In response, many have turned to web to print (W2P) storefronts that provide convenient, self service ordering for print buyers; prepress automation for faster turnarounds; and digital equipment for more efficient short runs.
Maximizing efficiency from order placement, through production, through order delivery is the goal. Of course, a key question must be asked about any web to print solution: how do you bridge the gap between online and offline to move orders from the online store into the print production workflow?
Four Web to Print Workflow Options
There are four options that answer the W2P workflow question: export/import, vendor’s with benefits, custom programming, and a new breed of inexpensive, quickly deployed special purpose apps.
Export/import involves prepress or production staff exporting order files and data from the store and importing it into a production application. This method is suitable for small volume web to print stores, but can be labor intensive and costly as order volume builds. Aleyant Pressero provides a built-in export feature.
For web to print storefronts with higher order volumes or competitive price pressures, a more automated order workflow approach is required. That’s where vendor cooperation, custom programming, or special purpose apps can streamline the process, saving time and labor.
Vendor cooperation can be a bit like herding cats. It’s difficult (even if making a great YouTube video). This approach requires two or more vendors with complementary software to work together to provide their joint customers with a seamless flow of orders and data from the online store into the production environment.
With over two dozen integrations, Aleyant is in the forefront of working with other vendors including print industry Management Information Systems (MIS) such as CRC Information Systems, EFI Pace MIS XML, Palmart, Presswise, Printers Plan, Printers Software, PrinterStar, PrintPointLEADER, PrintPoint Australia, etc.
Custom programming is an option for those with “home grown” production systems. Similar to vendor cooperation, but requires the print provider to absorb the costs (and time) of programming. The big advantage is something that is precisely tailored to the needs. Aleyant’s API for XML Web Services provides print providers with the utmost flexibility.
Special Purpose Apps
Special purpose apps run as an Apple, Windows, or Linux application. They are small, nimble, easy and quick to install. They have a single purpose: grab files from the online store on a set schedule, filter them based on product or production needs, and push them into one or more hotfolders in the production network stream. These apps don’t do accounting, invoicing, scheduling, or shipping. They are the opposite of a Swiss Army knife. Instead, they are a single purpose tool that focus on one thing: getting the files into the workflow quickly and efficiently.
Orders that need imposition can be sent to an imposition application hot folder for example. Files can be filtered by extension type and placed into file specific hotfolders for further processing or manual prepress. Files can be auto-sorted and sent to a preflighting hotfolder while other can be sent to a RIP’s hotfolder are other examples.
For mid-sized to smaller shops, the special purpose apps can be very cost effective, setup in a few hours, and free up the prepress or production staff to work on higher value activities.
Aleyant Automated Workflow Integrator is a desktop application that can be easily tailored to pull down, filter and sort files from the Pressero storefronts.
We’ll take a closer look at the Automated Workflow Integrator in a later blog.