Monday, January 11, 2010

Mass customization for print production

Print production is most cost-effective when it is standardized. However a standardized production process doesn’t allow the flexibility to meet unique customer needs since tuning production for each customer quickly increases costs. The solution to this dilemma lies in the manufacturing philosophy of "mass customization."

Mass customization combines the efficiencies of mass production with the flexibility of custom manufacturing and is based on the notion of customizing what’s visible and standardizing what’s invisible to the customer. For example, in the automobile manufacturing industry – Volkswagen, with only four standard platforms, manufactures over 30 different vehicles. Amazingly, the Volkswagen Beetle and Audi TT sit on the same chassis as the Volkswagen Jetta, Golf, Audi A3, Skoda, and SEAT offerings in Europe. The secret is that the parts the customer doesn’t see are standard across the different car models but the parts that the customer sees are unique to each model. Translated into printing terms, this means the printer standardizes on the few, key, presswork characteristics that provide maximum visible customization from the print-buyer perspective. These characteristics are then pre-tested and integrated into the production workflow. When the sales representative discusses the project with the client, one of the standardized (to the printer) packages can then be offered as an alternative “custom-tailored” solution for the buyer.

The key to success is in developing, pre-testing, and standardizing options rather than waiting for a specific customer request or experimenting on live jobs.

Here are just a few thought-starters for the kinds of standards that can be established within a multiple-standards print shop to customize presswork to better meet individual print buyer's needs:

1) 175 lpi GRACoL7. Standard commodity presswork.
2) 175 lpi at Dmaxx. This is presswork run at higher-than-standards solid ink densities (about 30+ points) in order to provide more saturated color.
3) FM/stochastic screening to provide near-contone fidelity and photographic detail.
4) C(2M)YK. This is CMYK with an alternate magenta ink hue. Changing the Magenta ink between two different hues allows favoring intense reds and oranges or blues and purples.
5) Hi-Fi via a ink set that uses more than the four process colors in order to expand the color gamut for better image fidelity or to replace spot colors through more effective screen tint builds.

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