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Workflow Software Helps Streamline Production Process



It can be stated that with digital imaging, the more sophisticated the technology gets, the easier it is for users to achieve optimum output. That's due in huge part to both digital imaging hardware and the software, which drive the digital workflow all the way from image capture through output. Suppliers of image management workflow solutions continue to meet the challenges posed by new equipment and the evolving needs of system operators.

Jim Cheyne reports that 80% of the orders that Pro Photo handles today involve some kind of digital product.

Owners, management and staff of NC TriColor Imaging in front of their new building in Garner, NC.

Dan Wilmoth, CEO of United Color Lab, getting a print from one of his Polielettronica Laserlabs.

Kodak projects that by the end of next year, a majority of all portrait and social photographers will be using a digital camera in their professional work, while up to 40% of their images will be captured digitally. Keeping this in mind, labs must be ready to accommodate this growing need to accept digital files into their workflow. Properly installed, a successful digital workflow streamlines the movement of digital files from station to station, input to output by managing the flow of those files in the most efficient manner, based on the capabilities of the system. To users, its presence should be invisible, except when measured in terms of increased productivity.

Workflow software solutions allow output providers to lower costs, boost productivity and explore new markets for the capabilities of their equipment. And, by giving system operators more creative control over the accuracy of prints, they've helped minimize costly waste and downtime, which once limited the viability of digital print services.

Keeping up with current technology trends and business needs in the pro lab business is an ever-present challenge. But Jim Cheyne, of Pro Photo in Lakeland, FL, has managed to constantly differentiate his business from the competition by keeping up with technology and offering cutting-edge new professional products. Cheyne is always working to improve quality and, at the same time, add new products for photographers to sell. "Modular digital systems are helping us do both," he says.

Cheyne reports that 80% of the orders that Pro Photo handles today involve some kind of digital product—a sports card or magazine cover, or a wedding image blended into a digital template of flowers. To produce those orders, Pro Photo uses Kodak DP2 software, three HR 500 scanners, CRT color printers and two Kodak Professional LED II printers as well as an RR 30 and RP 30 printer.

"We've developed a lot of trust over the years with our Kodak sales representative—without his help, we would probably be way behind in our transition to digital technology," says Cheyne.

For sports cards, Pro Photo scans images on one of three Kodak Professional HR 500 scanners, combines the images with digital templates, and outputs the composites on one of two CRT printers. "The CRT printers are a vital part of our sports card business," says Cheyne.

For the lab's portrait/wedding business, Cheyne depends on the Kodak Professional LED printers. "The LED printers are very faithful and very sharp," he says. "They produce some of the best digital printing I've seen anywhere." This gives Pro Photo the ability to output digital files up to 20 x 30 inches.

While 80% of all the jobs at Pro Photo involve some kind of digital technology, few orders involve only digital production. "If an order includes both a straight package and a digital sports card, for example, we will split the order," explains Cheyne. "We will print the package optically and produce the sports card digitally."

With its mix of digital and optical products, as well as third-party software, Pro Photo illustrates the advantages of a modular digital workflow. The lab can add new digital products and integrate them into the workflow as demand for digital services grows, without abandoning its optical production systems.

The lab also plans to increase its data storage capability with a larger RAID array for online storage of "live" jobs and a DVD jukebox to allow nearline retrieval long after the images are purged from the RAID.

Turning a Business Into A Hot Commodity
NC TriColor Imaging is a professional wholesale photo lab serving independent photographers on the state and national level. "Our home base is in Raleigh, NC, located between the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and the famous Outer Banks," says NC TriColor's Rob Newbanks.

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