Magazine Article


Output Productivity Key to Digital Lab Workflows

Integrating the printer into the workflow was straightforward. Printmakers uses the built-in color management tools in DP2 to manage color, plus Kodak ColorFlow Software to calibrate the computer workstations used for color correction and proofing. Some jobs, like 16 x 20 wedding prints, are still sent to the lab's other printer, a Kodak Professional LED II Printer 20R. But with the help of its DP2 software, Printmakers is able to match the output of the two printers perfectly.

Rodrigues also loves the RP 30 printer's output quality. "Our customers are very happy," he says.

Digital Output Drives Growth
On the other side of the country, PCL West, a medium-sized lab that serves commercial as well as wedding and portrait customers, has found that investing in digital technology pays off. Investing in high-speed digital printers has accelerated that payoff.

Based in Gardena, CA, PCL West serves a market that spans Northern and Southern California, Arizona and Hawaii. About 30 percent of the lab's total volume is digital, and digital technology is key to the lab's plan to increase sales. "Because of digital technology, we can serve photographers outside our geographical region," notes Victor Fujikake, who founded the lab 13 years ago. "It removes a key barrier to growth." PCL West also has found answers to its digital questions in a Kodak lab digitization solution. Fujikake says he always exercises care when he invests in new digital equipment. For example, he didn't embrace the ProShots System in its earliest iteration. Instead, he waited until it was completely digital-i.e., able to print digitally instead of printing from negatives. The ProShots System's business has grown and become a large portion of digital products.

For photographers who shoot film, PCL West uses an HR 500 scanner to digitize the images. The lab splices negatives using a Source One lab splicer, punch edits on the Hicks Film editor, and then feeds them into the HR 500 scanner using its Kodak Professional HR Film Scanner Long Roll Accessory for digitizing in SBA mode.

After they're color-corrected, digital image files are sent to the lab's DP2 software. "DP2 is an extremely versatile system," Fujikake says. "We use it to queue jobs, crop them and prepare them for output. In many cases, it lets us prep images without having to go through a huge process, such as manually preparing files in Photoshop software." PCL West also uses DP2 software to create digital products that include borders and montages.

Another benefit of DP2 is that it lets the lab integrate other pieces of its digital workflow. "With this software, our other equipment is plug and play," Fujikake says. The lab also plans to add Digital ICE Software to its set-up to further automate image processing. For color management, the lab uses Kodak ColorFlow Software to profile its devices.

Faster Prints Helps Bottom Line
For print production, PCL West has relied on two Kodak Professional LED Printers and a Durst Lambda printer. Then last year, the lab became the first in the country to install an RP 30 laser printer. The difference, Fujikake says, is significant: "With the RP 30, throughput is two-and-a-half to three times faster. The prints come out already cut, sorted and ready for the final QC."

Fujikake also praises the quality of the new printer's output. "It's every bit as good as analog," he says.

The new printer also contributes to the lab's bottom line by reducing labor costs. "Employees had to travel to the opposite side of our 20,000 square-foot facility to process the printed rolls," Fujikake says. "But since installing the RP 30, going this distance is no longer necessary. I am paying much less overtime now. The RP 30 has eliminated Saturday overtime work by the paper processing department during the busy season," Fujikake notes.

Faster output also helps turn around orders more quickly. "Before we installed the ProShots System, it took five days to deliver jobs. Today, thanks to our entire digital workflow, 48 hours from invoicing to delivery is an ample amount of time."

Last but not least, Fujikake says his staff loves the effect the RP 30 has on their work. "I've got a terrific team in this lab," he says. "Many of my employees have been with me for 12 years. And the RP 30 has been a real morale booster. It helps us move work more quickly, and that inspires everyone to push harder."

The digital transition has not been without its difficulties. But the final critical pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place. For labs looking for quality printing at production speeds to keep up with the rest of their high-efficiency digital workflow, it appears the search is finally over. Digital output no longer is the weak link.