Workflow is a fairly generic term for all of the stages that a project or job must go through until it is completed. A prepress workflow, however, does not refer to processes, but it is used to refer to the software that is used to automate all or some of those processes in prepress. Prepress workflow solutions geared towards digital printing are often called a Digital Front End (DFE).
Workflow systems for commercial printing
There is a wide range of prepress workflow solutions available for commercial printers. Most if not all systems are modular: the base system can be extended with optional modules. One of the tricky aspects of purchasing a workflow system is making sure that you do not buy an underspecified system just to get a low initial price.
- Many vendors of consumables and/or output systems also market workflow systems. These vendors can offer attractive bundle deals and may appeal to people who prefer a turnkey solution from a single vendor. These systems include:
- Agfa Apogee Prepress
- Fujifilm XMF
- Heidelberg Prinect
- Kodak Prinergy
- Screen TrueFlow
- There are also software companies that develop and market workflow systems. Their dealers may offer bundle deals that match those of the big boys. The available solutions include:
- Esko Automation Engine
- Xitron Navigator
- Both smaller and larger companies may create their own mix of applications that work well together. Such workflows are generally known as Do It Yourself or DIY workflows. Such systems can be cheaper than off-the-shelf solutions, but they generally lack the automation, the client-server architecture, and the load balancing capabilities of full-blown systems. Sometimes scripting is used to tie processes together. There are also applications, such as Enfocus Switch, on the market that specifically are meant to automate or integrate various processes or applications.
The tasks that a workflow handles can include:
- data reception
- rendering data
- generating proofs, either hardcopy proofs or softproofs
- managing corrections and last minute changes
- output to a digital press, imagesetter or computer to plate (CtP) system
- generating data to automate printing & finishing
- reporting to MIS for both costing and scheduling purposes
- archiving jobs for reprints
Choosing a prepress workflow
Check out my page on selecting a prepress workflow system. Leave a comment if you know any other pages dedicated to choosing a workflow solution.