Over the past five years, I have visited most of the centres in the network. One of the most common characteristics that I find is that centres tend to have an evolved workflow. The centres workflow may have been thought out several years ago, but custom and practice will have changed the workflow pattern over time. The result of this is often less than ideal.
Not many design and print businesses would survive today by using the same business model that was used ten years ago, so using a ten year old workflow could be costing you money. This is an ideal time to look critically at your centres workflow and modernise it if necessary.
Centres that have both litho and digital production usually run parallel workflows. This article is mainly concerned with the digital workflow. Is your digital workflow as automated as it could be? Why automate? There are several reasons to automate some aspects of your digital workflow.
Handle more jobs automatically.
Operators often have less focus on repetitive jobs. This leads to more errors - and more reprints, so automation can lead to fewer errors.
You probably already have the technology, so little or no additional investment.
Every error is lost time, lost profit, and a potential lost customer.
So how can you reduce errors by automating more of the process without making a large investment in new equipment?
Any print MIS system should have the facility to create job templates. PrintSmith, for example, will save any estimate or invoice as an invoice template, or any job as a job template. Using job templates in PrintSmith will enable you to incorporate all the required charges and job notes into the template whilst leaving you the freedom to edit any aspect of the job. This will help to drive consistency through the workflow, thereby reducing mistakes and omissions. Older versions of PrintSmith required you to manually copy any template created to all the other workstations. The current version (8.1.x) is able to save any template to the shared templates folder on the PS master. I have noticed that very few centres use templates effectively, but those that do, derive significant benefit from them.
Using PrintSmith site is a way of channeling your customers orders directly onto your workflow. The latest version is much more user friendly than previous versions. A small investment is required, to but it remains competitively priced compared to other on-line ordering systems, and it is the only one that integrates directly into PrintSmith.
If you have a digital colour production machine, you may already be using an EFI Fiery controller that will accept JDF digital job tickets from PrintSmith. I’ll be writing more about this in the new year.
Whatever MIS system you are using, It’s only as good as the information it contains. The quiet week at the start of January is the perfect time to ensure that your stock prices, press, copier and charge definitions are correct and up to date. Because none of the innovations mentioned in this article will will be of any use if they are not.