CIP4 Pain or Paradise?
Action Printing is an early success story in the printing industry's efforts to implement an integrated CIP4 workflow.
We are using Creo's UpFront software to create CIP4 files for re-use in their prepress department, as well as in the department bindery, on a flat bed cutter and a saddle stitcher.
We are currently working to expand our CIP4 network to include a CIP4-enabled folding machine, and to use CIP4 files created by our RIP to pre-set ink keys on sheetfed presses. We're focusing on adding CIP4 technology in every scenario where doing so will increase efficiency or reduce waste.
Action Printing arrived at this advanced stage of the CIP4 process by taking a systematic approach to what is generally viewed as a futuristic and somewhat confusing technology shift for the printing industry.
Since it wasn't feasible to replace all of our equipment with CIP4-enabled machinery, we consider the feasibility of migrating one machine at a time.
Answering three basic questions got us started on a gradual process to CIP4 adoption:
1. Where are the best places in the production process to generate CIP4 files?
2. What are the economic benefits of a CIP4 workflow?
3. What are the biggest obstacles to creating a CIP4 network?
Regarding point one, we considered two potential sources of production instructions (trim margins, sheet size, page imposition, fold and cut instructions, etc.) for data that could be saved in CIP4 format: the work order, and the imposition layout.
We viewed job ticket information as job specific, and therefore difficult to reuse for other jobs. Another disadvantage: a work order capable of saving data in CIP4 format has not been developed.
On the other hand, layouts are process specific. A 16-page saddle stitch layout can be copied easily, and reused for another job that has the same specifications.
When we looked at imposition layouts as the source of CIP4 data, we discovered that our job planning software, Creo's UpFront, was capable of exporting data for reuse in the rest of the plant. This data was already being created, and required no further purchases or labor expense.
Fortunately, we always believed in the value of thorough job planning. UpFront software had been used as a job planning tool long before the CIP4 process was considered.
Once the network connections were established, we could export CIP4 files to automate the make-ready process of the company's flatbed cutter and saddle stitcher. UpFront is the only tool we found that integrates job planning layout capabilities and CIP4 connectivity.
On the economic benefits of a CIP4 workflow, the use of UpFront and CIP4 has reduced staffing in job planning, prepress, and in the bindery. In addition to labor savings, we reduced plate and film waste over 50%.
These impressive savings result from the elimination of variations in job planning (in the past, no two people planned a job the same way) and in the setup of CIP4-enabled machines.
An automated CIP4 make-ready precisely adjusts the affected machine the same way, every time. Variations in machine settings are eliminated. This allows for fast, accurate make-readies.
We discovered the biggest obstacle to creating a CIP4 network is getting people to accept the radical changes that come with a CIP4 workflow. People who are of the opinion 'If it's not broke don't fix it' or 'That's not how we do things around here' will resist the advancements, and slow the implementation process.
We overcame this opposition through employee involvement and training. Creo, the developer of UpFront, also offered excellent on- and off-site training. Once employees were trained and involved in the creation of the new methods and procedures, the rate of innovation and adoption accelerated dramatically.
Action Printing's CIP4 accomplishments are key to the company's future. The ability of the work force to accept changes, adopt new methods, and innovate are essential ingredients for a prosperous outlook. We view our CIP4 abilities as a true competitive advantage.
- Peter Doyle
Peter Doyle is operations manager at Action Printing, Fond du Lac, Wis. He can be reached at ActionPrinting.com.