Me & my: Fujifilm XMF

Jez Abbott
Friday, August 30, 2013

It was the 3D proofing that initially swung it for Gildenburgh. When the Peterborough-based company came to swap its old workflow system for new technology, one of the standout features of Fujifilm's XMF package was its ability to allow users to flip pages on screen with ease and without using external software.

And standout features are important for Gildenburgh; the company strives to pitch itself at the forefront of technology and offer the newest of the new. So anything that’s likely to catch the eye and give a competitive edge goes down well with managing director Rob Gutteridge. Fujifilm XMF workflow did just that when his team went in search of an upgrade back in 2008.

Gildenburgh has been in business for 22 years, and how things have changed, says Gutteridge. The early days were exclusively given over to colour reprographics, transparency, flat artwork scanning and contract proofing to national publishers and local printers. The Macintosh computer, recalls Gutteridge, was "finding its feet" and was used initially in conjunction with conventional bench planning.

"It really does seem like a lifetime ago," adds Gutteridge. These days his 10-strong operation claims, with some justification, to be one of the area’s leading creative and print businesses, offering artwork, design, photography, complete colour management and mailing as well as digital and litho printing, including short runs for a local magazine publisher.

A few months, ago, the company’s photography made its iPad debut when shots of a Ducati replica motorcycle were used in the tablet edition of motorcycling title MCN Sport, as well as in the print edition. How times have changed, indeed. Some time before iPad roared on to the scene, however, Gildenburgh decided to upgrade its Fujifilm Rampage software.

Natural progression

Litho print manager Lee Holmes takes up the story: "Rampage was a great system. I have worked with Apogee and Prinergy systems, but Rampage was the business. So XMF was a natural progression. We have been with Fujifilm for several years and the main thing that sold this particular package on us was 3D proofing. At the time nobody else was offering this for PDFs."

True, other systems allowed you to turn pages, but not with the ease offered by XMF’s built-in impositioning. And Holmes was keen not to have to rely on external tools such as Kodak’s Preps. But before Gildenburgh could be sold on it, Fujifilm had to sell. The half-day demo took place at its Bedford base and the Japanese firm was halfway there: the printer chose not to check out rival workflows.

Gutteridge and Holmes took several standard PDFs, containing fonts, low-resolution images and RGB colours, for the Fujifilm team to rip. The results impressed everyone; as well as built-in impositioning the client liked the high degree of automation, colour management and pre-flighting, all of which had the edge over Rampage. Built-in impositioning was another big draw.

Rampage, with its third-party impositioning and therefore a fee for each user, could cause work bottlenecks due to mismatches in the throughput of work and the limited number of people registered to use the system. XMF by contrast supports any number of users. And this plus-point was enough to make up the mind of everyone at Gildenburgh.

Attention turned to installation, which involved a detailed workflow audit undertaken by Fujifilm technicians. This took in print requirements, how and where files came into the business, and equipment, which includes a Fujifilm Luxel CTP system, a five-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 74 press and a Xerox 700 digital press.

From this Fujifilm could specify what the firm needed, create a bespoke training programme and turn its mind to server requirements. One of the biggest upheavals was swapping servers. Out went the old server for Rampage; in went a Dell alternative. Because Gildenburgh already ran a Fujifilm CTP system, the IT staff knew what drivers were needed, so disruption was minimised.

Differences in speed of work turnaround, however, were maximised by the new workflow; Holmes reckons the increase was tenfold. While the Rampage system was methodical and involved several stages, XMF galloped through all those stages to trim a half-hour job to three minutes, while a four-page A4 job could be proofed in 30 seconds. "It was that significant," recalls Holmes.  

"In people terms, the change was no less marked. Work that was once handled by two or three people was now tackled by one person in the same amount of time. We drop PDFs into the workflow, everything is pre-flighted, you choose the output device and away you go. It’s really, really quick and very user-friendly. We have it on multiple stations so everybody rips their own jobs."

Almost perfect, but not quite. First, the Dell server had a tendency to "go down" from time to time – a problem to do with storage technology that was quickly overcome with a visit from Fujifilm to reconfigure back-up systems; there has been no recurrence. The other glitch was to do with the standout selling point of 3D proofing.

"Initially we were sold on the 3D proofing, which involved emailing Java files, but we found these 3D proofs were being blocked and not going through to some customers. As it has turned out, we don’t use it anywhere near as much as we thought we would; we simply email a flat proof. I think 3D proofing is a bit of a gimmick and at the end of the day, clients are happy with a single-page PDF."

These are small cavils, insists Holmes, who cannot fault Fujifilm on back-up. Fujifilm’s phone-based support has been very responsive and the few times Holmes has needed an engineer, the manufacturer has had one onsite in just a few hours.

Proven reliability

Fujifilm workflow solutions manager for the UK Andy Walker says his company has an agreement with Dell for a same-day response and "there is never normally much that can go wrong". But "like everything and, as you may expect, with a PC or server, there might be occasional issues initially, however once they are in production they are very, very reliable".

On the problems Gildenburgh has experienced with emailing 3D proofs, Walker explains that many companies will not allow executable files, which may contain viruses, to be sent by email. Instead they get blocked by firewalls and need to be released by IT teams. This is good enough for Holmes, who has no regrets about changing to XMF workflow.

"We’re quite a small company and there’s a lot of the XMF package that we don’t use. I can’t speak for larger companies with multiple output devices, but for businesses like ours, I would recommend the workflow," he says.


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Company profile


Gildenburgh was formed in 1991 and has grown from a supplier of reprographic services to a specialist in creative work and and print. It produces catalogues for retailers, POS materials and magazines on a Heidelberg B2 press and a Xerox digital machine. The company is hot on environmental best practice: three years ago it was awarded Forest Stewardship Council certification. A year later it introduced processless plates to reduce its energy use and plate chemistry.

Why it was bought...

Five years ago the company was looking to upgrade its existing Fujifilm Rampage workflow to a system that could offer more automation and 3D proofing. XMF was the logical next step. Holmes had used rival systems, which he said did not perform as well as Fujifilm technology, and he liked the existing Rampage workflow. Gildenburgh, meanwhile, had a good working relationship with Fujifilm.

How it has performed...

Speed and ease-of-use after training cannot be faulted, but 3D proofing has not been as significant as hoped, according to Gildenburgh. "The technology has made us more streamlined," says Holmes. "This is quite a small company, we need people to be ripping jobs and we need to be efficient: from sending off a file, we are on press within an hour."


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