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Quality In Print

One of the primary missions of PPG is the raise the bar on print quality in UAE.  Quality is important to businesses but can be quite hard to define. The definition depends on the purpose and for whom you are talking. To shed light on the subject we asked Print Award panel of expert judges 3 straightforward questions:

1 – How do you define quality in Print?
2 – You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
3 – Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?

Nicholas Jung – Head Judge
Consultant in Printing Technology and Education

The assessment of print media is a complex process. Whilst modern production is highly technical, the end product is usually assessed subjectively by a human consumer with all the preferences, biases and limitations that this entails.

Increasingly, the demands of the consumer require a product that is free from blemishes, is consistent and is seen to give value for money. Modern, highly productive equipment does not guarantee high quality production. Skilled craftsmen may achieve high quality output but without competent, skilled management cost effective production is impossible to achieve.

Since its conception, the PPG Print Media Awards scheme has provided the competitive framework within which print media companies have competed openly and achieved a very high degree of success that is able to compete internationally with confidence.

How do you define quality in Print?
Technically it could be argued that print quality has two parts, the accurate reproduction of the product to the required standard (whatever that is) and the maintenance of that standard throughout the run.

Production faults such as colour variation, misregister etc. are the primary criteria used to initially assess print quality, with the more technical aspects of reproduction requiring a greater level of technical competence and, if necessary, instrumentation.

There are international standards that are being used to good effect that provide objective criteria against which a proof and the printed product may be judged.  Print buyers for example may utilise these standards as a way of assessing the competence of print companies and consequently to whom a contract may be awarded; Significantly, effective application of these standards requires intelligent, informed understanding to be useful.

Such standards are tools that help in the assessment of print quality but the trained human eye is invariably the best final judge. For example, in the reproduction of fine art where a print may, after retouching, be seen by some to look better than the original, the actual requirement is for the particular work of art to be duplicated, faults and all. The important thing is that the customers specification is understood and achieved.

Where the printed product is to be viewed by a non human observer, technical compliance is of fundamental importance and subjective assessment may be irrelevant. Again, the customer specification is all important.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
The equipment, materials, techniques and workflows utilised by print media companies is invariably very similar for each category of work. The quality of the equipment, the competence of the workforce and, of course, the quality of the management will all have an effect on the output to varying degrees. If an organisation is to improve, some form of assessment and comparison is needed.

Within an organisation management should be doing this all the time, but sooner or later comparison with other competing companies will have to occur. This is very difficult for individual companies to achieve without some high level progressive organisation facilitating the process.

The PPG have provided and developed the framework within which this comparison has been made to happen. The overall print quality of the submissions judged in the early years exhibited a very wide spectrum, with a high incidence of production faults that were indicative of a lack of attention to quality control.

The potential for improvement was clearly shown by the quality of the best submissions which were judged to be of a very good standard; the judges reported this back to the PPG and fed back to the participating companies to good effect. This feedback is very important if competing companies are to continue to benefit.

Over the  years the quality of the submissions showed consistent improvement and a narrowing of the quality spectrum. More submissions were of a higher quality and the best submissions also showed improvement. The number of production defects also reduced, suggesting that attention to quality control was taking place showing the effectiveness of the feedback from PPG.

The review of the categories of the awards needs to continue in order to reflect the changing world of print media. It is important however not to neglect the basic principles of quality in production and this aspect, so far has been the main thrust of the award. I believe that it should continue to do so.

Careful thought must be given to the specifications issued for entries to each particular category. Each specification should be sufficiently wide to allow as many entries as possible but with clear criteria that must be met before the entry is allowed. Thought also needs to be given to the situation where an entry may be entered in a number of categories in order to optimise the chances of an award.

It is clear that print media companies are meeting the current demands of customers. Designers should be encouraged to push the boundaries of print media to further develop innovation in production. Perhaps consideration could be given to this aspect.

It is difficult to see how such progress could have been achieved over the years without the uniting, forward thinking influence of the PPG. Certainly, there was no lack of competition between individual companies but the guidance and direction of the PPG was, in my opinion, essential to the overall development of the industry as a whole within UAE. This high level influence is a very important  force that needs to be maintained and developed if print media in UAE is to effectively compete internationally.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?
Improvement to quality is primarily a strategic management issue, implemented at a range of levels. Increasingly, competition is on the world marketplace and this means that international standards will be the criteria by which quality is judged.

Production quality is invariably governed by the competence and skill of the individuals involved in the particular process. At this level, training is the means by which immediate quality improvements may be made that produce the best rewards. 

There must be clear guidance as to what is acceptable quality and what is not. This was illustrated by the high incidence of rather trivial production defects (misregister, colour variation) that featured in the early years of the Print Media Awards. Addressing these issues significantly improved the overall quality of the entries.

Consistent, on the job training and guidance develops competence and confidence. This in turn releases time that allows management to concentrate on more strategic issues without having to get involved in matters that should be addressed by others at a lower level.

