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July 20, 2022

3 essential skills today’s packaging prepress operators must have

Nothing in our industry stands still, and the role of the prepress operator is no exception. An integral part of your team, this role has changed dramatically in the last ten years alone and continues to evolve year after year as the industry adapts to new challenges.

As this job changes, so does the skillset required to do it well. Let’s take a look at how the requirements for operator credentials have changed, and the kind of know-how your prepress specialists need now and going forward, to help your teams and your business rise to each new challenge.

Reacting to change

Most of us can admit to being swayed by packaging alone when faced with a choice between two similar products. Better packaging simply sells more. And so brand owners will frequently change and update or create variations of a single packaging design, all in their never-ending mission to attract and seduce customers and sell more of their product.

Combine this with today’s enhanced importance of regulatory compliance, plus the need to get to market and deliver more quickly than ever before – all with no compromise on quality – and it’s easy to see how and why prepress is an increasingly complex operation.

10 years ago, a medium size label or folding carton converter may have had 10 jobs going through their prepress on any given day. Today, with the unending variants and changes, you’re perhaps dealing with 50, or even 500. Completing these 50 jobs in the same amount time as 10, with the same headcount is not possible…unless you begin to improve your prepress workflow, by standardizing and automating your print production processes, of course.

Not so many moons ago, your operators would have received prepress instructions in a paper bag and filled out paper checklists. They’d have spent their time manually trawling through graphical objects – seeking out insufficiencies and improving them. The establishment of digital press has changed all of this, and much of the manual work has now been automated.

Today, your operators manage the quality of incoming data, and they build and maintain automation via templates and action lists. They take care of quality assurance, and they handle exceptions individually in a prepress editor software. They manage communication and approval processes with colleagues and clients in real time.

Here are some of the skills and attributes they need to complete these newer duties…

1. Tech savvy

As companies like yourselves aim to reduce costs and improve efficiency, they look for the right software and solutions to help them do so. Operator tasks are becoming increasingly automated rather than manual, and operators are required to use various systems and automation software to complete their day-to-day tasks.

Though finding operators who are comfortable with technology is important, so is keeping the learning curve as low as possible, by choosing intuitive, user-friendly programs.

As a business, it’s important initially to recognize which tasks can be automated – and which can’t. Where do your team’s energies need to be focused, to add maximum value? And in which areas are time and efforts potentially going to waste?

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re making the most of the technologies available to you, why not take our Digital Maturity Model test to gain some insight?

2. Strong quality control

With the expectation to produce more and more, combined with the rising cost of raw materials – avoiding reprints and waste due to errors and defects is vital to retaining healthy margins and meeting customer expectations. To ensure only the best copies make it out of the building, your operators will need to have strong quality control skills, to guarantee all printed products meet customer standards.

Operators are also increasingly managing real-time connections with colleagues and customers throughout the approval process. Whilst this element of stakeholder management is important for quality control – it can be time consuming and error prone without the right tools.

3. Good color control

Color accuracy and consistency is a key concern for brands, and so it’s vital you can deliver this regardless of run length or substrate. This will also help avoid reprints and waste. Therefore, it’s important for your operators to have good color matching skills and be able to comfortably use color quality tools.

As we all adapt to the ever-changing landscape of our industry, it’s of course important to hire experienced, knowledgeable staff to help you meet today’s (and tomorrow’s!) challenges. But it’s equally important to equip your team members with the right tools to do their jobs well and efficiently.

With the right graphic editor, you make day-to-day tasks easier for your team. You reduce unintentional errors while editing, increase operator efficiency and boost prepress productivity. Want to know more? Download our free guide below to discover how ArtPro+ helps you to reduce prepress errors.

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