Simplify and Automate Print Production Workflow
Rather than complicating work, good automation should actually simplify print production. Automation eliminates manual steps, reduces guesswork, avoids pauses, and enforces consistency. Set process automation to behave a certain way, and that’s what it does every time. Human-managed processes can’t say the same.
Automate to Solve Problems and Improve Systems
“Manual interventions are the bane of my existence. My goal is to encourage everyone to fix the system and not try to put quality in at the end of the process. It’s not sustainable that way,” says Troy Fischer of integrated communications company, Henry Wurst Inc. As head of process and systems, he believes it’s not enough to fix a problem, if the system that caused it remains unchanged.
His team uses an automated workflow that identifies and reroutes exceptions, so the production standard can be adjusted to handle similar exceptions in the future. “Don’t fix imperfections after the event – build quality into the process from the start,” says Fischer. It’s a smart philosophy.
The Craft of Production Print Automation
As an enabler of the craft of printing, automation is a means to an end, but at its best it becomes a craft, too. User-friendly technology has sparked democratization, making creative automation accessible to more print professionals every day. Automation itself can be an art form, as the Fox Valley Technical College Print Department showed with its creative use of workflow batching. It also helped cut lead-time from two weeks to two days.
“We began batching differently, splitting runs – getting creative to keep jobs moving. Now we track every single thing we do and gather the information we need to be more efficient,” said Shana Farrell Fox Valley Technical College (Wisconsin) Graphic Arts & Printing Technologies Center. Learning from doing is a common theme, as one automation step leads to another step or tweak.
Build Print Automation for Books
Knowledge of the process and the end game is essential to building effective automation. It takes special experience to understand print processes well enough to make them work better, as the team at Variable Image Printing in California did. Their “build-a-book” application lets customers tailor book orders online before sending them to print automatically. From the web to the printer and on to the finisher, the process is automated – even for more complex jobs like saddle-stitch books.
The craft mindset is alive not just in the traditional press operator, but in the people creating web-to-print storefronts, designing end-to-end workflows, calibrating machines and using software to remotely manage high-quality, super-consistent, streamlined print jobs, even in plants around the globe. Now that’s scale. But any size operation benefits from print workflow automation.
A craftsman knows how to build a beautiful or useful item and repeats the process at will, but not always at scale. Automation brings scale to the craft of printing. Once the “craftsmen” experts set up the right processes, the craft of digital printing becomes repeatable.
How Automated Print Production Brings Value
While they may lack ink on their hands, the people who design automated workflows have as real an impact on print runs as press operators from back in the day. “Repeat online orders take about 75 percent less time to process than they did traditionally, and the job tickets created by the system ensure finishing is consistent, since we can store production information about the job in the template,” explains Kevin Lite, Variable Image Printing.
The same demands that feed the craft mindset respond to the thoughtful application of automation. A trio of forces drives printers to automate:
- Efficiency to meet high demand quickly and within the constraints of cost.
- Quality to fulfill the potential of their craft.
- Consistency to deliver unfaltering results to customers who need them.
What Is Print Workflow Software?
These goals have never been more within reach than they are today. Workflow software automates the process steps to prepare a job for print. The flexibility and scalability of today’s solutions, including on-premise and cloud configurations, means there is an automation solution for any size print shop.
Both sides of the equation are important. It’s no exaggeration to say that the spirit of the craftsman gets reflected in the technology itself: the software that directs the flow of work and the machines that power the production of quality prints.
Your print business success depends on production workflow software to expand your reach, streamline processes and reduce costs. Award-winning digital printing workflow software helps you automate everyday operations, optimize printing investments, and enable new revenue streams through creative products and services.
4 More Resources for Production Print Automation
Production Print Workflow Video – In this popular 2017 PODI webinar on workflow automation, industry experts and successful printers share how they automate pre-press workflows, why they made the decision to automate, and what automation has done for their businesses. “Workflow Automation: What Every Printer Needs to Know” features Dave Erlandson, PODI & Caslon; Chris Bradshaw, AlphaGraphics – Utah; and Tod Viniski, Xerox.
Automating Entry Production – Do your operators repeat similar tasks in slightly different ways? That might lead you to think automating this would be difficult. This video explains how instilling automation can bump up productivity and lower the risk of error.
Digital Production Press – The Xerox Versant 3100 Press stars in this video: “Taking Automation to the Extreme.”
“10 Reasons to Automate Your Workflow” – Use this short guide to help you think about all the ways to streamline your printing processes for business growth opportunities.