First-Ever Service Provider Certification Awarded to SoftStream by Cary Sherburne September 30, 2003 -- WhatTheyThink had an opportunity to spend time with Mary Lee Schneider, President of R.R. Donnelley's Premedia Technologies, during her visit to Graph Expo in Chicago this week. In the wake of the company's landmark achievement of SWOP certification for its SoftStream soft proofing solution, Schneider shared both her insight relative to the importance of the overriding Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) theme being promulgated on the show floor and the latest on Donnelley's Premedia group. R. R. Donnelley's new ShareStream soft-proofing solution received Specifications for Web Offset Publications (SWOP) certification, marking the first time the industry group has certified a soft-proofing service from a company that provides integrated premedia and print services. This SWOP certification, previously only achieved by equipment and software providers, validates that RR Donnelley's new soft-proofing services meet the highest industry standards for color accuracy and consistency. Schneider remarked that supply chain management has been slow to come to the printing industry as compared to other industries, and that historically, purchasing print has required customers to navigate a number of silos to complete a project. “Think about how people have traditionally bought print,” she said. “In dealing with creative resources, prepress, print and binding, the buyer often has to jump from one silo to another, increasing the opportunity for error and seldom having a single point of contact when problems occur.” She believes that the current difficult economy has done much to raise buyers' awareness of the amount of internal resources consumed just managing the process. “Buyers would like to have less resources minding the vendors,” said Schneider. “Process automation in our industry, and the integration promised by the CIP4 initiative and JDF-enabled workflows, will help meet that buyer requirement.” Schneider continued, “SWOP certification of our ShareStream soft proofing solution is an important achievement for us, and part of our ongoing effort to make the print buying process easier for our customers.” In April of 2002, R. R. Donnelley established its first Digital Solutions Center as a centralized preflighting service to supply print ready files to plate rooms in multiple locations in order to help publishers better manage their advertising assets. A second facility was added in July of this year to support facilities producing longer run applications for catalogers, retailers and directory publishers and the like. For Donnelley, this is part of the implementation of a common manufacturing platform and an integrated approach to the customer. ShareStream soft proofing is integrated into the company's overall workflow to help both customers and Donnelley's production staff work more efficiently. Also within its common platform, the company offers three key solutions that help customers better manage their digital assets, a key capability in an increasingly cross-media world: * Image Merchant for catalogers and retailers currently supports 1,200 customers and has a million assets under management. Image Merchant uses WAVE Corp.'s Media Bank as the underlying digital asset manager. * Donnelly manages more than 80,000 advertising assets through its Ad Spring solution * And a lighter version of Image Merchant is available to creatives and photographers which allows for rapid Web deployment of digital photography as part of the creative cycle, with a page or fax notification to art directors and other stakeholders when new assets have been posted. Schneider says it is not uncommon for a 15-day cycle time in the creative process to be reduced to two days using this enhanced process. “Our achievement of SWOP certification for ShareStream is a key milestone for us and a critical to the success of the common platform we have been implementing,” says Schneider. “We care deeply about calibration in the proofing process. For us, a proof can't be just ‘good enough.' Our customers must be able to rely on consistent performance, and know that these soft proofs are truly representative of the output that will be delivered.” Schneider concluded our discussion by saying, “I believe we are really in the third generation of the digital transition in our industry as reflected by what's being shown at Graph Expo and what we are seeing in our own business. First we began implementing digital processes, then we added workflow to connect those processes. This third wave is a realization that it doesn't work to automate a bad workflow just because it's the way we have always done things, and we must re-examine everything from a fresh perspective. You can have the best technology in the world, but if you don't adequately assess the impact of that technology on the accompanying people and processes, it simply won't work in today's challenging environment.”