Automated Retouching Workflows
We were able to reduce our current expenditures by 40% over prior year without affecting image capacity and lead-time. We didn’t miss a beat, and our internal teams were very pleased with how everything seemed so easy and seamless.
Sr. Director of Creative Services
Director of Creative Services
Digital Imaging Manager
Fossil Group’s portfolio is made up of proprietary brands and partnerships with teams all over the world who share a passion for design, innovation, and doing good. Fossil Group has 59 offices around the globe, does business in 150 countries, and has 500+ company owned stores. Together, Fossil Group has made over 34M watches, 8M pieces of jewelry, 6.9M leathers, and .9M accessories.
What goes into the decision to try a new work management solution, like a retouching platform?
Kathy: We look at multiple points. We want to work with a company that can flex with our growing needs, is cost-effective, uses automation, has an intuitive system, provides high quality image output, and has a quick turnaround.
How did you evaluate different retouching vendors?
Phil: We looked at multiple vendors, trying to figure out how we could scale our retouching needs to the company's needs in the fast evolving market. We brought in about four potential vendors and went through the same process with each of them. We were looking for someone who could uphold our brands’ standards, all of our internal and external brand teams, to make sure that we're not losing any quality—and we’re ultimately gaining speed and gaining scalability to get to market faster.
And what did you see that made Pixelz the right choice?
Charles: I think the interface, the lean backing behind it, and the ability to build out different specifications and then set them in motion in an automated way. That appealed to future scalability needs, to get the volume and the complexity taken care of.
How do you use Pixelz templates and UI to scale?
Charles: Well, first we have our Customer Success rep. He builds out the templates for our custom specifications, because we have so many different creations and standards. That's appealing, because it seems to be limitless and will fit whatever else we need in the future. Then the nice UI and markup tools, and some of the features inside of that, really appeal to our need for speed and clarity when moving images through.
The nice UI and markup tools, and some of the features inside of that, really appeal to our need for speed and clarity.
How is Pixelz integrated into your workflow?
Charles: The photographers shoot, we upload to our own internal server, and from there our internal retoucher runs a CSV to make sure all the correct metadata is there to give Pixelz direction. It dictates what template images go into and all of our padding specifications.
So, the retoucher then uploads that to Pixelz FTP and then once we get a notification that it's back we'll have a check-in. We'll bring the images in, check them out, and then if we need to back up quickly we usually just go right to the UI. If it's something else and we need to talk with our Customer Success rep, he's always very helpful in straightening out any issues and getting any returns back ASAP.
And then at the end of that we have several different processes. We may have some other finishing, more subjective things we have to do to gain internal approval, and then there's a couple things we do to prep them for asset management uptake. But that's basically it.
Is processing according to metadata a key factor in automation?
Charles: It is. And I think it will be in the future. The color matching system that we've engineered with Pixelz relies on a color library that we've already developed and uploaded to Pixelz, and the association that's made for Pixelz to match is in the image metadata.
Across the board with Pixelz, what I like is that there is a commitment to technology to make things go as fast as they can, automate, and remove as many touches as possible.
Was that automation a big difference from other vendors?
Charles: Yes. Across the board with Pixelz, what I like is that there is a commitment to technology to make things go as fast as they can, automate, and remove as many touches as possible. We see that on our end—we practice lean. So I know the thinking is there, and if we don't have it developed yet, Pixelz is very open to exploring the concepts we need to make our images very smart. And we'll be working with Pixelz to offer opportunities to quicken processes by keying in our metadata.
It is machine based and I think it's brilliant the way the system is set up, but I think it is crucial to have that human contact and a customer success rep like ours.
What about the human element? Is it valuable to you to have the in-person meetings, the onsite visits, and to have a consistent contact point?
Charles: Yes, I would say it absolutely is. One thing about Pixelz, it is machine based and I think it's brilliant the way the system is set up, but I think it is crucial to have that human contact and a customer success rep like ours. He's come here a couple times, and he's always readily available to help answer any questions. And that's reassuring, you know, as we're trying to build this.
I find him very knowledgeable on the core issues down into the Photoshop image manipulation level. He's been fantastic.
Does being a multi-brand multinational add a lot of complexity?
Charles: I think that's one of the more challenging things about working with our company. We support well over a dozen brands and each one might have its own unique standards, whether it's formatting or retouching or just general photography standards—and different categories.
I think that's another reason why metadata is so important, and for us to be able to communicate in an automated way. Because we are supplying imagery globally for those brands and finding a vendor that could help support the complexity of that is very important.
What has been Pixelz’ biggest value to you?
Kathy: The speed of delivery on large volume assets. It’s allowed our in-house retouchers to focus their efforts on more subjective retouching projects.
With Pixelz, we've relieved the bottleneck. It's pretty easy now that we have all the templates built to move images quickly; the whole thing has an additive effect, and we're able to turn that volume much much quicker.
Has time to market improved?
Phil: Yes. Turnaround time is a big focus. Our turnaround times prior to Pixelz were compromised, because we just had traditional bottleneck problems.
While our core retouchers were trying to finish one project, we couldn't stop to get something else prepped and moving on to the next stage—so we had a lot of wait time and projects that couldn’t actually get started. With Pixelz, we've relieved the bottleneck. It's pretty easy now that we have all the templates built to move images quickly; the whole thing has an additive effect, and we're able to turn that volume much much quicker.
Any metrics you can share regarding cost savings or other measurables?
Kathy: We were able to reduce our current expenditures by 40% over prior year without affecting image capacity and lead-time. We didn’t miss a beat, and our internal teams were very pleased with how everything seemed so easy and seamless.
You mentioned more subjective retouching projects. How do you use Pixelz to assist work that you finish in-house?
Charles: I think any time you're dealing with reflective surfaces, it is more subjective. On all of our jewelry and watches, how you retouch that particular gradient or highlight or shadow becomes a lot more subjective and that's some of the stuff that's a little harder to communicate and standardize. We're not really expecting Pixelz to handle a lot of that type retouching that's specialized to people in the watch industry. If we can get everything else besides that, and fine tune precise color on the backend, then it really helps speed the process along.
Phil: Yeah, that's the best way to put it. We do always want to hold on to some of the in-house stuff that we do, but Pixelz has allowed us to focus more on that and focus less on some of these things that Pixelz is very very good at, with the standardization and manufacturing of a lot of images.
Charles: Same with the feature workflow. That's your ad shot, it's your point of sale, the more creative shots that are shot within an environment or that are propped out a certain way. I think those are a lot more subjective but have more art direction call out, so even with our feature workflow, if we can get Pixelz to prep those files— those paths, and if everything is clipped out and already there—then our retouchers are able to tackle those subjective art direction call outs faster.
We do always want to hold on to some of the in-house stuff that we do, but Pixelz has allowed us to focus more on that and focus less on some of these things that Pixelz is very very good at, with the standardization and manufacturing of a lot of images.
Fossil Group has made a major commitment to sustainability. How important is Pixelz CSR to your culture?
Kathy: Fossil Group is committed to inclusive business practices - ensuring our global operations make a positive impact on people, communities, and the environment. As part of our global sustainability strategy, we look forward to strengthening our vendor partner relationships, while looking through the lens of strong sustainable practices and corporate responsibility.
Would you recommend Pixelz?
Phil: Absolutely. Especially in an enterprise operation where you're going to have a lot of volume and you want to build a system that's going to be scalable, that'll run for a long long time as your brands grow and your needs grow, the technology platform that Pixelz has put together is fantastic—and with a bunch of smart tools and the added customer service, it’s hard to beat!