Editor’s Notebook: Waging War on Workflow Woes
Print shop owners and managers often get enamored by the output capabilities of their high-speed offset and digital hardware, but their eyes tend to glaze over when the conversation turns to workflow software and process automation best practices that maximize productivity and minimize human touch points. In an insightful article, titled “Streamline Your Workflow," industry consultant Mike Ruff details production workflow problems encountered by many printing businesses and gives some tips for solving the chaos.
His advice ranges from simple steps such as adopting all-PDF-format workflows, standardized file submission procedures and automated preflighting stages, to more far-reaching collaboration tools like dashboards enabled by desktop computer connections for all internal and external stakeholders. This collaboration chain enables real-time file management and approvals — something that the incoming generation of younger print buyers and brand managers will mandate as they are called upon to manage more with less.
The bottom line, as Ruff states so succinctly, is that workflow processes need to be as automated, orderly and streamlined as possible, with all incoming job information entered only once into your MIS and collaboration systems, and with minimal human touch points.
With print shops focused primarily on automating the print function at the RIP and the press, he points out that most profit-draining tasks are happening as redundant, unnecessary steps much further upstream in the prepress stages of jobs. As an analogy, it harkens back to the onslaught of desktop publishing and computer-to-plate technologies, which eventually displaced the need for professional typesetters and strippers. Will the job descriptions for today’s prepress technicians eventually follow that same path to obsolescence?
As our industry continues its shift to on-demand print production that entails hundreds and even thousands of incoming jobs, process automation and dashboard adoption hold the keys to higher productivity and, ultimately, profitability. Their implementation avoids your business from being buried in time-consuming job revisions, approvals and the subsequent endless email chains that sap everyone’s productivity. Perhaps we should pay as much attention to the ongoing technology advances in workflow automation and computer-enabled collaboration as we do to the latest, “game-changing” production inkjet press model.