Software Automation and Process Control: The Keys to Remaining Competitive

Although most experts in the industry frown upon conversations about costs and competitive prices, most owners acknowledge that one of the greatest challenges is remaining cost competitive. The only way to remain competitive is to reduce your manufacturing costs. In our experience working with hundreds of companies, there are two basic approaches: software automation tools and process improvement strategies.
Process improvement means changing the way you work. In our work, we focus on mapping workflows, identifying bottlenecks and quality control issues, creating a gap analysis, and creating cost benefit analysis for different solutions.
Software automation tools include web-to-print, Print MIS, color management and pre-press PDF solutions. Each focuses on automating some of the manual tasks listed below.
Productivity in the printing industry lags behind other forms of manufacturing. In the NAPL Workflow Investment Study, if you average the different software categories you find that only about 50% of the companies have bought these software automation tools. But that is deceptive because some companies build their own software automation tools. In InfoTrends study entitled, “US Software Investment Outlook” 2014, they identified companies that had built their own homegrown solutions. The percentages were different for software solutions, but they generally ranged between 15% the 30%.
Admittedly, it is better to build more value added products and services when possible, but they typically make up a small percentage of your overall work. With products and services that are price sensitive, you will want to remain cost competitive by either improving your process or investing in automation tools.
To figure out which tool is most appropriate, you should consider the impact of each. A Print MIS system can provide critical management data that can help you run your business. The PDF workflow solutions eliminate what is often referred to as the “black hole in production” which are pre-press bottlenecks. The color management solution can reduce paper waste, rework, and avoid customer satisfaction complaints due to color issues.

For more information about measuring performance, benchmarking against leaders, and overcoming print production issues contact Howie Fenton. For 25 years, he has focused on helping in-plant and commercial printers measure, identify and overcome operational issues. For more info, e-mail

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