Making Color Management a Top Priority
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Making Color Management a Top Priority

Color management is no longer a value-add for businesses; it is necessary to stay competitive in today's market. Follow a real-world example of successful color management solutions to consider for your sign shop.

By SGIA & Hoddy Peck

The SGIA community is focused on producing images with the highest quality of color reproduction.

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  • Color management is no longer a value-add for businesses; it is necessary to stay competitive in today's market. SGIA spoke with Hoddy Peck, executive vice president at Meisel, a leading retail graphics company based in Carrollton, Texas, and here, Peck shares how his company has implemented successful color management solutions for more than 10 years.

    SGIA: How has color management helped your business? What are the major benefits?

    Peck: We have operated with a color-managed workflow for more than 10 years. At that time, we created a staff position of "process control manager." This person is responsible for the creation of all profiles for material/printer combinations. In addition, she is responsible for monitoring our printer processes daily to make sure we stay within our target zone of acceptability.

    During the course of this development, the process control manager has become a G7 Expert and manages our G7 certification and maintenance program. In short, we devote a lot of resources to controlling the predictability of our color results. One of our key metrics is the pass/fail rate of each customer file that is run through our workflow, and presented to the client. Anything we reject internally, or that is rejected by the client, is a "fail" and, in turn, we try to figure out why it failed. Some of these involve color, others content, but we track them all.

    We also use this process to identify file groups that have been difficult, or clients that have been challenging, and have required multiple cycles before going to final print. These deserve special, problem-solving attention.

    We know we can have much better client satisfaction, schedule control, and cost control, if we can have great, predictable, color results from the beginning of a project.

    SGIA: What type of color management software and equipment have you implemented? How has it helped to streamline your production?

    Peck: With regard to software, we use the Caldera Easy Media, ProfileMaker and Editor, and the "i" one Display calibration software. There are other pieces used for process control, but these are the primary components.

    Regarding hardware, we primarily use the Barbieri LFP for reading targets, "i" one Pro and "i" one Display for reading and display calibration, and the Xrite Spectro Densitometer.

    SGIA: What has the return on investment been like so far? Are customers happier?

    Peck: I think it is very difficult to determine ROI on our people and equipment investments. We know that in the current environment, there is no time or budget to do things over. Therefore, many of our efforts are devoted to yield improvement, and the color-managed workflow is a large component of this. Our clients do not want to receive proof prints that do not meet their specifications. It wastes their time, and makes project scheduling a challenge.

    One of the key components of a solid color workflow is for our Meisel teams, both sales and production, to have a clear vision of the client expectations with regard to color before we start. It is very difficult to satisfy client needs if we don't know the target up front. The target can be a color spec, a PMS color, a visual 'go by', past work, or anything that gives us an indication of what they desire from us. When we know this from the beginning, we reduce the risk of color or image failure.

    SGIA: How would you describe Meisel's broader view of color management?

    Peck: We visualize our color management objectives as a target, like an archery target. We devote full resources in aiming for the bull's-eye. We use as much science as we can to achieve this accuracy and predictability. With the many variables involved, however, including client perspectives, viewing conditions, material, printers, etc., we know that we won't always hit the center. If we miss it slightly, but hit the first ring of the target from center, or even perhaps the second ring, it will still be outstanding color for most clients.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, September/October 2012 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2013 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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