Managing Smaller Job Orders in High-Speed Inkjet Shops
With every incremental increase in inkjet production speeds, plant capacity increases bringing the opportunity for more throughput, more jobs, and higher profits for the business. But capacity alone isn’t enough to expand business opportunities, especially if your job onboarding and workflow processes were built for long-run jobs with common finishing requirements.
Today’s print buyers are focusing on buying what they need when they need it. Instead of placing orders for high-volume print runs that are sent to a warehouse, it is more likely they will look at their campaign calendar and place smaller orders more frequently. They may also change what they order more frequently, rotating among a set of formats to meet campaign needs.
Why Place Smaller Job Orders?
From a buyer’s perspective, placing smaller volume orders with more frequency gives them control of their budgets, more flexibility, and may reduce waste. Instead of loading the annual print spend into a specific month or quarter, the budgeting can adjust to the ebb and flow of needs. Fewer pieces end up in recycling because of business or market changes, too. And a workflow built to handle smaller quantities should be able to accommodate clients buying a single copy of a book, catalog, or presentation!
Whether the buyer is focused on static marketing collateral or custom communication, shorter runs are here to stay, so adjusting the workflows to accommodate the new patterns while keeping the inkjet devices running is essential. The hard part in many shops is the inertia that comes from years of linear thinking. An order comes in, it goes to prepress, and it goes into the print queue. There may be loops and bottlenecks along the way, even if a scheduling system is in place.
In the new world of more jobs, sometimes ten to twenty time more jobs with fundamentally the same print volume, linear thinking is inefficient. Automation is required to avoid delays in onboarding, delays in file preparation, scheduling inefficiencies, and poor use of a very expensive press! Smart use of imposition tools saves time and money as the pace of job changes increases.
Why You Need an Imposition Strategy
Imposing print layouts might seem like a simple task of arranging pages for final product alignment according to customer requirements. While imposition traditionally revolves around books, magazines, and catalogs, it’s a fundamental prepress step for most marketing materials, transactional statements, and insurance policies. In commercial inkjet printing the goal is to optimize the use of the substrate and limit how often changes are required. Without a strategy, unload and loading rolls or pallets of paper, and recalibrating the press becomes costly in time and money.
Gather some data to get started:
- How many imposition, ganging, and nesting templates are in use?
- What is the average amount of waste?
- How are you tracking the time it takes to prepare and print each job?
Define where you want to be by the end of the next quarter and the end of the following three quarters in terms of the time spent developing and executing imposition schemes as you onboard new customers or add new applications. That will be your roadmap to define resource allocation and prioritizing activities to achieve improved workflow and production costs, especially those related to labor and waste.
Once you set your goals and everyone in the shop understands the strategy, it is time to get to work. Begin with the tools you have. If you are an Ultimate Impostrip customer, you have one of the best tools in the market to define and automate production imposition for the products you print and deliver. If you are using other tools, ask these questions:
1. Does your tool allow you to identify the most efficient imposition for the work you are doing?
This is important because you may have different needs at different times. You may be batching jobs that are similar but not identical. You may need to change the target print and finishing after the job is accepted.
- Can your tool tell you the best approach to minimize waste and, alternatively, optimize production speed?
- How many attempts does it take to get the imposition that satisfies your needs?
2. How often does the print get into finishing and not meet the requirements?
This can happen for many reasons, but the most common is a late-stage change to the press or finishing equipment that would require a different imposition and supporting barcodes. How long does it take to reconfigure, rerun, and deliver and how much of a financial hit do you take in the process.?
3. How many people are involved in the development of imposition programming, testing, and execution?
Every person who touches the job is a cost. Every minute they spend is a cost. Every mistake made is a cost.
Consider making imposition one of the first actions after preflighting and optimization in your workflow. The reason is profit. For many companies, the estimating process, whether it is manually done by a person or handled by a software tool, doesn’t consider the power of advanced imposition techniques to ensure the most efficient print and production. Running your imposition as part of your onboarding allows you to update cost and profit expectations, which can be valuable if discounts are attached to the job.
What About the Do-It-Yourself Approach?
Can you build a custom workflow incorporating diverse tools, including custom imposition templates? Yes. Should you? No. Most print shops, whether in-plant or print-for-pay, commercial or transactional, are seeing the average order quantities dropping, but the overall number of orders increasing. That puts pressure on everyone in the process, from sales to the estimators and into production. The best practice for the modern print shop is to automate the workflow from the point of sale and job onboarding through to reconciling the job ticket at delivery. That is harder to do when there are inefficient manual processes in prepress.
Consider adding the power of Ultimate Impostrip Scalable to your high-speed inkjet workflow to gain maximum efficiency and reap the rewards of your total capacity.
Written for Ultimate TechnoGraphics by: