tracking it down and figuring out how we were going to get our hands on it in enough time to get it back to our printers."
At a small company such as Edgell, Wis-ser said, no time can be wasted, and paper proofs have consumed too much of the clock. So the company plans to shift to digital proofs by midyear.
"It will be a culture shock for some who have been here for a long time, but it has to be done," Wisser said. "It just makes sense." Plus, she added, the change will provide extra time for the sales department to bring in additional revenue.