For PhotoCraft, Inc., a leading provider of innovative retail graphics solutions, the decision to implement TWIST and ES sprung from the need to exert control over its workflow, simplify the premedia process, and slash production times.
Located in Beaverton, Oregon, the 20+ year old company is a digital grand-format powerhouse, with multiple grand format photo, inkjet and screen devices along with Indigo toner presses (developed by Indigo founder, Benny Landa).
“Historically we originated from a traditional photo lab, offset and screen color printing background, using a workflow that worked well for offset but did not lend itself to grand format,” explains Kevin S. Shahalami, director of operations, PhotoCraft Retail Graphics.
“We were looking for a solution to streamline our workflows, whether they were simple or complex,” he adds. “We wanted to build automation and consistency, set up online proofing and collaboration with clients, and streamline brand product management.”
The solution married DALIM SOFTWARE’s ES and Xinet, giving PhotoCraft an arsenal of capabilities to automate and serve clients. Xinet’s archiving, and asset management capabilities are tied to DALIM ES creative workflow capabilities.
The technology was installed December 2013, and has been up and running in production since March.
“It is a very powerful combination,” Shahalami notes. “Enduring 20% growth in the past six months requires arduous management of thousands of files. We would not have been able to handle the multitude of projects without these solutions. We would have had to turn away projects or go out of house.”
When Shahalami first arrived at PhotoCraft, the workflow in place was limited and old fashioned in how it handled production. “People were still processing files manually on their workstations,” he recalls. “With grand format devices, files can get very large—up to 1GB each. Since implementing ES and Xinet, jobs that would take us eight hours to process were reduced to two hours within the first two months of implementation.”
Capacity increased two-fold with almost the same number of people.
“Everyone is now utilizing the same workflows, and we are realizing the benefits of having the optimal tools in place,” says Shahalami. “This solution produces repeatable, accurate, and consistent PDF files which has helped us tremendously. Historically, creating all the variations of proofing low-res PDF files and high-res production files was time consuming. Almost all file routing and conversions were manual. Now it is all automated.”
With one-third of PhotoCraft’s jobs accomplished within 48 hours, turnaround speed is a critical piece. “We call these “dailies” —orders are placed in the morning, and the customer wants them shipped by 5pm,” says Shahalami. “Previously, we had difficulties getting the jobs through prepress in that amount of time. Now they are prepped, printed, packed and shipped on time.”
Plus, adds Shahalami, the shop is still 50% from full implementation. “While internally the workflow has been a sizable advancement for us, we are still testing it with external customers on a limited basis. There are pilot programs that we have implemented for clients that leverage the technology available. Between Xinet and DALIM SOFTWARE, there are so many options and we want to ‘right size’ the solution for each client. Not every client is the same.”
“For the pilot programs we are discovering our clients love to get a simple thumbnail from an email message, tap on it, see a larger image and approve it. With mobile devices, the tools of the future, they can do it via their phone or tablet. Some designers look at each image in detail, while purchasing agents like to wade through things pretty quickly,” Shahalami comments. “Eventually, we will also open the doors to the full collaborative tools set offered by ES and Xinet that lends itself to our client’s corporate goals of sharing files and creating automation while tying into multiple ERP systems. But for right now, it is tied to a simple automation approval and review process.”
Currently, the company is seeing most of the benefits in the premedia group, R&D, and the pressroom. “Six months from now, it will be a whole different model,” Shahalami says. “Redundancies will be removed. Tools for automation of data collection will help other operational units. The account services department currently has to collect, log, and marry data – that will become automated. We will also tie it into our two or three storefront solutions.”
To get the system up and running, PhotoCraft worked with Bay Digital in San Carlos, California. “They are the number one solution and service provider that I have met in this industry,” says Shahalami. “They were great to work with throughout the installation, training, and implementation process. We did not have a premedia manager in place when the solutions were installed, so we met with Bay Digital and mapped out what we envisioned. They built and tested the workflows, met with our team, and offered us a present and future look. They provide excellent support for us and we have built a great relationship with them.”
PhotoCraft recently pulled through with largest job in its history, notes Shahalami. “It had the largest-sized pieces that we have ever produced coupled with the largest quantity,” he explains. “We only had 17 days to complete the job. Without the new workflow, it would have taken six weeks. It took us less than a quarter of that time to get it done. Historically, we would not have even gotten the files to proof in that timeframe.” The company would have ended up parsing the job and coordinating it among other print providers.
“Using both TWIST and ES, we have a rock solid workflow with excellent automation and look forward to leveraging all the capabilities of the system,” Shahalami says. “Catch up with me a year from now, and there will be lots more to talk about.”