By John Giles October 20, 2003 -- A scary thought occurred to me at Graph Expo. Here were hundreds of printing companies looking at new technology that should allow them to be more productive and profitable, but the success hinged on the whimsof their prepress/design staff. Why was that a worry to me? I had several printers tell me stories about how their companies weren't taking advantage of automated workflows and PDF because “my designer said they could do it faster manually.” They told me that automated trapping software in their workflow wasn't as fast as their designer, or the automated preflight programs couldn't check the file as quickly as their prepress operator. They said making changes in PDF files was just too hard to do and you had to have the native file. When pressed, the print owner could only share anecdotes they had from their staff as to why the new technology didn't work. They hadn't studied the issue or collected time; they had just taken the word of the operator that it didn't work. Forget they saw suppliers large and small using the products and other printers telling success stories. Their staff didn't want to use preflighting software, PDFs, or automated workflows, so they didn't. Thousands of dollars worth of software sits idle while the prepress/design staff manually prepares a file. The company was trying to change but employees weren't letting them. Technology works. You could see it at Graph Expo. Adobe was demonstrating PDF Transit. Markzware was showing the latest version of FlightCheck. EFI was demonstrating its Velocity. Heidelberg was spotlighting its Prinect Printready System. Xerox was showing its FreeFlow products in action and Canon was exhibiting its latest output devices. Almost every booth had something that made a printer's life easier, especially if you compared the products to how we did things 10 years ago. So what is the solution? How can printing companies avoid being held hostage by their technical employees? Owners and manager have to learn the technology . Vendors offer a wide variety of training opportunities. They also provide demonstrations where you can see exactly what is going to happen when you use a process. Owners and managers should network with others who are using the technology. Events such as Graph Expo, OnDemand, and other trade shows give you the opportunity to meet with others using the same software and equipment. PIA, NAPL and PrintImage International are just a few of the associations that printers can take advantage of to expand their network and increase their knowledge. Owners have to get technical themselves . Every owner should have access to the Internet. Is there something you are unsure about? You can find the answer on the Internet. Search engines such as google.com or yahoo.com. There are also forums and listserves that can provide owners with the latest technological information. Not sure about PDF files? Learn about them at www.pdfzone.com or www.planetpdf.com. Orders aren't being completed because of problems with InDesign or Quark? Check out the Adobe forums or visit the Quark forums at www.tek-tips.com. The information you need to be a good technology manager is only a few keystrokes away. Everyone on your management team needs to have at least some basic technology knowledge. Make sure you build a management team that has at least one person strong in prepress skills. Don't let one or more employees dictate your workflow because they don't want to learn a new task are resistant to change. It isn't your father's print shop any more. Make sure you are the one in charge.