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How to Ensure a Smooth and Successful Press Check

Production Solutions

Press checks can be tough– long hours, lack of sleep, machine failures, problems and time away from the office.  So much so that I have found most folks would shy away from one at all costs.  Not me!  I enjoy press checks and approach each one with an open mind and in hopes of learning something new.

Press checks are a necessity of our business as well as the last step in the printing process where I can, not only impact the quality of the piece, but ensure it. So why not embrace the process and make the best of it all?

Through my years of experience, I have found four simple best practices that will ensure a successful press check.  This is to not say something won’t go wrong, because that potential is always there, but if you start out on the right foot, you will be more likely come to a positive conclusion.

  1. Be Prepared Before You Arrive

Regardless if your press check is local, requires travel, or is a long or short print run, you must take the time before you arrive to confirm all the details and have all the items necessary to be successful.  These include:

  1. Review all items running on press – address any questions you may have prior to departure.
  2. Confirm if the client has any special requirements or needs
  3. Be sure to have the name and cell phone for the facility Customer Service Representative (CSR), Press Supervisor, and all Client contacts.
  4. Confirm directions to the facility, as well as any special locations or entrances with the facility CSR.
  5. Bring your loupe and PMS books.
  6. Confirm your schedule before you leave.
  1. Know What to Look for During the Press Check

There are hundreds of hours of strategic, creative and production planning that takes place to create a direct mail campaign along with the numerous components that will be used.  Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of being completely and utterly thorough during your time on press.  Anyone who attends a press check understands the standard things you look for such as:

  1. Does the printed piece match the approved proof?
  2. Are all the colors correct – 4 cp and or PMS match?
  3. Did any text shift or get dropped? Is everything in registration and trapping properly?
  4. Is ghosting appearing?

“The Holocaust Museum’s 2018 calendar press check was seamless. The Quad team nailed the color, making it one of the easiest press checks I’ve experienced. I was in excellent hands with Traci and CC. Their guidance, coordination and perspective demonstrated that they care about the final product just as much as we do. Thank you!”

– Leigh LaHood, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

But, over my 24 years in this business, I have learned of a few more advanced items to check to help avoid mistakes.  Here are some of the most common, and potentially costly, mistakes that occur during a press check and the questions you should consider:

  1. Is the correct paper stock being used? Weight, color, type?
  2. Is a varnish being used?  If so, is it the proper type?
  3. Does color match on the cross over? Such as with calendars or catalogs?
  4. Are the repetitive items from page to page consistent?
  5. Are the page impositions correct? Do all the pages run in order as they should? Are they positioned correctly? Yes, I have seen a situation where the back page of a calendar was printed upside down!
  1. Attitude – Stay Positive and Be Flexible

I have learned that you must be flexible with your schedule.  All printing facilities do their very best to keep to the schedule that is provided; however, there is always the possibility of machine break downs, plate issues, paper issues, etc., all of which could impact the actual schedule.  As I have said many times before, “it is what it is.” I approach every press check with a complete understanding and anticipation of the challenges that I may face – like getting a call at 3 o’clock in the morning– and that the only way to get through it is with a positive attitude and flexible approach.

  1. Get to Know Your Press Supervisor

“My experience at a press check with Production Solutions and Quad Graphics was a great one. CC (from PS) kept me in the loop on timing and what to expect, and I was really impressed with Quad’s work at the plant. I am very happy with the final product, and happy that I was able to participate.”

–  Meg Hubbard, NNE Marketing

We have all heard it – communication is key!  When it comes to a press check, it is no different.  Working directly with the Press Supervisor is the way to go. Have an open dialog with him or her regarding your expectations, your needs, and most importantly, your client needs, if they are attending.

My most recent press check was with the Quad team in West Allis, Milwaukee.  I must give major props to the two press supervisors – Brian McGeary and John Zimmerman and their press teams.  They were amazing.  They let me know exactly what was happening and when.  They were phenomenal with color, which minimized my time at the plant.  And, to top everything off, they were a pleasure to work with because they all had great attitudes.

So, there you have it, four best practices to help your press check run smoothly and successfully. Hopefully this helps and, like me, you all look forward to your next one!