It’s not about technology, it’s about change!

Using technology to your advantage requires change and learning something new.

Innovation is synonymous for change. Throughout the various industrial
revolutions people always had to adapt, change and learn what they
used to do in a different way. In today’s digital revolution era this
is as true- if not even more true- as ever before. This applies in
particular to the publishing and media industry. One of my favorite
subjects in this respect is:

Automated image processing

For years now I find it difficult to understand why automated imaging
technology is so poorly used. From day one I’ve seen the benefits and
used it, but getting people to understand and use it themselves is
still in many cases a fight uphill.

It became clear to me that the technology in itself is not the
issue.The issue is that people are reluctant to change their
traditional views and habits.They believe every image necessitates
manual assessment and intervention, using Photoshop on a Mac or PC
today. In my mind this is clearly a heritage of the days when
companies such as Kodak,  Agfa and Fuji dominated the analogue imaging
market.

Process Management

Today the number of (digital) images that need to be processed for
publication purposes has grown and is still growing exponentially. In
the past we only required a few images, mainly for print, Today we
need to process massive numbers, not only for print but also for
online publications, such as websites and apps etc.

We simply cannot afford to continue to do this manually. Like in the
manufacturing industry we need process-automation.For example in the
car industry, cars were initially painted manually. When paint robots
were introduced the painters argued that robots could never do the job
equally well. Today the process is self-evident and supervised by
process operators.

Proof of the pudding

When talking about automated imaging technology we get similar
objections. People argue that it is not possible to automate it. So we
challenge them for a test. We process a fair amount of images
automatically and ask them do the jobs in their usual manual way. Most
of the time we spend waiting for them to complete their job. After
anonymous comparison the number of auto-processed images favored
accounted, on average, for 70%. 20% are equally qualified and 10% of
the manual processed images are favored.

The funny thing is that during evaluation the discussion almost
exclusively focussed on the 10% they felt better done manually. No one
considered to reverse the approach!

Automatic processing of all images would only require them to manually
interfere with 10 % of the images, saving massive time for them to
focus on more productive activities. For example on fine-tuning the
auto-imaging settings to further improve on the 10% undesired results.
Paint robots also continuously improved over time.Today they are very
frugal with expensive paint and produce less waste than the best human
car painter would everbe able to do.

Deadline driven

Most manual imaging operations are deadline driven. Meaning that
operators keep editing images until they run out of time. Not very
efficient and hardly measurable. Automated image technology on the
other hand, processes images within seconds.

Furthermore, it’s highly questionable what some adjustments will do to
output quality. For example what is the reason to change a mid-tone of
a color 0,25% when it is impossible to control such values during
print?

A major publisher in the States uses several auto-imaging
installations. However they also employ dozens of operators processing
images manually every day. When I asked them how they are using the
automated imaging technology, their answer was that they only use it
when they run out of time doing the work manually before the deadline
closes.  The obvious logical second question for me was to ask how
many images were rejected when processed automatically. Stunningly the
answer was: None…

To which I suggested to turn the operation around. Process all images
automatically and interfere only when needed. Saving a tremendous
amount of time and a lot of money.

Do or die

Today survival in the publishing and print industry requires an
“industrial approach”. This certainly does not imply that the
traditional professional know-how becomes redundant. On the contrary.
Professional pre-media craftsmanship is still an important factor to
be successful now and in future.

I would advise people to understand and accept that craftsmanship
today is not primarily a manual quality. In my mind it is using this
craftsmanship together with auto-imaging technology, to now supervise
and control a logical process for improved quality and efficiency.

It’s really all about applying your know-how in a different way,
because if you don’t somebody else will do it for you!

Wolluk and Ready4print
Toon de Munnik

toon-at-ready4print.com

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