Monday, November 30, 2009

Automation Requires Standards

It is impossible to automate any task without standards. In the printing industry, many smaller printers have been trapped in thinking they had to be a job shop and take any job that came in the door, no matter what. This type of thinking has allowed web-based printers such as Vistaprint and Printingforless to carve out a good business because their business model is built around standardization for automation.

The printing industry has a number of standards already in place, but it is up to individual companies to use the standards and require their customers to follow them. Two of the most important standards are GRACoL 7 and G7. These are standards that many printers are implementing to make sure that the printing meets the requirements of customer and the printing quality is consistent.

One good overview of the subject can be found at:

More specific information can be found at:
G7 Process:

In addition to those standards, you also need to be aware of the PDF and JDF standards. The standards set by the Ghent Workflow Group ( are what are used by GRACoL and G7.

Interestingly, the GRACoL standards at basically the same standards relating to customer files and PDF files that CPrint® International ( has been promoting for years. The “big” printers and those who work with high end color for agencies have been promoting these standards to customers for a number of years.

Printers who institute standards and then require their customers to follow them will be able to automate in the coming years and see their sales per employee rise dramatically.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,

    Andrew Field from PFL here. Thanks for the mention.

    You are correct that standardization in the digital files that enter the manufacturing process makes automation easier. But here at PrintingForLess, we actually take in a far wider variety of file formats than most printers. In fact, it is how we got our start online in 1999. We made a big deal of the fact that we would accept MS Publisher files, which at the time were only RGB. We developed some proprietary tools for getting non-traditional file formats into print-ready PDFs.

    To this day, we don't impose standards on our customers' files. We let them submit whatever they want, and we take it from there, converting to CMYK, adding bleeds, adjusting panel sizes, etc. This means that people in small businesses don't need to be digital file experts in order to get a professional quality printed product.

    By contrast, many of our online competitors accept a very narrow range of files, like tiff, pdf, eps and jpeg.

    Once we get files from our customers, we process them into very standardized files, adhering to incredibly detailed criteria which we developed internally (and review/update every six months.) This lets us run a highly efficient manufacturing operation, while ensuring consistent, high quality results.