Automation is Scary

By Diego Diaz

Howls in the night

Whether you own a print shop or work in one youve heard the call of automation through the industry. With vendors beating the drum of powerful software platforms, and every tradeshow preaching industry 4.0 its hard to ignore, nor should you. But it also doesnt have to be daunting or threatening.

How does it affect my business?

So what does Print Workflow automation mean to you? What does it mean for your business? If youre a business owner it might mean scalability, or faster turn times, but also big costs and a bigger investment in IT then youre used to. As a Production Manager it might mean more productivity from fewer people and fewer errors as files go into production. If youre a Prepress Manager or operator then you may be shaking in your boots, its 2019 and there is no one in our industry that doesnt have at least one story or reference of a prepress department gutted by Automation. But it doesnt have to be that way. This can be a step up for every segment of your print business.

Seeing with 2020 vision

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. Its how we get orders, it represents the new equipment on our floors, and its 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 isnt 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 havent made that mental leap yet, now is the time to do so and it wont be cheap. Be prepared to see costs that would equal that of a new press in the staff youll 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, wont want to be called IT, get used to using the term Developer.

If youre that Production Manager and youre 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…. Its there just learn to listen for it.

If youre the Prepress Manager or Operator, fret not, you survived when computers took over design, you survived the CtP revolution, and you survived every time Adobe has moved your buttons around. Now its time for another transformation. As above the message of the day is Buy In. You are better primed than anyone to join and even lead your companys workflow team. Dust off those Javascript books you tried to learn at some point and start studying. For those of you unwilling to take that leap, dont worry as long as someone does in your company it will thrive and you will still get benefits. Those repetitive jobs that you Always” have to impose this way, or the images you always” have to downsample? That will all happen automatically in your future, and you? You will get to work on the kinds of jobs to which the words Always and Never” cant be applied. You will get to work on the strange, the inconsistent and all the non-automatable jobs out there. Just be wary your brethren that picked up coding will be making that non-automatable piece of the pie smaller and smaller every year.

Under a full moon

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 Ill deal with increasingly advanced concepts, but for those of you that havent started in earnest let this one that prompts you to take a stab at it. Well move past the concept phase into some real ways to move the needle with out breaking the bank.