New Workflow Automation for In-plants
I recently reviewed two new workflow automation solutions that seem to be particularly well suited for in-plant printing operations. These are Canon’s PRISMAdirect and EFI’s Fiery JobFlow. While both fall into the workflow automation umbrella they take very different approaches, which means that it is much more important to understand what they do and what your in-plant needs than to simply select your favorite vendor.
As Director of PODi’s Workflow Practice, I get to take a close look at various workflow solutions. Sometimes I reach out and ask vendors to demonstrate their solutions and other times PODi vendor members ask me to assess their solutions. In both cases I try to distill what they show me down to the critical capabilities and assess what works well, what needs some work and what type of operation would most benefit from each unique offering.
My objective is always to prepare critical assessments for the printing community and to provide feedback to the vendors rather than to create promotional product materials. As a result, my opinions may, or may not, perfectly align with vendors’ marketing desires.
My summary views of how PRISMAdirect and Fiery JobFlow relate to in-plants are that:
- PRISMAdirect is an integrated system for doing many basic production, MIS and submission tasks. Most of the time you need to acquire and integrate three separate products to cover all three areas. The reason I think PRISMAdirect could be well-suited for many mid-sized in-plants, which often don’t have any such systems, is that it’s a way to get the core benefits of an integrated solution without having purchase and integrate multiple products.
- Fiery JobFlow, on the other hand, is a system specifically designed to help Command WorkStation users integrate and automate Fiery preflight, prepress and makeready functions for common types of jobs. I think that its simplicity and price (there is a free version for Command WorkStation users) make it something small to mid-sized in-plants and commercial printers currently not using workflow automation should take a look at.
This article would be far too long if I discussed both here. Since EFI is launching Fiery JobFlow 2.2 this week, I’ll start by covering JobFlow in this article and discuss Canon’s PRISMAdirect next week.
JobFlow is a pretty cool product for what it does, but let me start be setting some expectations. It is primarily designed to integrate, automate and streamline Fiery prepress functions, not as an end-to-end solution seamlessly linked with MIS and Web submission systems. Even the full version uses text files, command-line scripts and hot folders to communicate with external systems.
So, if you’re looking for something capable of integrating with sophisticated systems using JDF and JMF, save yourself some time and stop reading now. However, if you’re using Command WorkStation and are like 90% of the in-plants that I know, you probably have no needs, infrastructure or plans to create such integrated solutions … but you’d love some help getting jobs done more quickly if it doesn’t cost too much.
JobFlow comes in two versions. The first version is called JobFlow Base, which has the following capabilities:
- A simple way to build automated workflows using existing EFI prepress tools.
- A way to automate prepress operations on files destined for Fiery servers by dragging them onto named workflows, hot folders or even secure Dropbox locations.
- A method of stopping and notifying operators when there is a problem.
- A way to accept individual files or lists of files to be batch-produced using simple, text job tickets.
- Viewing of processed files and preflight reports.
- The ability to direct completed jobs to a variety of locations ranging from Fiery process-and-hold queues to file folders.
- A nice, clean dashboard displaying incoming jobs, jobs in process, completed jobs and jobs with errors.
The biggest barriers I see with in-plants implementing workflow automation solutions are ROI, implementation and integration. JobFlow Base seems to bypass all three of these barriers since it provides all this for free for Command WorkStation customers, it can’t be tightly integrated with other systems anyway, and its workflows are created by stringing together Fiery prepress functions your prepress department already uses.
The paid version of JobFlow adds some more advanced capabilities including:
- A simple, automated approval engine that sends proofs and preflight reports to clients and waits for them to approve or reject the job before continuing the automation.
- Tight integration with Enfocus PitStop, including using PitStop action lists and profiles to create workflows with rules-based conditional logic.
- And integration with third party packages via hot folders and command-line scripts.
So, while Fiery JobFlow certainly has some constraints and isn’t suitable for everyone, I think that it would fit in well for many of the in-plant and smaller commercial operations I’ve seen. Feel free to peruse the six short videos in my PODi Product Briefing where I demonstrate and discuss my thoughts on key capabilities, uses and limitations of this solution at: http://www.podi.org/Fiery-JobFlow-PODi-Product-Briefing.html
Next week I’ll share my review of the new Canon PRISMAdirect solution.
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Greg Cholmondeley is president of Cholmonco Inc. Cholmonco is a technology marketing consulting company that researches, analyzes and documents best practices and innovative solutions. Cholmondeley is especially interested in how industry leaders efficiently get work through digital printing and marketing services operations. He has also written two fictional novels. The first is titled “Nakiwulo and the Circle of Shiva” and the second is called “Princess.” You can learn more about his consulting practice and read more of his blogs at www.cholmonco.com. You can discover his books at http://books.cholmonco.com.