Waiting for the Indians…

by admin on August 10, 2009

Rick Turner from Delarue sent in a link from the US department of stats showing that employment in prepress is set to decline 16 percent from 2006 to 2016, or from 119,000 workers down to 100,000. That's a nice even number, by the way.

Personally, after reading the beginning of  The World is Flat, A Brief History of the 21st Century (by Thomas L. Friedman), you have to wonder if the government guys are a tad optimistic. At the beginning of Friedman's book, he chronicles his visit to India and visits several call and remote support centres, and a gives a glowing account of their capabilities.

Also, ever hear of Chennai, India? If you want to outsource your desktop publishing, then that's the Indian city you want to go to.

Lastly, I remember a tour of duty I did for Creo Australia waaaay back in early 2001. Before moving the office to Hong Kong, Creo did sales for all of Asia out of Sydney. The main sales guy there was a guy by the name of Garron Helman. He told great stories of pushing CTP and Prinergy workflow out in China and India. Big sales, in cities that I had never even heard the names of.

(Well, the best part of his stories were actually the bits about his stomach. You see in India you had to worry about the food and in China you had to worry about the booze. Especially if you were trying to close a deal in an industrial area and not a touristy spot. But I digress.)

It is a bit of mystery as to why an outsourcing firm specializing in running prepress operations remotely hasn't made a splash yet. How hard is it to run a Prinergy system remotely? Gees, how hard is it, with rules-based-automation, to run a Prinergy system period?

I'm trying to think: Yeah, you can't unjam the photocopier remotely, which was the most time-consuming task at my last Prinergy gig. And somebody had to feed in rolls of paper for the wide-format Epson. Also, you need somebody to load the plates.

But definitely, for file prep, it could be done remotely. No problem.


Esz August 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm

In my line of work – our problems with outsourcing is the cultural and language barrier. Seriously. The Indians work differently to us Aussies and even have a very different way of structuring their emails. It’s certainly challenging trying to get a message across when no one understands each other. In a day to day situation this can be fumbled quite satisfactorily but in a highly technical field like printing and prepress, too much gets lost in translation.

admin August 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Yes, but correct me if I am wrong, you work in packaging, no? I would say the packaging (flexo) workflow as opposed to commericial (litho) workflow is waaayy more complicated. I mean, trapping in commercial is all but automated while trapping in packaging can be fiendishly difficult.
Not at prepress could be done remotely, but definitely some can be, in my opinion.

Esz August 11, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Ah yes you are right. I am sure it can be done a lot easier with commercial. 😀

I think our Indian colleagues did not even do any trapping for our flexo jobs! So there’s some cultural gap right there. Considering we trap .5mm thats a fair bit of gap if you’re ‘forgetting’ you trap. Tehehe

Laurens August 11, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Fortunately a rogue group of prepress professionals cut the data cables that connect most of the East with Europe and the US every once in a while. One or two days of interrupted data exchange make sure a lot of people can keep their jobs.

Don’t forget that ‘The world is flat’ seems to have been written before many companies relocated support services back to the US after having tried Indian companies. Dell, Apple and many others tried it and gave up on it. Outsourcing works for some types of tasks but not for anything requiring fairly sophisticated and continuous communication and lots of flexibility. I think prepress belongs to that category.

Tele2002 August 12, 2009 at 4:37 am

I have my own theories on outsourcing having worked for a few companies who have tried and well are still trying. Yes the world is flat and Thomas Friedman did a great job at telling everyone how the gloves are off when it comes to trading without borders. But, what he didn’t explain was the cultural differences, it is true that in India they get paid absolutely peanuts in comparison, but when it comes to pre-press, pre-media or any part of the creative supply chain, your business is selling it’s skills to it’s customers, if your company has a site in India that is highly skilled then that is what you sell, to then pass that off to someone else seems to me to defeat what you set your business out to do.

And lets look at it another way, if these outsourcing companies (and I know people in a lot of the pre-press/pre-media ones in Chennai and Delhi) are as skilled as we seem to trust them to be, why are they not actually competing for our clients on the global stage? Why are we not seeing them as our competition when we go for the next pitch?
Is it because our clients actually want they business with someone in their own country or do they equally not care, but don’t want the hassle of dealing with that cultural difference themselves.

Call centres I can understand, they are just controlled scripts, and like Laurens has said so many companies are now moving back (just yesterday on the phone to my insurance company, last year it was India, this year it was Canada and the call was so much easier to conduct!)

Anyway, rambling about it and it is one of my favourite subjects… worth a read is http://www.scribd.com/doc/14168018/The-Transformed-Graphics-Supply-Chain-Pre-Press

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