File errors are one of the biggest workflow cripplers in the printing industry. It is historically true and continues to be the case. A file with incorrect content can be printable and every now and then, get delivered to the customer. But, the true Achilles’ heel of print production workflow is a broken file. It’s blatantly obvious to state, but correcting file errors as far upstream as possible is the best practice. Validating and repairing job files as they are onboarded prevents the snowballing of wasted time and money for each process that encounters the job.
Importance of Preflight
Every print shop deals with file problems, and every press operator has been given headaches by them. Yes, that’s why prepress does a preflight. A skilled, efficient prepress team with the right tools will absolutely prevent downstream file issues and keep presses running. However, there is still opportunity for file errors to cause slowdowns during onboarding. It’s also possible that on-the-fly fixes in prepress can lead to surprises on press. Measure twice and cut once.
Digital print folks may not be willing to admit that there is a relaxed attitude toward preflight. Modern RIPs are more forgiving, and stopping a job for a file fix isn’t as tragic as it is in the offset world. It is still a process slow down. Prepress gets interrupted to go back to the job to make fixes. The job needs reimposed, and remnants of the problem files must eradicated to avoid future confusion. No matter what the output process is, preflight is a basic process of great importance.
Preflight tools are easy to find, and investing in the right one for any given business is entirely their choice. Prepress staff and management should trial several solutions concurrently. They should use each solution on the same job files daily for several weeks. Discover which software is easier to use, satisfies specific feature needs, and is capable of customization. It is also very important to choose a preflight solution that can be automated, then integrate that solution at the point in the workflow where jobs are received from customers.
Where file receipt is manual and where it is possible, print businesses should involve customer service in the filtering of unprintable files. This could mean training on existing tools or the use of ones targeted toward customer-facing staff.
When looking at the top errors found using Enfocus PitStop Pro during preflight, these issues are most common:
- PDF version
- Output intent
- Color type
- Object too close to trim
- Spot color naming
- Font embedding
- Number of separations
- Ink coverage
According to a GWG survey, the most common issues with PDF files received by prepress from customers are as follows.
- The resolution of images is too low
- Use of incorrect or unwanted color spaces
- Bleed is missing
- Fonts are not embedded in the PDF
- There are problems with transparency
- The PDF file contains an incorrect number of spot colors
- There is an issue with overprint
- Total ink coverage is too high
- Incorrect ICC profiles are used
- The dimensions of the PDF do not match the requested size
- There are issues with flattened transparency
Common errors can be identified across the industry as a whole, or according to each print shop’s experience. Whatever the file issues are that are slowing down production, it’s best to find and fix them as they come in the door. This means moving preflight forward in the process. It can be done with automation. It can be done with software tools. It can be done with training. Production managers can decide what’s best for their business.