New methods for specifying and producing printed products are emerging as print service providers seek to streamline order management, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies in print supply-chain management. These emerging print production models rely on system architectures that use Web applications to interface with highly automated print production workflows. The application of the Internet in print supply-chain management is not a new concept and has been previously investigated. However, little scholarly research has been published on Web-to-print or Web-enabled print production system architectures.
The purpose of this research is to analyze the current state of Web-enabled print within the printing industry. The research examined a number of print service providers utilizing Web-enabled print systems. This examination led to the development of an instrument for looking at Web-enabled print service providers. The instrument provides a list of system-independent attribute descriptions for comparing various Web-enabled printing system architectures. The instrument was then used to analyze a number of print service providers. This analysis provides insight into various approaches to developing the Web application processes of a Web-enabled printing system. Lastly, the print production workflows of two Web-enabled print service providers were observed. The observations provided case studies on the strategy behind the development of a Web-enabled printing system and how customer information collected during product specification and order submission can be used to facilitate the production of printed products.