It is impossible to meet the quality standards and productivity necessary to compete on the world market without a programme of preventative maintenance and replacement of unproductive equipment and inefficient working practices. Similarly, confidence in the suppliers of paper, inks, and other supplies is essential. This may become an issue when customers supply, for example, the paper to be used for a job if the quality is poor and interferes with the achievement of efficient quality production.

Effort directed at materials quality control is rarely wasted and contributes to the efficiency of the operation. It also helps with any dispute that may occur with a supplier. Suppliers value productive feedback from customers as much as printers do.

On a more strategic level, it is increasingly the case that compliance with international standards is a requirement when tendering for a contract. Colour, Environmental and Quality management increasingly feature and a strategic commitment to a “standards approach” to management may well be the key. Customers need to be reassured and confident that appropriate standards are maintained.

Standardisation of workflow, in particular press characteristics should be seen as a means of ensuring that quality is achieved at optimum efficiency.

Dr. Saad Aldossary
Consultant and Trainer of Printing Technology KSA

How do you define quality in Print?
A good match of material and printing methods producing a product that is free from defects (i.e. low resolution, misregistration, slur, doubling, hickeys, small color gamut, gray balance problems,… etc.).  the product should match the customer proof.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
It is already helping by introducing the award which is leading to positive competition to deliver better quality products.

Also, I think PPG can work on sustainability and process improvements by adopting certain criteria based on international standards (e.g.  PSO-ISO 12647, PSN-12647) and by conducting seminars and training programs.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?
• Apply a color management system.

• Using high quality material

• Training of employees and creating a quality culture

Karl Kowalczyk | Consultant, Printing Technology

How do you define quality in Print?
For me, Quality in Print means the exact implementation and realization of the product-specific requirements of a print product.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
Participating in this established and renown award is not only a great challenge, but also an incentive for the participating print shops, in particular if they are finally rewarded with an award. Furthermore, this (benchmark) is a good opportunity to gather new suggestions and ideas and to optimize the in-house working processes.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?
I always recommend implementing first of all a workflow solution in the prepress section, followed by a systematic introduction of Color Management. This is the first step to enhancing efficiency, quality, and reproducibility

Hemanth Ranadive | FCB Ulka India, Production Head

How do you define quality in Print?
Quality is a very relative term. Quality means continues efforts of sustaining. To me quality can be measured and is a continues process. And as a designer and end user it should create a ‘Wow’ effect.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
I would re-emphasis my earlier statement, ‘quality is a very relative term.’ We keep doing jobs day in and day out, but the moment there is an appreciation, we double the efforts to excel further. 

And one has to keep saying to yourself, whatever small or big, I will reach my quality target or benchmark all the time. PPG and DIPA are doing exactly the same. DIPA awards are a great motivation to printers in GCC and other neighboring countries. They give you platform to share and benefit. They also make you aware where you stand.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?
The road to quality standards is a structured process. Create the rules and benchmarks, achieve the same and raise the standards. Which is why I said it is a continues process. Invest in your people and change their attitude and focus to push for the best all the time. Quality can be achieved with people power and process power.

To start keep saying the best is not good enough.

Daniel Siegel | UPM Kymmene Sales GMBH, Manager Technical Services

How do you define quality in Print?
Quality of a product is individual. Basically printers need to match customer demands, consistent and reliable.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
Regarding the DIPA, regular participating printers took the opportunity for orientation by confronting themselves to a benchmark competition and taking key learnings best possible confirmed by a DIPA award. This seems to work quite well, because the development of the entries quality during the last years I would consider as clearly positive.

Further the printed products are reflecting the economy trends and therewith business opportunities.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?

Starting point for quality improvement is the education of people. Skilled and motivated people are creative and they are a strong key success factor. People assure the quality and keep the processes running.

The importance of having well educated people increases with the sophistication of the process and processes becoming more complex.

Intensive cooperation of all involved parties is needed to combine right products. With an efficient and stabile technical solution it is easier to control and assure quality.

Dr. Eduard Neufeld | Institute Director of Fogra

How do you define quality in Print?
Firstly, a print product needs to be flawless regarding its printing and finishing aspects, for instance in terms of colour reproduction, register accuracy, gloss characteristics, binding accuracy, ease of opening, etc.

Secondly, I look for something that goes beyond the expected in terms of innovation and creativity. Examples are special inks and substrates, health and environment aspects, modern processing and screening concepts, etc.

You have been working with PPG for past few years. How do you think this association can help to raise the quality bar in UAE?
PPG has set benchmarks of quality in the UAE’s printing industry by establishing the Dubai International Print Award and honoring printers for their outstanding products. As a result, I have observed an increasing quality and creativity of entries over the last years.

Based on your opinion how printers in UAE can improve their quality. Where should they start?
The first and foremost step for a printer is to make sure he employs ICC colour management correctly and adheres to ISO process standards, e.g. ProcessStandard Offset and ProcessStandard Digital. These standards enable the printer to meet precisely the customers’ expectations and serve as a basis for further specialization. Almost needless to say, though, that printing is a people’s business. Skilled and motivated personnel are the key to quality and success.

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