Workflow automation is an important topic for all companies looking to get the most value from the color inkjet purchase or to help justify a purchase of color inkjet. Along with the increased capabilities inkjet offers, companies are seeing an increasing number of smaller, shorter turnaround job requests from their customers. Whether your company is large or small, there are many areas where an automated workflow can enhance your operations.
A common theme underscores the major trends happening in customer communications. It’s output production workflow. Whether this is because of the steadily decreasing cost of hardware and software technology, the increasing regulatory requirements for privacy and audit or the increasing rate of mergers and acquisition in the print production space – it matters little. Output production workflow and process automation is on everyone’s mind.
To fully take advantage of the benefits of inkjet, it’s important to have a workflow that can operate across multiple types of incoming work, automating tasks along the way, and work agnostically in a mixed printing environment with equipment from multiple vendors or multiple printing technology (inkjet production, toner, offset, large format).
One of the problems that hinders the ability to take advantage of the greater speeds and format sizes of inkjet presses is the reluctance of users to replace their proprietary workflows.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was your print shop. The business grew over time. Customers, employees, equipment, and software have likely come and gone. Odds are also high that you now offer more applications that are being produced across multiple types of print technology. But have your processes and toolsets to support those processes changed with the times?
Over our years of performing workflow assessments, we have found some commonalities across print shops of all shapes and sizes:
Printers readily admit if and where they struggle with their workflow. This year 55% of printers said dealing with a high number of small jobs was their biggest workflow bottleneck and challenge as part of Keypoint Intelligence - InfoTrends 2019 North American Software Investment Outlook. Yet, 43% of those printers said their workflow processes were mostly manual in many of their departments.
Finishing solutions in your shop can be a necessary piece of infrastructure or a differentiator that brings you new business. How you treat finishing in your production often depends on the type of business you operate. For transaction print and mail operations, finishing may revolve around slit/merge, perf/punch, fold and insert operations, while for direct mail print shops there may be a wider range of options for folding, scoring, creasing, and tabbing. Book printers often focus on book block assembly, binding, and cover-based workflows.
Chuck Werninger is Senior Manager of IT Administrative Services at Houston Independent School District. You might be familiar with Chuck as he was a speaker on the "Investing in Inkjet" panel at this year's Inkjet 101 — or perhaps you know him from his active contribution to several other industry publications and events. It’s safe to say that wherever people are talking about the future of print, Chuck is sure to be part of the conversation.
There is widespread agreement that automating your inkjet production workflow has numerous benefits. Automation reduces errors and lets you do more with fewer resources. It supports increased throughput, allows you to make better use of your equipment, and gives you the tools and foundation to take on more work. All of this impacts your bottom line and can lead to increased profits, so automating your workflow appears to be a no-brainer.
Online ordering, whether in print or not, is now second nature. Thanks to e-commerce behemoths like Alibaba and Amazon, business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) users now expect a completely easy and seamless experience when ordering print online. Printers that have not prepared for this reality are now behind the curve since web-to-print (W2P) solutions have been on the market for over a decade.
Whether they are large or small, corporate enterprises or quick print shops, all printing operations face challenges when it comes to managing production demands. Effectively managing these challenges involves planning and documenting patterns and processes that strategically integrate with business and manufacturing processes.
Companies that incorporate workflow automation into their production processes can decrease their operational costs, increase print production and manufacturing, and can ultimately keep – or move – themselves onto the path to profitability.