What They Don’t Want You To Know…
At a glance

Client: One of the largest direct marketing firms in the U.S.

Problem: Finding a system for optimizing the quality of black & white images printed at very high volume.

Solution: The company concluded that the output from Claro Single provided higher quality and was less expensive than the only viable competitor.

Results: 18,000 photos in 8 hours!

About the Client

One of the largest direct marketing firms in the U.S., serving the needs of North American companies for more than 40 years with services including high volume variable data and direct mail production.

Challenges & Goals

Finding a system for optimizing the quality of black & white images printed at very high volume, in the form of 5 to 20 million letters per month, on its roll-fed printers.

Searching for the missing image enhancement “link”

Dealing with photos in its integrated workflow was somewhat new for this company. They’ve been doing it for 4 years now. The company initially used traditional offset printing for color forms, and then used B&W LED printers to personalize on top of that. In other words, the company didn’t do anything too complex on the graphics side.

It all changed when one of its customers wanted to put photos in signatures of letters, as they’d been doing in the cut sheet world.

However, the customer was talking much higher volumes than could be handled cost-effectively in a sheet fed, variable data workflow; so the company worked with the customer and its printer vendor to find a better solution for preparing photos to print best on their continuous roll-fed, high volume devices.

While most of the design-oriented variable data printing world remains focused on InDesign and QuarkXPress, producing output volume from those systems isn’t viable at this time. They needed a solution that could handle variable data pages, formatted with images at speeds up to or beyond 14,000 pages per minute. When you’re talking about producing 5 million letters at high speeds, the programs that were designed for the short run, variable data market using sheetfed printers just don’t cut it.

The company found that there were not a lot of solutions available in the “high volume image enhancement” space.

They found that there are a lot of products available for photo processing for consumer photos and color and that kind of optimization, but targeting high volume, black and white output was pretty foreign.
Solution

Elpical Claro Offers the Perfect Solution: Ultimately, the company identified and tested two options for solving its image enhancement problem: After a vetting process that included tests and many proofs and print samples, the company concluded that the output from Claro Single provided higher quality and was less expensive than the only viable competitor.

One advantage is that the Elpical software handles images as a process that is isolated; i.e., as a distinct process that doesn’t require prepress involvement. In the high volume oriented workflow the company runs, they didn’t want operators looking at individual images to optimize them for printing because it is cost and productivity prohibitive. Rather, the Claro Single software automatically enhances image assets based on a thorough analysis of each, individual image.

According to the company, its big challenge is to ensure the photos they’re working with are of decent quality. And while there isn’t a solution for that per se, the company says the software can pull photos out if they need someone to look at them. For this customer that’s time consuming, however; so they still put the burden of supplying adequate images on the customer.

To Elpical’s credit, they found that if they start with a color photo they almost always achieve better results. So they have Claro Single convert color images to gray scale and then ready them for printing. The company receives daily updates from the customer by ftp — in all kinds of formats — and then they activate an application that sends them through the conversion process to prepare for print. The final format is 8 bit gray scale TIFF at the appropriate size.

Results

The end result has been multiple benefits for the direct marketing company. Elpical Claro was more cost-effective and less expensive than the only other solution in the category. It was easier to integrate the solution into their high speed workflow. And it is a fully automated solution. So, it was less expensive, faster and easier to implement, and saves enormous amounts of time over other methods of producing image-specific enhancements. Better yet, it delivers consistently high-quality image enhancements across varied individual images. And the software provides the high throughput the company was looking for.

And today, the company says, they use it to process 18,000 photos in 8 hours!

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What They Don't Want You To Know... At a glance Client: One of the largest direct marketing firms in the U.S. Problem: Finding a system for optimizing the quality of black & white images printed at very high volume. Solution: The company concluded that the output from Claro Single provided higher quality and...