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Pat McGrew from WhatTheyThink and Andrew Bailes-Collins discuss print automation


Hi, I’m Pat McGrew with WhatTheyThink, and with me is one of my favorite people in workflow. Andrew Bailes-Collins.
So, he’s got this really long history in the industry and we’re not going to go into it because no one’s got that much time, right. But interest was the Ultimate Technographics. And there, there’s a lot of see change going on in workflow and making workflows smarter. And you guys are sort of in the middle of all of this, because you control a lot of it.

ABC: Kind of in the middle at the end. Yeah.

PMG: And so, there’s a lot that you do, what is the most important thing for people to be watching for when it comes to making their workflow plans? And we hope they’re making workflow plans for 2023 into 2024.

ABC: I think it really depends on the company. And where they are.
Is automation important? Okay, stop laughing because not everybody thinks so.

ABC: Massively.

PMG: Some people believe that as long as they have John in the back, who knows how to, you know, schedule on an Excel spreadsheet, life is good.

ABC: As long as the press is moving, then everything’s great, whether it’s making money or not, who knows? I mean, there’s so many topics. I mean, there’s workflow and there’s workflow. Is efficient? Delivering files in a timely fashion? Is the press run into speed? Analytics, are you measuring, if you’re measuring, then improving on what you’re measuring, you know, continuous improvement. It really depends on the company where they are in the automation journey, and what they have. You know, we see a lot of, you know, I spent probably 20 years files to the press, with preflight and then being involved with if, say, various workflows.
There are other companies who kind of have got that done. And there’s just incremental improvements that they’re putting in that area because they’re, they’re measuring and, you know, some even refining their work to try and standardize better to get more efficiencies that way. And then there’s a lot of people that we see that done that, they’ve got the press, you know, performing well, and the bottleneck is now the finishing you know.
So they’re looking to us to automate JDF to the finisher, to set the finishing up, to reduce wastage to, you know, even talking to one of our partners here, and now when they go into a company to do an analysis, I started the bindery, because it’s literally the slowest part of the process.
Yeah, so everything else is you do is at million miles an hour, then it gets stopped sheets on a pallet, and then it’s, you know, we’re going to need some more room because we’re producing but we can’t convert to jobs. And if you can’t convert to a job, then you can’t invoice.
So, it really depends on, you know, I think the first part is an analysis and kind of an honesty about where you are, with the analysis, then comes hopefully, the indication of where your pain points are.
You know, we were talking to people to hear that hadn’t really started. And we say, what do you want to automate? And they say, well, everything. That’s not going to work, you know, because by the time you suspect what you actually need, it’s changed. And that’s a project that will never, never start. And if it does start, it will never finish.
So just start on the pieces that are going to give you the biggest benefit, give you confidence, you know, prove to your team because you need to do it collectively, you need to get everybody on board, you also need a champion. Yes (PMG). Within the business that’s going to drive this, you know, it’s not an isolated thing. It has to be a collective thing. Does that answer your question?

PMG: I think what you’re telling us is that there’s a process involved, and you have to understand your processes, and find the pain points to be able to define where the efficiencies come from. And as you’re automating, you want to make sure you’re automating best practices, not worst practices.

ABC: Yeah, I mean, don’t replicate what you’re doing now and automate it. And it’s a great tool for value stream mapping, where you map the process.
I mean, it’s quite complicated, but it basically you map how long the actual process takes to do and how long it actually takes. Because in a manual environment, you know, it might take five minutes to do it. Right (PMG). But John’s got 27 Other things to do. And then he finally gets around to it after two hours. So a five minute process takes two hours, five minutes, whereas if you automate it, it will take five minutes. Right (PMG).
And that’s when it’s very general thing to say, but it’s, you know, it’s very often everyone map it out on the wall. And then where do we need to improve? What do we need to improve. Quality? Through put? Is it prepress that can’t deliver files fast enough to the press? Is it too many mistakes when it gets to the press? Files can’t be processed, and they have to go back? Is it information from the customer? Are we using metadata in the business or are we writing paper tickets, which are out of date by the time they get to the shop floor? I mean, all the above.
PMG: Okay, so you’ve set up perfectly for my last question for you, and it is to do with standards. So, um, I’ve been playing in standards for decades. I know. Because its standards are complex. And you mentioned JDF, when you were mentioning of one of the facets of workflow, and PDF is a standard JDF is a standard, there are variations of all of them. If I’m a printer, it’s 2023. Do I have to care about standards?

ABC: Depends if your business is working well. If you have problems, I mean, standards are there. And it’s, you know, I had a discussion with somebody about standards and he says… Standards, you know, it stifles creativity.
Yeah, and ICC profiles are standard paper, paper sizes are established standards, you know. The standards are there to help you if you need to do it, if you don’t need the help, the standards may not help you at all, they may be, you know, we talked about the Ghent Workgroup and PDF x one, PDF x four, you know, there’s been a big push to move to PDF x four. With that comes a certain understanding, but also a certain… what’s the word I’m looking for… a comfortable feeling that if your workflow is set up correctly, you have a degree of predictability. Because, if you make a PDF export file, it comes with certain understandings that the fonts are embedded. The color spaces are correct. And you know, it’s going to flow through, you could also configure your DFE to support the PDF explorer file. You know, so that Workgroup has a test suite for that.

PMG: Which I love the fact that they have that.

ABC: Everything you know, that everything that comes in, whether it’s transparent, or it’s not, is going to work correctly, you’ve already predefined that you’ve tested it, and it works. That’s where a standard works. Well, it gives you predictability to move through. You know, if you’re running a press, it gives you that predictability of densities and things like that.

PMG: If I have to pay attention, So I should probably be aware of standards, and I kind of know where to find ICC profiles. If I want to know more about PDF standards, say Ghent WorkGroup, how do I find Ghent Work Group?
www.gwg.org? Okay.

ABC: I mean, when you talk about PDF standards, I mean, PDF is now such an all-encompassing standard. If you look at the latest one, the PDF 2 spec. It’s about this much in there to do with print, and about that much in there to do with, insurance, and paperless office, and medical and all the rest of it. So, we’re kind of.. it’s kind of done. But sometimes you get files and all that garbage in as well. Converting to a standard will help you get rid of all of that and give you a predictable file.
And should I be paying attention to JDF? Is that going to be important for my workflow?
It’s if you want to connect to finishing devices and dry finishing devices, then it’s a standard where everybody’s kind of got their own variation of a standard. But the best thing out there, I mean, it works extremely well.

PMG: Okay. All right. Andrew, thanks so much for taking time.

ABC: Thank you very much.

PMG: Thanks for the help with workflow. And thanks for the help with standards.

Really, really, helpful, because people get confused.

I’m Pat McGrew for What They Think you have been enjoying Andrew Bailes- Collins from Ultimate Technographics.
Thank you.

ABC: Thank you very much.

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