Hallmark Cards, Inc. Switches to PDF for High-Volume Greeting Card Workflow

Powerful Automation Tools Extract Rich Metadata, Create Print-Ready PDFs

Problem: For nearly a decade, Hallmark used a PostScript DCS file format, which accommodates the use of more than four colors plus a Pantone color in the primary printing process. While the PostScript format worked, Hallmark recognized that using PDF would better serve the company in the long run. Changing from one file format to another while maintaining the company’s existing production workflow is no small task, however—especially when the production team processes nearly 2,500 files every day.

Greeting card pioneer Hallmark Cards, Inc. knows a thing or two about bringing people closer. For nearly 100 years, this private, $4.4 billion institution has

helped people to connect with one another and to give voice to their feelings. Hallmark also knows that details are important. As one of the foremost brands in greeting cards, Hallmark produces and distributes a large quantity of new and redesigned greeting cards and related products each year. Making this endeavor possible is a busy production team that handles nearly 2,500 files every day. Recently, the company recognized that, although the team’s workflow is efficient, legacy standards had to be updated.

For nearly a decade, Hallmark used a PostScript® DCS file format, which accommodates the use of more than four colors, plus a Pantone color, in the primary printing process. While the PostScript format worked, and would continue to, Hallmark recognized that PDF would better serve the company in the long run.

Changing from one file format to another—while maintaining the company’s existing production workflow—is no small task. Although there are many companies that deliver solutions for PostScript files, Steve Hubbard, senior creative technology specialist of Hallmark, soon learned that there are few companies that can develop high-volume automation tools for PDF. Then Hubbard found Apago, an innovative software company changing how people use and profit from electronic documents.

“Apago’s team listened to us, helped guide us, and used their very intimate knowledge of PDF and printing to develop solutions that were suited for us.”
– Steve Hubbard, senior creative technology specialist of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Apago’s team developed a set of tools to meet Hallmark’s requirements. Hallmark implemented a combination of retail products—including PDF Enhancer, PDFspy, and PDF Constructor—and customized technologies from Apago’s extensive technical library. “Apago’s team listened to us, helped guide us, and used their very intimate knowledge of PDF and printing to  develop solutions that were suited for us,” comments Hubbard. “They provided us with a way to maintain our existing workflow while seamlessly moving it into a PDF world.”

Automation is the Key to Efficiency

Hubbard’s department aids the design staff, validating and converting greeting cards into print-ready files. When dealing with as many as 2,500 files daily, automation is central to efficiency. “Our workflow is man-power intensive. We use Apago’s technology to automate repetitive tasks and to produce print-ready PDFs,” comments Hubbard. “The system’s modular architecture and scalability also gives us the flexibility we require.”

Apago’s tools seamlessly perform t, several critical production tasks. The technology facilitates variabledata text substitutions, color corrections using 5+ channel device-link profiles, and XMP metadata tagging of information such as barcode and the files’ key elements. “Apago’s rich understanding of PDF and printing proved invaluable as we embarked on this endeavor. The end result is that Apago has become a critical component of our PDF workflow,” concludes Hubbard.

Solution: Apago’s team developed a set of tools to meet Hallmark’s requirements. Hallmark implemented a combination of retail products—including PDF Enhancer, PDFspy, and PDF Constructor—and customized technologies from Apago’s vast technical library. Hallmark uses these tools to validate and convert greeting card designs into print-ready PDF files.

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