Forum 2018: Finding Ways to Win the “Press Approval Match Game”

Forum 2018 Press Approval Match Game Byron Pendleton
Byron Pendleton

Forum 2018 session “Press Approval Match Game,” taking place Tuesday afternoon and co-chaired by Jessica Harrell of Anderson & Vreeland Inc and Ellen Farrell of DuPont Advanced Printing, detailed the typical complications that lead to miscommunication and how to deal with them. The co-chairs opened the session by explaining three goals:

  • To explore avenues to avoid pitfalls and eliminate creative intent on press
  • To establish mutual expectations between the brand owner and printer on deliverables
  • To define objective measurement and reporting, and utilize instrumentation to ease the approval process

In the lead-off presentation, Byron Pendleton, president of The ALC Group, discussed the importance of understanding brand expectation for the final product, and if the printer has the ability to produce that expectation. He emphasized process control for meeting and managing brand owner expectations, as well as the need to ask a few questions like, “What’s the final objective and final target?”

Byron touched on the importance of process control with a program like Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST).

“A controlled process is the key for building predictability. The first step is to identify a standard set of press conditions, and then optimize, calibrate and characterize to that stated set of conditions, whether it’s FIRST, GRACoL, SWOP or even a printer’s specific set of conditions,” he explained. “This process is the foundation to building predictability and trust with the brand.”

Once anilox rolls, stickyback, ink (at a certain viscosity), plate material and ink sequence have been identified, it’s time to build a press characterization to establish the standard for prepress and the printers. The plates can then be put on press with the understanding of how a product should print compared to a profiled proof. With solids, solid overprints and gray balance, the press operator can use spectral measurements to evaluate the print and determine if the process is in check.

Forum 2018 Press Approval Match Game Scott McLeod
Scott McLeod

“Running to these benchmarked numbers should give clarity to our process. Many printers I know run to the numbers before picking up a proof for visual sign off,” he said. “Being consistent on press takes a disciplined approach to the process.”

Byron also emphasized the importance of monitoring the process, including visual scores, to help keep variables more consistent. This, in turn, can help schedule maintenance, monitor inks, with prepress and plates, to see differences in press operators, and aid in continuous improvement.

Scott McLeod, production manager at Transcontinental Robbie, spoke next, detailing common pitfalls—like unclear expectations and capabilities, and execution that does not meet expected outcome—and solutions for the press approval process. First and foremost, communication is key, especially for printers.

We need to have, as part of our internal processes, a method of getting clarity on what the customer’s expectations and desires are, Scott urged. Often, getting this information up front helps us know how we can to contribute to the end result. And the way to do that? Communicate.

“Communication is the key to success—that’s literally the first sentence in the book!” he exclaimed, referring to FIRST.

Printers should also understand their own needs for the pressrun and get agreement on those elements. In addition, having an acceptance document is a good idea to provide the customer with the terms of the approval and make sure the proof meets their expectations.

When it comes time for approval, having the right people available can increase effectiveness—the person attending the approval should be involved with the project long term and/or have authority to do the approval. There should also be a protocol in place to handle any instances of deviation.

No one ever intends for a press approval to be a trying process, so there is no reason to not have a plan in place to manage the process if it devolves into a stressful situation. Much in the same way we develop an emergency plan—we never desire to have an emergency, but we have a plan should the situation arise.

Forum 2018 Press Approval Match Game Dan Uress
Dan Uress

Dan Uress, chief technology officer and founder of Colorware USA Inc, was the final speaker for the session. Dan relayed a common occurrence he observes when dealing with clients: They use their eyes first, and their measurements or readings second. Rattling off a list of challenges to a successful visual match—including at a personal level retinal fatigue, color memory and blindness, lighting conditions and even stress level, and at a human level age, gender and opinion—he came to a blunt realization with the audience: No two people in the Ballroom at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown see color exactly the same.

The way to overcome this is to use objective tools to increase agreement. Dan offered a number of ways objective tools help:

  • Unbiased measurements under controlled conditions
  • Confirm proof accuracy, assure “contract” quality
  • Monitor important brand colors
  • Provide press adjustment guidance and capability
  • Compare multiple measurements from a long run
  • Report conformance internally and externally

“I’m not here to tell you not to use your eyes,” he quipped, the screen behind him displaying a color booth, “but when you do, please view responsibly.”