Reliable and cost-efficient print production with automation
Since 2016, Kolumbus GmbH has been producing mailings and other advertising products with various digital printing systems from Canon. The majority of customers are agencies. But also customers from other industries have their advertising materials printed by Kolumbus. In order to be able to produce as efficiently as possible, with minimal machine downtime and without errors, the Dietzenbach-based company has been using OneVisions workflow solution “Asura” very successfully since the beginning of this year.
“We receive print data in the form of PDFs, from various sources, which are not always completely correct. These errors sometimes lead to misprints, the printing systems do not run correctly and valuable time is lost. This results in costs that have not been budgeted for, and which in most cases we cannot invoice to our customers,” explains Christian Grulke, managing director and owner of Kolumbus GmbH in Dietzenbach (Germany). According to Christian Grulke, it was basically often the case that some problems only became apparent during printing or on the press. This then led to the operator having to investigate for himself why the printing system did not print. Sometimes the errors in the print data could only be detected in the printed copy if it looked different from the digital PDF on the monitor. “These production problems are simply a catastrophe, especially with regard to the short time frame we have to get the print jobs done in. We needed to solve the time problematic and reduce the cost arising from finding errors and having to re-print the jobs due to the errors”, recalls the Managing Director. So he set out to find a suitable upstream process that would automatically check and correct the PDF files and send them to one of Canon´s printing systems in a standardized way.
Until then, Kolumbus had used a solution for PDF corrections that was practically only used after the problem has been identified. With this solution they could solve the one or other problem by hand, but setting up a schedule was simply impossible. A job could run smoothly or lead to hours of processing and, therefore, downtime. For Christian Grulke a better solution was needed. So he found the solution “OneVision Asura”. His employees were already familiar with this software from other printing companies. OneVision is a leader in the field of workflow automation. The OneVision Asura solution offers many workflow features that are also used in offset and large format printing. But Kolumbus does not need these comprehensive features.
Dedicated solution for digital printers
“I had been thinking about OneVision´s solution for quite some time, and had the Canon suite for sheet-fed digital printing demonstrated to me in more detail at last year's Future Promotion Open House in Poing,” recalls Christian Grulke. “We installed this solution, which is specifically tailored to Canon printers, at the beginning of this year, got trained and instructed, then had a three- to four-week trial period, and then decided to go for it.”
At Kolumbus, the solution runs on its own virtual machine in prepress. In other words, hardware resources that were already available in-house are used. The software was installed by a Canon consultant and the operators were trained. “Everything went smoothly because the solution works with a very intuitive interface,” says Grulke.
Working with Hotfolders
In daily use, “OneVision Asura” is very easy to handle, because here Kolumbus works with hot folders. The print files delivered by customers are put into so-called print folders and appear a short time later in the output folder. Unless the data are corrupted. “Together with Canon, we have defined our requirements for PDFs so that we can work well with them on our imagePRESS systems and get the maximum print quality out of them,” explains Christian Grulke. This software settings are now set. It also includes that Kolumbus has defined a uniform color profile for the RIPs. This is done using the latest Fogra profile for the current Color Management Standard. As a result, the PDFs all come out of the RIP with a uniform standard, making it easier for the operator to work on the printing system because he no longer needs to intervene. This was also one of Kolumbus´ goals: to standardize the data that ultimately go into production.
Saving time and cost
Utilizing OneVision Asura has put Kolumbus at the comfort of working hotfolder-based. PDFs are being uploaded to the hotfolder, automatically checked and corrected. Afterwards, the files are either in the print folder or in the folder for PDFs that need to be reworked. “This feedback is of the greatest advantage to us,” explains Christian Grulke, “because this is the only way we can tell our customers, who have delivered these PDFs, in a timely and verified manner that they need to rework the corresponding PDF.” The Canon consultants worked with Kolumbus to determine how such a PDF should be output in the end, so that it gives the best results on the imagePRESS printing systems. Here the software processes all possible corrections. “However, there are limits”, Christian Grulke knows, “if, for example, a font is not embedded, the software cannot come up with it, if it is not on the server, for example. In this case, the software notifies us that a correction is necessary, and we then send this to the customer: “Please embed the font, or send us the font, whatever.” Another cause of errors, which cannot be solved easily, but which, according to Christian Grulke, does occur from time to time, is that an image resolution is not high enough. Here, the software cannot simply upscale the image; you have to add a new image with higher resolution. Also, sometimes you have a PDF with many layers and with a large data volume that slows down and delays the printing process. “We can then work that out,” says Christian Grulke, who is pleased and draws a positive conclusion overall: “For us, using OneVision Asura has a great advantage, because it automates the checking and normalization of the PDFs. This saves us time. These time savings are the main factor that gives us a very short Return on Investment (ROI). As already mentioned earlier, we could not charge this to our customers before. After the test phase we assume that this is also the case.”
After the three months that this solution has been in use at Kolumbus, the company is already experiencing less machine downtime and errors.
Author: Andrea Köhn
Translated from German. Published in Print & Produktion 05-06/2020