Have you heard the joke that the prepress department is the black hole of your company because work goes in and never comes out? This insinuates that the prepress department is the greatest bottleneck. While often true, it’s important to recognize that what appears as a bottleneck may not be the root cause of the problem. In other words, just because work gets stuck in prepress does not mean it’s their fault. The root cause is often incorrect or inaccurate information from sales or customer service staff.

Of course, bottlenecks can be anywhere in your workflow. More often than not, however, it is the bottlenecks in the front end of the process that appears as the most important bottlenecks. As a result we often hear about bottlenecks in estimating, customer service and prepress, and rarely hear about the bottlenecks in the pressroom or finishing area.

In the 2014 InfoTrends report “Production Print Services in North America: Understanding Industry Transformation”, when companies were asked about their off-line finishing bottlenecks, the top-4 mentioned included perfect binding (24.6%), booklet making (22.8%), mechanical binding (17.0%), and case binding (16.6%).

Offline-Finishing-Bottlenecks

 

Even more interesting were responses to the question “which finishing processes are outsourced?” Upon quick glance, it’s easy to mistake this figure for the same as above.

Finishing-Outsourced

 

The first figure answers the question, “where are your largest finishing bottlenecks?” and the second answers the question “what finishing work do you outsource most?”

The most obvious explanation is that the bottlenecks in finishing are so significant that it often motivates companies to outsource. But the obvious downside of outsourcing finishing is the increased rinse cycle time and impacts on overall profitability. That is why other questions in the same survey identified that 25-40% of companies’ report that they are planning to purchase new finishing devices.

An interesting question to think about is, “What are your investment priorities and will they help in overcoming your bottlenecks, help you sell more and increase your profitability?”