Written by Howard Fenton, Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL

If you have worked in the industry for a while and perhaps have some grey hair on your head, you may remember a time when your equipment and production workflow were powerful sales tools in your arsenal. Years ago, companies would rave about the quality they achieved from their Hell scanners, Scitex equipment, digital dot proofers or thermal platesetters. But those days are gone. Now, sales and printing experts joke about the days of using your equipment list to help sell your services. However, that does not mean that the value of a good production workflow is gone. As we all struggle to differentiate our products and services in this hyper competitive environment, there are still advantages for companies that make it easier for customers to deliver faster or manufacture for less.

In the simplest of terms, a good production workflow can create, enhance or add value in three basic ways. A good workflow reduces bottlenecks, minimizes pain points and helps companies add new products and services that better address their customer’s changing needs.

  • Bottlenecks are places where work gets stuck. As made famous in the book “The Goal,” bottlenecks determine productivity, cost and turnaround time. Companies that focus on bottlenecks are the fastest and lowest cost manufacturers.
  • Pain points are manual and time-consuming steps. Pain points can be redundant and error prone such as handwriting the same information on several different paper forms or re-inputting specifications for a job into the estimating system as well as a job ticketing system.
  • Last but not least, a good workflow can facilitate the creation of higher value products or services such as variable data printing, design services, large format output, as well as web-based services.

The advantages of a good production workflow are subtle but significant because it automates production, improves the customer experience and results in greater convenience and faster turnaround. The value of a good production workflow has not changed, but the way we sell it has changed. It is no longer possible to discuss the quality differences associated with equipment. Today, quality has become the “table stakes” required to get into the game.

But just because quality is no longer a differentiator does not mean that the workflow is no longer an advantage. Today the benefits of production workflow have to translate into tangible customer benefits such as turnaround time, convenience, cost and the ability to provide additional services such as cross media benefits.

How do you translate production workflow benefits into tangible customer benefits?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.