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Cutting Down Turnaround Time

(February 2006) posted on Wed Feb 08, 2006

Advice from production guidelines to dealing with e-mail.

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By Stephen Beals

At the same time, it's important to know exactly what the
question is before you ask. For instance, how often has this
happened in your shop: The production technician says a font
is missing. The CsR calls the customer and says a font is missing.
The customer says, "I did a collect for output so they can't
be missing." The CsR then calls the production manager who
talks to the technician who says, "Well, actually, he used Mortimer
sans with a bold style applied and there is no Mortimer
sans Bold." so the production manager calls the CsR who calls
the customer, and on and on. and of course in all this time no
one is actually getting any production done.

It's a matter of effective communication. Whoever is actually
talking to the customer needs to understand precisely
what the problem is"?and what must be done to correct it.

How e-mail can help and hinder

If your shop is like most, you rely heavily on e-mail to keep
things moving through production. There should be a consistent company-wide policy for writing and sending e-mails,
particularly those going to customers. Yes, e-mail can be a
great automator and aide in cutting down turnaround time,
and it has the added benefit of leaving a paper trail. But it
can have a negative side as well. Some folks really aren't
all that proficient handling their e-mail account (e-mails
get "lost," are simply not read, or are inadvertently thrown
away), plus it can allow people to see information they are
not supposed to see.

Keep in mind that e-mail originating from your employees
represents your company, and you have a right and responsibility
to make sure it's being done properly. For example, you
may want to insist that employees use a spell checker before
they send an e-mail, and append all of their contact information
and appropriate disclaimers to each e-mail they send out.
E-mail can become a legal document in the case of a problem
with a print job, an employee, or a customer.

And although you do want to generally limit the number
of e-mails, I would also advocate one topic per e-mail. People
generally read e-mails by skimming. If you have more than one
topic to cover in an e-mail, make that very clear at the outset, or
send two e-mails.

Staying on time

Of course, many shops will also say that they could really
speed up production if only they invested in more computer
horsepower. The truth is, however, that today's print shops
are not late with jobs because their computers are slow. They
are late with their jobs because they have not managed the
production well, have overcommitted their available resources,
or they have not held the customer responsible for bad or
incomplete files. Following these few tips will go much further
toward staying "on time" than the latest computer hardware
will ever do.

Stephen Beals (, in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.