Re. Timesaving devices... a cautionary tale!

Subject: Re. Timesaving devices... a cautionary tale!
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 1995 14:58:42 LCL

Recently, our Publications Team had the opportunity to save FERIC
about $10K per year by accepting some new responsibilities. We offered
to do so, hinting that receiving the first year's savings for
upgrading our equipment would be a nice reward. (We planned our
upgrades well in advance of our busy time to be sure we could work out
a few known kinks plus discover any unknown ones, but no plan is
foolproof as you'll see.) We got our equipment, and some new
abilities, but with a gotcha or two. Some of you'uns might find
yourself in a similar situation, so here are the details:

1. Part of our money went to buy Simon, our graphic artist, a Pentium
to replace his decrepit 386. Unfortunately, the guy who installed the
system didn't know what he was doing and now the Pentium regularly
crashes doing things the 386 did without so much as a hiccup. Ain't
Windows lovely? (Never woulda happn'd with a Mac! <grin>) We'll get
that sucker debugged eventually, but in the meantime... Moral number
one of this tale: print copies of your Windows settings (WIN.INI,
AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS and all preferences for Program Manager etc.)
so you can adjust your new system's settings if necessary!

2. The rest of the money went to buying a Nikon Coolscan "slide
scanner"; we work with lots of photos, and previously we had to make
prints of the slides our authors provided, then scan the prints for
positioning in our publications. We could send the slides to a service
bureau instead and get back files on diskette, but we wanted the
control, the time savings (a turnaround of a day or so for pickup and
delivery) and the eventual cost savings and quality control from doing
the scanning ourselves. We plan to send the scans to our printer so he
can generate film (to his own specs) for use in printing, something
we've already tested and found to work with scans from prints. (We'll
also avoid one generation of generation loss, going from slide to
print, by working this way.) The slide scanner will pay for itself in
as little as 2 years, apart from the time savings. A nice scanner, and
I recommend it for anyone who has to scan their own photos or could
benefit from doing so (based on our _brief_ experience).

3. Now comes moral #2 of our tale: The technology works just fine, but
we've had to adjust our workflow to account for it more than we had
anticipated. Example: _Formerly_, Lilian, our desktop publisher,
scanned the color prints, added them to the DTP file, then printed
laser proofs; the printer then got the prints and made his own film
from them, replacing the laser-printed photos when he makes the
printing plates. _Now_ Simon does the scanning (you really need a
Pentium and lots of memory for color slide scanning). Since the
application (Corel) that does the touchup work on the scans (e.g.,
cropping, resizing, color correction) is different from the
application that does the publishing (AmiPro), and since Lilian can't
know the final sizes for some photos until she sees how much room is
left in the layout, Lilian and Simon have to work together even more
closely than before. Thus: Lilian takes the scan file, completes the
layout, resizes the scan as necessary, then passes the size back to
Simon so he can resize (etc.) the image and send it to the printer on
diskette. If we were working on PageMaker or some other software that
our printer could use to typeset directly from a file, then we'd be
all set: just give the whole DTP file to the printer, photos included.
No such luck, hence the need for our approach.

Summary: We'll end up saving lots of time and money once we adjust to
the new way of doing things, but in the meantime, we're having to deal
with the snags imposed by our new timesavers. If you can get new
equipment that will improve your work life, then by all means, do so,
but don't forget to plan for the inevitable gotchas... two of which
I've mentioned above, and other as-yet undiscovered gotchas that I'm
looking forward to with some dread. That leads to moral number 3: if
you're going to bring new equipment online, aim to do so during a
quiet period, and carefully consider what mechanical (hardware and
software) and workflow problems the new stuff will create.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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