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Is Hybrid Workflow Really "Hybrid" Anymore?

With the rise in prominence of digital printing, the concept of “hybrid workflow” emerged as a way for printers to effectively leverage digital within the confines of their existing offset print workflows. Have print businesses caught on to hybrid workflow? Bryan Yeager gives us an update.

By Bryan Yeager
Published: July 18, 2011


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Bryan Yeager is a Senior Consultant for InfoTrends’ Business Development Strategies and Production Workflow Solutions Consulting Services. Bryan covers a number of existing and emerging software and technology markets that enable cross-media marketing communications. He is the author of several in-depth Ultimate Guide reports that span across a variety of software categories, and provides insight through research, analysis, and consulting. He can be contacted via e-mail at bryan_yeager@infotrends.com or via Twitter (@bryanyeager).



By David L. Zwang on Jul 18, 2011


I fully believe that many printers may be operating with hybrid printing technologies. However, while most have their business functions integrated, my field experience leads me to believe that for the most part, they operate digital and offset in silo'd environments for much of the production part of their operation.

It will be interesting to see how these new closer relationships between offset and digital print vendors affect this state, and if and how they offer more integrated production solutions....



By Chuck Gehman on Jul 18, 2011

Good article Brian. As one of the people who advocated Hybrid Workflow almost ten years ago, it is great to see this coming to fruition. EFI arguably invented it, from a product perspective at least, back in April 2002, with the creation of their Velocity OneFlow system.

Unfortunately, for a lot of printers, the same challenges exist that I briefly discussed in this GATFWorld article back in 2004, http://bit.ly/nlyBEm. Back then, options were very limited. Today, for companies who are tech savvy, there are many great solutions. You still need to be tech savvy, though, or your best bet would be to silo things the way Dave Zwang just suggested.

One of the reasons so many commercial offset printers have gravitated to HP Indigo, for example, is because it "drops right into" the existing workflow staffers are comfortable with for offset, providing robust and flexible workflow paths.


By David L. Zwang on Jul 18, 2011

Just so there is not confusion.. I am NOT recommending that silo'd production is the best production solution. In fact, any silo'd workflow by its nature/design increases costs. However, it does work in the absence of a good Hybrid solution.


By Jim Rosenthal on Jul 19, 2011

I think there needs to be a better definition of "Hybrid" workflow. If you define a Hybrid Workflow clearly as putting both Digital and Offset and even wide format through the same "system" that then has the ability to push jobs to different devices and repurpose files efficiently and accurately. We view it as "ROOM ON STEROIDS" The major issue that I see is the downstream connections - digital output devices such as Nexpress's, Fiery's, etc all use different protocols and have to re-rip files once they get to them again and in some cases even re-impose them - leaving room for issues. Once this is eliminated, we can have true hybrid integration


By Bryan Yeager on Jul 25, 2011

All, thank you for your thoughtful comments, and my apologies for the delay as I was on vacation last week when this was published.

I agree to a certain extent that digital and offset are silo'd, although it certainly depends on the print applications being produced. Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes it can't be avoided.

In terms of business functions being integrated, there is still a challenge there, especially with commercial printers operating older MIS solutions that may not be able to adequately account for digital printing services. Plenty of workarounds are developed, but as the churn of technology continues, hopefully this will change.

Jim, you bring up a good point about an issue that still exists downstream. My belief is that once the Adobe PDF Print Engine (and, more broadly, native PDF rendering/processing) is adopted on a larger scale, particularly for digital printing, these issues will be reduced and hopefully eliminated. The industry is getting closer but there are still some gaps to fill.


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