By Diego Diaz
Whether you own a print shop or work in one you’ve heard the call of automation through the industry. With vendors beating the drum of powerful software platforms, and every tradeshow preaching industry 4.0 it’s hard to ignore, nor should you. But it also doesn’t have to be daunting or threatening.
So what does Print Workflow automation mean to you? What does it mean for your business? If you’re a business owner it might mean scalability, or faster turn times, but also big costs and a bigger investment in IT then you’re used to. As a Production Manager it might mean more productivity from fewer people and fewer errors as files go into production. If you’re a Prepress Manager or operator then you may be shaking in your boots, it’s 2019 and there is no one in our industry that doesn’t have at least one story or reference of a prepress department gutted by Automation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This can be a step up for every segment of your print business.
For those of you like me, too busy to even pay attention to what year it is, it is almost 2020 (yup take that in for a little bit). The digital revolution has come and hit our industry hard over the past two decades. It’s how we get orders, it represents the new equipment on our floors, and it’s the new medium our customers are using to advertise, report and communicate. Although it seems like a mere newborn next to 175 years of modern printing presses, the last 20 years have shown that digital is king and not going anywhere anytime soon. This isn’t another “print is dead” article, its not and I doubt it ever will be. But the printers making money have harnessed the power of digital, and are using it to power and grow their print businesses. So what can be done to join their ranks?
Buy in. Plain and simple, if you are that Business owner I mentioned earlier, buy in. Stop looking at your Information Technology departments as a cost. Understand that this team will become as critical to the success of your business as any Press or Bindery equipment could be. If you haven’t made that mental leap yet, now is the time to do so and it won’t be cheap. Be prepared to see costs that would equal that of a new press in the staff you’ll bring on, but likewise, expect and demand returns to match. This team will do more than just build infrastructure. They will increase Sales, improve productivity, add new markets and market competitiveness, and provide data for a strong and stable growth. Just a note, many of these new people you invest in, won’t want to be called IT, get used to using the term Developer.
If you’re that Production Manager and you’re wondering how workflow automation can revolutionize your world, listen to your own vocabulary and let the word “always” be your guide. This file “always” needs to be imposed like this? Workflow Automation. This product “always” is collated at press. Workflow Automation. This customer “always” send bad spot colors? Workflow Automation…. It’s there just learn to listen for it.
For many of you, I would imagine this transformation is already far underway, Web to Print, Imposition Servers and scripting are nothing new. As my articles go on I’ll deal with increasingly advanced concepts, but for those of you that haven’t started in earnest let this one that prompts you to take a stab at it. We’ll move past the concept phase into some real ways to move the needle with out breaking the bank.