A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Your Job’s Journey Through the Print Shop
Each job that enters Master Print is handled like the one-of-a-kind job that it is. While there may be similarities in size, color, fold, or layout, each job is unique and is treated as such.
Every department in the shop takes great care to plan and execute each job. It’s a little bit like a restaurant, in that each order is specific and must be delivered in a timely manner. These are the steps that your job must take from initiation to completion.
Your sales consultant is the first person you should discuss your job with. Each aspect of the job will need to be planned properly to ensure that there are no surprises in development—whether in capabilities or cost. Our sales consultants understand the shop’s capabilities, so they can help you plan the most cost effective way to produce your best work.
Our estimating team uses cutting edge technology to account for every action that will be performed while producing your job. They calculate the cost that each department will incur, while also taking into consideration any efficiencies that can be taken advantage of. The estimators also work with each salesperson to apply discounts that are available for our customers.
If the shop is like a restaurant, our account managers are the service staff. Each job is in their care while it is being produced. Account managers follow each job through every department and make sure that there are no issues. They are the link between the customer and the shop and manage all customer communication. Account managers are just as knowledgeable as the sales team and can answer questions that arise (or find the answers!).
The production department plans each job and how it will run on the press. They take into account the size of each sheet necessary and how to fit each job onto the master sheet that will run through the press. The production department also plans which press will be the best fit. (We have many different types of presses at different sizes, so they can accommodate a variety of sizes and job requirements.)
The prepress department handles the actual digital files that will be printed. Prepress operators must match each job to the appropriate layout for the press it will run on. They also take care of any modifications necessary, such as color correction, fixing bleeds where possible, and accounting for creep.
Proofing has changed dramatically in the last 15-20 years. Instead of multiple paper proofs, most jobs can now be proofed digitally with PDF workflows. For jobs with complex folds, multiple signatures, or exact color matches, it’s still a good idea to get a hard copy proof to ensure that everything matches your expectations.
Platemaking (or Direct to Press)
If you remember, offset lithography uses printing plates to transfer the image of the job to be printed. For most traditional presses, we use a platemaker to burn the image into specially treated metal plates that then fit on each color station of the press. For our digital press, the images are sent directly to the press, which burns its own plates inside the press and is then ready to print. (Ask your salesperson about our variable data capabilities with the digital presses!)
The press room is what most people think of when they hear the words “print shop.” Instead of one room, we actually have multiple large bays across several buildings that house all of our press equipment. Our presses range from the digital presses to “small” envelope presses and web press to the larger 40” presses that take up entire bays. Remember, our 6-color presses typically include additional ink stations for including a PMS color or special coating. Our press operators and their assistants manage the loading, setup, registration calibration, and ink and water balance for every job that they print—sometimes all at the same time! We also have quality checks performed on each job in every department to ensure accurate and quality printing.
The bindery is often overlooked, but is critical to completing each job. The reason? No job is ready immediately off the press! Every job being printed must have additional marks like trim marks, colorbars, and registration marks while it runs on the press, so at the very least those need to be cut off. We have industrial paper cutters that trim down to a hair’s width if necessary. Beyond cutting, the bindery houses our folding machines, saddle stitch and perfect binding machinery, and the department also includes any work that must be done by hand to complete the job (such as collating, inserting, padding, drilling holes, shrink wrapping, and more).
The final stop in the shop is the shipping department. Before the job leaves it goes through one final quality control check. Shipping accepts each job in its boxed and packaged form and prepares it to be sent to its final destination, whether that is directly into your hands, to a mail house, or to our fulfillment center. The shipping department manages in-house delivery drivers and their local delivery routes and handles all outbound shipping through our freight partners such as UPS and FedEx with tracking numbers.
The next time you hold your final project in your hands, you can picture all the people who have had a hand in making it great, just for you!