Long Distance Press OK’s

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Having a national customer base has directed us into finding innovative and timely methods for proofing management from a long distance. Although we have used remote proofing tools for years, many customers are still more comfortable handling and signing off on a hard-copy proof. Although this creates some additional transportation costs and time needed to ship proofs back and forth, neither of these factors matter enough when a customer prefers this proofing method over an electronic proof. Unfortunately, there is no such innovation for handling long distance press OKs. A Face Time session displaying the press sheet isn’t going to cut it. This need has led to our long-time goal to eliminate press OKs entirely.

It has been known for years that press OKs are not practical, even when done locally. First of all, a printing plant operates around the clock seven days a week which means that the press check might be at a time that is not convenient like night time and weekends. Many are the days that I had to go back to the plant in the middle of night to assist the pressman with a customer press OK. I would leave work that day with an approximate time schedule to expect the press OK to be, and then anxiously wait for the press operator to call with about an hour’s notice as to when he expected it to be ready. Given all the variables in planning a press schedule, I often spent a good portion of the night sitting by the phone (these were pre-cell phone days) waiting for a call that rarely happened at the planned time.

Secondly, many of our local customers work in downtown areas or large corporate campuses in which parking is a premium. No matter how close the printing plant is to your place of work, if you have to leave your office, walk several blocks to a parking ramp, pay your parking fee and fight traffic to get to the printing plant, and then return only to find that the ramp is now full is an inconvenience that anyone would want to avoid.

And thirdly, any problems identified on the press sheet would require shutting down a very expensive piece of equipment for sometimes a long time. An argument could be made that any problem caught on press would require shutting down the equipment anyhow and that if the customer weren’t there at the time the problem would not get caught at all. The problem with this thinking, from my experience, is that many times these were errors or typos missed on the original mechanical proof, an oversight possibly due to the customer thinking they would get another chance to view the proof at the press time. Under typical circumstances, we would just move to the next job, a decision you would not make if the customer was still on your site and dreading having to return to a full parking ramp more than once. Problems of this nature just end up creating panic situations that serve the needs of neither the printing plant nor the customer.

The answer to handling press OKs from afar is the same for handling press OKs in your own locality: run to an established specification. Establishing a target, running tests, taking measurements, and monitoring results will lead to a predictable proof. A predictable proof means that the customer can sign off on it with the confidence that what they see on the proof is what they will expect to see with the finish piece. The pressmen know what it takes to match a proof.  It is better to let them make the decisions on how to achieve a match rather than a non-technician advising them to run their ink densities out of spec. Spot colors can also be approved in advance by creating draw-downs on the intended substrate. Tints of those spot colors are a little more challenging, but by taking L*a*b readings of the ink color and the paper stock, and then using basic math one can more accurately predict the outcome on press.

How do you prefer to handle long distance press OKs?

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Author: Nicole Hannover

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