Lack of Vision

“A lot of print management system vendors still don’t have that vision of tying print management systems into production,” he says. “This is a big change from what they’ve done in the past. They need to look beyond the front office to process workflow, and not just management.”

Press says he is finding that a lot of printers are buying into the CIM vision. “They’ve been hearing about it from the production system vendors and already seen an increase in the level of automation in their plants. Printers are now ready for the next step—tying in pre-production,” he explains.

For a number of reason, Press believes the industry is still at least five years away from realizing CIM on a broad scale. A key sticking point is the amount of old iron in use that doesn’t have any digital control capabilities. “There are some add-on systems you can attach to legacy machines, but you really need equipment that is JDF/CIP4 capable to fully realize the vision,” he says.

There are steps printers should be taking today, though, the consultant advises. “If more of production is going to be automated, jobs have to be set up right in pre-production. They need to be properly planned in the print management system before any files hit production. A lot of shops still just have order entry-type people entering the job parameters into a computer, and that becomes the plan,” Press notes.

“You need someone with expertise upfront deciding how a job is gong to be produced,” he continues. “This person is going to have to understand the capabilities of all the equipment and the implications of how the workflow is set up, as well as have a handle on schedules.”

Press believes CIM support will be a competitive advantage for the pioneering management system vendors. “Printers typically go through a major management system upgrade every five to 10 years, so they may be willing to switch systems at that point to get CIM capabilities,” he says.

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