Commercial Printing Thinks Small, Wins Big
Short runs get to market faster than ever, thanks to efficient workflows and knowledgeable distributors.
Which came first—the customer demand for quick turnaround times or the equipment technology that makes it possible?
While the question is debatable, the upshot is clear. Short runs of process color work are a dominant trend in commercial printing. From a few days to as few as 24 hours after proof approval, orders for brochures, postcards, marketing collateral, rack cards, books and booklets in quantities of between 250 and 20,000 pieces are being printed, packed and shipped.
Columbus, Kansas-based Midwest Color Graphics advertises typical production schedules of two to three days for pre-press and four to six days for printing. "We're currently operating in an eight- to 10-working-day environment, and we're constantly improving," said Vice President Chris Green. "In the future, I feel that we'll need to turn jobs around in five to six working days."
Proofing Goes Electronic
Green acknowledged that the proofing end of the business remains the greatest foil to rapid turnarounds. "Sixty percent of my customers are opting to not have a color proof sent to them," he observed. "This cuts out two or three working days from jobs." He added that most of his jobs come in on disk all ready to go—with no typesetting or designing required——along with some type of hard copy, perhaps a laser color proof or an image that comes via an FTP site or e-mail.
At Timbertech, Harbor Springs, Mich., General Manager Karl Kresin explained that depending on the relationship he has with the distributor and how well that distributor communicates the customers' expectations, proof approval is waived. "We still do a flight check to make sure that it matches the hard copy that was submitted. The more go-by the distributor can give us when we waive a proof, the better," he added. "I'd say that for half of the jobs we run, there is a signed proof waiver." The orders then ship within five to seven days, unless rush service is required, which means they are then out of the door in as few as 24 hours.