Binary Graphics, Inc.

Preflight is Wrong

by John Knapp, Binary Graphics, Inc. Seattle
© 1997 Binary Graphics, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sorry Chuck! Charles Weger is a prepress consultant and friend of mine in Washington DC. I figure he is the one that coined the term preflight during a lecture in 1990 at a conference called Color Connections. When he worked at NASA he said they wouldn't launch a rocket without making sure it was ready. He used NASA's term to describe checking out client files before outputting film.

The concept makes perfect sense: Don't waste time and materials outputting files that you can't put on press. My problem is that I hear about people preflighting client files and simultaneously complaining about all the un-billed time in the Mac department.

Anyone that has been reading these articles or has heard one of my workflow lectures knows my approach. It has three parts, each designed to eliminate problems before they occur and make sure that by the time files get to the RIP, your success is assured. Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Tell the customer how to prepare their files and tell them exactly what they should send to the plant. Think about it next time somebody sends you a three color, 150 page manual created in WordPerfect for DOS.
  • Give your customer service people the tools and training they need to load disks and see if all the fonts and graphics are here. I call this step check-in. It occurs outside of the production department and takes about 5-10 minutes. Have them get the missing elements before the job enters production.
  • Tell your production operators how much time you quoted to finalize the files and create film. Before they get to work, have them confirm that their time budget is realistic. If it isn't, tell the customer why and let them decide to send a revised disk or pay you to fix it.

This approach works because it returns accountability to the customer and keeps the production people productive and on the clock. It creates a better educated customer that creates better disks. I don't know what NASA would call it but I call it good business.



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