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Case Study: Go With the Flow

July 14, 2012

Go With the Flow: How Switch is Helping a Florida Printer Save Money and Maximize Efficiency

Fifteen years ago, Enfocus introduced PitStop, a phenomenally successful product that helped printers identify and fix bad files. Now the preflighting pioneer is enabling printers of all sizes to achieve a truly astonishing level of workflow automation.

Enfocus describes its Switch software as "a modular solution that integrates with existing systems and drives third-party software to speed up job processing, reduce errors and automate repetitive tasks." Built-in intelligence allows Switch to "see" within files, software and workflows for maximum productivity.

The core Switch product supports intelligent file receiving, sorting, routing and processing. Fabian Prudhomme, Vice President, Enfocus, stresses the open system's versatility. "Switch lets you use the applications you already have," he says. "In a sense, they gain a second life as automation modules."

Switch workflows can link to third-party software to automate tasks such as preflighting PDF files or converting files to the correct color model for printing. "The integration with PitStop Server, as well as Acrobat and InDesign, [is key]," said one user cited in Enfocus' successful InterTech award bid. "Creating low-resolution PDF files, and then sending them to the customer or converting postscript files to PDFs are now fully automated."
Additional modules (sold separately) let users:

  • Connect Switch to an MIS to receive job intent information, or send processing information back into a job record.
  • Use metadata (including JDF) to route jobs intelligently based on more detailed job information.
  • Submit jobs to a Digital Asset Management system along with job data to automatically
    check-in new assets.
  • Link an order submission web site directly to Switch workflows.

You don't need to be a prepress operator to appreciate Switch's impact on Miami-Dade County's 20-person in-plant printing operation. Consider the prep requirements for this job: 2.5 million ballots comprised of 300 different types of multi-page ballots printed on both sides for each of the county's 827 voter precincts. Ballots, printed three-up on a four-color Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74, are barcoded, to differentiate among the styles. As sheets go through a Stahlfolder TH 82 folder, a Domino Amjet system verifies the information. Sheets are folded, slit into three ballots apiece, and wrapped in bundles of 100 and labeled.

"You'd go batty pretty quickly if you were trying to [coordinate] this manually," says Steven Schmuger, Internal Services, Graphics Services Manager. "Every one of these operations is just dozens and dozens of redundant key stroke-you'd make an error in no time at all."

The Miami-Dade printer has a digital print center as well as a conventional printing plant-sophisticated workflows tie both locations together. Digital highlights include three Digimaster 150s and a Canon imagePRESS C7000. Software highlights include EFI's Digital StoreFront and ObjectifLune's Planet Press software suite. Variable data work includes tax bills photo cards and dog licenses. Some jobs, such as a recent 930,000 run of a 36-page magazine, are outsourced.

The in-plant's association with Enfocus goes back at least 10 years when it installed PitStop. Its Switch roots are even deeper. "We discovered Switch actually before Enfocus bought the company," recalls Schmuger. "We worked directly with the folks in Belgium and began using it for scripting and automating the ballot production. We use it to process PDFs that we get from the Supervisor of Elections."

In Switch parlance, a flow is a series of steps. "You take something complex and break it down into a number of steps that can be managed," explains Schmuger. "You link those together to get what you need."

The print operation may receive orders for as few as six ballots and as many as 300. "Each ballot is referred to as a 'style,' and each of them is in a PDF file which represents a ballot sheet that can be printed front or front and back," says Schmuger. "First the Switch flow goes through a series of PitStop functions, checking for every error that we've ever seen using an action list."

In the next flow, three components must be verified: the file name (which also indicates the specific election), ballot name and total quantity ordered. When that's done, Switch groups the ballots by threes.

Switch also knows what's an acceptable overrun as well as the difference among ballots that go on a sheet. InDesign scripts take the name of the ballot and apply it as a bar code and human readable text in a specific spot on the ballot.

 Finally, Switch uses another InDesign script to impose the job three-up on a sheet, create a large PDF, place bar codes on the sheet in trim areas to identify the form number and create an Excel spreadsheet with the information about each form. This information, along with a JDF file, is sent to the Heidelberg PrintReady system.

Schmuger and his crew, with the help of Ted Vahey at All Systems Integration, an Enfocus-certified partner, also have identified Switch implementations that make internal paperwork easier for all. "We print tax bills in groups of 16,000 so we'll create a PDF that's 16,000 pages long," Schmuger explains. "We want to provide our tax collector with a single PDF that's identified by a real estate number as well as by the date that this bill was sent-this information ultimately goes into the individual tax payer's file. A Switch workflow takes the 16,000-page PDF file and looks inside each page, finds the specific spot that we've identified and creates that individual PDF. So from one 16,000-page PDF we get 16,000 individual PDFs that now can go straight into the tax payer's folder. All automatically."

Certain jobs are furnished to the Miami-Dade in-plant as a text file with data in it and a series of PDFs referenced in the text file. Switch automatically splits the data into two parts: first class mail or certified mail. (Other jobs arrive with XML instructions.)

"In each case, it provides us with a text file for certified and a text file for first class mail," Schmuger explains. "Using ObjectifLune software, we can access the text file, select the correct PDFs and produce the mailing piece."

With Switch it's easy to capture the certified mail information. "We use an e-certified system to check the certified numbers from the USPS and transmit data to the post office about each of the certified pieces that we're mailing that day," Schmuger explains. "We want to provide the client with a PDF that include the signature from that returned receipt. Ideally, the e-certified system would identify the PDF using the certified receipt number as the name, but it doesn't."

When certified mail return receipts are downloaded from the post office, Schmuger and his team use Switch to find the certified number in that record, and rename the PDF accordingly. Switch then creates an Excel file for the printer's audit trail.

"This is huge," says Schmuger. "Using the e-certified system and Switch saves $1.15 per piece and that's just the postage. Those green [certified mail receipt] cards are labor intensive and a waste of time-you're getting a little piece of paper back and hoping it gets into a file."

Schmuger says now is the time for printers to automate their workflows. "What Switch does is what printers need. It's going to be essential to printers over the next five or 10 years, especially as print faces increased competition. This is the future."

Digital Presses Come and Go, Workflow Marches On
OutputLinks caught up with Enfocus' Fabian Prudhomme at drupa 2012. "Four years ago, the show featured digital presses and a lot of inkjet solutions and that's also true of this show. The advantage for Enfocus is that with our solutions it doesn't matter if you are using a digital, offset, or gravure press, we have the preflighting tools for it. We even have some iPad versions."

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