It is often when we are found in challenging times that we are sparked to change. It is during these times we often realize what are the changes we should have implemented and could have implemented earlier. Here we are in a pandemic crisis, during which most businesses are looking at ways to cope and to ways reinvent.
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the next best time is now.” And in the current world situation we are in, one would say that the best time to implement an automated print workflow all the way to finishing was many years ago, and the next best time is now.
Many print supply chain tasks require a lot of specific knowledge and experience. What happens if the knowledge and experience cannot show up to work, because of an unexpected series of events? What is your continuity plan? How do you manage the inflow of work? How do you survive?
From these questions, interesting facts about how our customers are working today can help print service providers worldwide imagine what a more efficient and failure-proof workflow can look like.
Looking at Prepress
Web-to-print solutions being more and more popular, printers turn towards prepress automation software solutions to automate their flow of jobs from ordering to printing. Most print manufacturing companies offer unique imposition solution integrated into their specific device, obligating the printer to use multiple imposition software solutions if he has presses coming from different manufacturers. Each software solution is mastered by one prepress operator who is dedicated to be the assigned expert on this solution.
For example, John, Mary and Joe all know an imposition application (software A in offset, software B in digital cut sheet, software C in large format) but they do not have cross competencies on the applications. When one person is sick, no one knows how to prepare jobs on the other automation software and production is immediately affected. Looking at standardizing using a single point solution is a solution that can be helpful in these situations.
Looking at Finishing
On any regular day, putting ink on paper, smelling printed jobs getting stacked, feeling excited about these sheets embellished with UV varnish, is the sound of the printing plant and is music to our ears!
Everyone is at “their” stations, preparing files, ensuring printing devices are operational, finishing products in bindery and packing boxes to ship in time to happy customers. That is the norm, until a situation happened when we realize this process is not optimal. For example, a person who has exclusive knowledge in a prepress tool, or on a bindery device becomes sick or has to leave for some time. This probable event can turn into a major nightmare or worse, a crisis that can jeopardize your entire operations.
To illustrate this situation, we were recently visiting a customer in the United States of America who shared this story (real names replaced): Bob, an experienced operator with decades of knowledge on a cutter (guillotine), used all the skills of a mathematician and a craftsman to perfectly cut stacks of valuable paper day in, day out. A few months ago, he broke a leg and got on sick leave. As no one in the company could do his job or knew how to operate the 40-year old “piece of iron”, a solution had to be immediately found to avoid crisis. The CEO & founder himself was the only one with knowledge of how that equipment worked (yes, he did the job himself in the early days of the company) and he had to step in for several weeks. With all good intentions and resourcefulness, this was a solution that worked for them in a short period of time but wouldn’t be suitable for the long run.
What can be done NOW to bring relief?
After this crisis, the company realized that they needed to find a more permanent solution and, find ways to grow productivity. One of the possible solutions was to bring finishing automation to the cutter with a retrofit kit and workflow automation tools such as Ultimate Impostrip® and Ultimate Bindery® to fully automate finishing parameters on devices like cutters. Automation enables about anyone to follow instructions on a screen and rotate paper stacks, accordingly, leaving the automation performs the task. Once implemented, several people can step in and perform the operation perfectly, allowing production to continue under most circumstances.