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Real time savings with online approval

Friday, 31 October 2003
By Print 21 Online Article

It was only a matter of time before David Graphics in Sydney moved its consultative approval process for new products online. According to Michael Ditchett, technical development manager, the potential for speeding up the process and facilitating the participation of everyone from the designer to the printer at the earliest possible stage in the development cycle, attracted his attention over two years ago. For about a year David Graphics has been trialling two systems. It has now settled on Real Time Image, the San Francisco-based proofing and product approval system.

Ian Bain, sales manager; CyraChrome, Charlie Waye, RealTime Co-ordinator; David Graphics, Steven Stein, director of customer support; RealTime US, Michael Ditchett, technical development manager; David Graphics.

“I knew there were time and money savings to be made by eliminating all the back and forwards with proofs and couriers. It just makes sense to move the approval process online,” he said.

In one of the first installations of Real Time Image in the country, agent CyraChrome brought out Steven Stein, director of customer support, to get the system up and running while delivering high level training to David Graphics and one of its major customers. It is now online and Ditchett in turn is currently training other customers in the use and benefits of online product development and approval.

Real Time Image is one of the leading collaborative proofing and remote approval products on the market. Its clever technology, Pixels-On-Demand, is an image streaming system that allows huge graphic files to be easily opened over the internet, often faster than could be done from your own hard disk. (The same patented streaming technology is used in the medical field for transferring CR, MRI and CT scan data for remote viewing and diagnosis).

The streaming technology facilitates multiple users and allows them to collaborate on every stage of a product’s development, by letting them have access in real time to the original, full-resolution production files. This has implications for the whole process. For instance, the printer can be brought into the process right from the start, therefore able to advise on the best way of producing the job. It also gives the product manager absolute control over the whole process and eliminates the need for multiple proofs and the consequent interminable courier delays.

Participants have access to every detail, no matter how slight. The legal department can scrutinise the required text, the die-cutting designers can check that the box is going to fit, the printer can even check the trapping, all with pixel level resolution files.

No special hardware is required either, the files are accessed through a normal browser via the David Graphics’ website where registered individuals are issued a password in order to view the job. In David Graphic’s case these files are currently stored at RTI’s servers in the US, but within weeks the company will be installing a server at its Rosebery premises.

According to Ditchett, using online approval has massively shortened the typical product packaging development cycle. “We’ve saved up to six weeks with one product, getting product onto the shelves well ahead of schedule. This means the customer has an opportunity to gain that much extra revenue, which can be quite significant.”

There are now approximately 350 Real Time Image customers around the world, facilitating the operation of over 150,000 users. Among its graphic arts customers are such large printers as RR Donnelly and Quebecor World in the US and leading publishers such as Haymarket in the UK.

According to Les Bovenlander, Real Time Image’s Australasian representative, using the system can bring tremendous added value to companies. “The value is in ’time to market’ for products, whether they be printed books and magazines or toys packed in boxes with high graphic content,” he said.

“We have many customers in our region who are expanding their businesses either nationally, regionally or internationally, and they are quoting figures of three days less in production times for magazines and up to three weeks less in production times for packaging products.”

David Graphics is a case in point, producing much of its flexo and offset files for printers in Melbourne, Taiwan, Thailand, and New Zealand. The need to have everyone concerned sign off on the job before the production of final chemical or digital proofs is integral to shortening the production cycle. It also slashes the cost of the approval process.

According to Michael Ditchett, as far as David Graphics is concerned, Real Time Image sits somewhere between a value-added service to the customers and being a revenue generator. It certainly reduces the number of proofs required in the process but he believes it will take a long time before the final high-resolution proof is made redundant.

“Digital proofing is moving very slowly, especially in flexo. In offset it’s a different matter. I don’t see Real Time eliminating the final proof, but it will get rid of all of the intermediate ones. And that has to be good for everyone,” he said.

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