By Editor Morten Reitoft

In the following two weeks, INKISH will be focusing on The Smart Factory, but what is it? When I was a kid, I loved being in my grand-fathers carpenter workshop. The machines, the saws, the tools, and the smell of fresh wood was something I loved. That was back in the early '70s, and without knowing for sure, I am sure my grand-fathers workshop even then was old-school, but I can't help think of what makes a business a business.

If his business was based on old-school measures, how could he then survive? I take that competition was there, and that some of his competitors may have been cheaper, more effective, and maybe even using tools way more modern. His secret was maybe the craftsmanship, his relations, and the quality of his work? I don't know, but I know that the term Smart Factory wasn't invented then.

When we focus so much on efficiency today, it's because the competition is way higher, but also because we, to some extent, keep chasing our tail. With an extreme over-capacity in the printing industry, the supply and demand obviously keep competition in favor of our customers. Printing has never been cheaper, and regardless of who or what mechanism keeps driving prices down, printing companies continue to optimize.

The optimization has become a necessity, but it's quite strange since most printing companies optimize to become better, more profitable, more efficient, and lower production costs, to give it away to their customers.

One of the major misunderstandings, in my opinion, is that printers believe that 1) prices are the main objective for print buyers and 2) that lower prices dramatically will give the printer higher market shares.

Of course, nobody wants to buy too expensive, so prices do influence purchasing behavior - but prices are not the same, and therefore, customers accept the price-diversity. They accept the price-diversity since the "right price" is the perception of value relating to the actual cost. If lower prices gave your higher market shares, the number of printing companies would be considerably lower. Though the number of printing companies decreases, there are many other reasons for this.

However, the Smart Factory is a necessity in the future, since it's an opportunity for you to make more money - WAY more money. The lights-out production is for sure coming, and regardless of what segment in the industry you serve, this is an opportunity to increase your margins. The Smart Factory is, however, ALSO an opportunity for you to serve new markets. Your role as a sub-contractor can depend totally on your ability to connect, automate, produce, pack, ship, and be errorless. It can only be achieved using IoT, Robots, automated workflow, software, and equipment connected to a level never before possible!

With the Smart Factory, you enter the Industry 4.0, and it will change your company forever.

Will The Smart Factory be for all? Good question - and yes, most likely, this will apply to all types of companies - but, of course, on different levels. For example, lights-Out Productions I don't see as a standard production mantra for a long time.

One thing is, however, sure. There will be fewer people working in printing companies directly involved with print and binding. The types of employees working in manufacturing companies - not only printing - will be different—more people with knowledge about computers, programming, software, workflow, IoT, etc.

In the next two weeks, INKISH will focus on The Smart Factory. In the week, starting Monday, September 7th, we will kick-off many articles about The Smart Factory, teaching you as much as we possibly can. In the week, starting Monday, September 14th, you can look forward to a week with LIVE webinars where you can learn from industry specialists.

See you!