How Research Validates the Benefits Workflow Automation Delivers to Print Providers
According to a NAPCO Research study, workflow automation enables print providers to enhance job profitability, improve productivity, and better serve customers.
A recent survey of print providers in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom validates many beliefs about the benefits workflow automation offers. Survey respondents from highly automated operations report higher throughput, faster turnaround, enhanced productivity, and more profitable jobs.
Survey participants were asked to select the key benefits their organizations experienced from investing in tools to automate print production workflows. Respondents from highly automated firms report reaping solid benefits, including faster job completion, better press utilization, fewer errors and waste, improved delivery time, and better margins or cost savings (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Top Benefits Experienced by Highly Automated Respondents
Key Research Findings
Survey respondents representing companies that have invested in workflow automation report higher throughput, faster turnaround, enhanced productivity, and more profitable jobs.
Here is a summary of key survey findings:
- More automated firms experience higher revenue and sales growth compared to those that are less automated.
- Investing in automation improves print production throughput.
- Firms with higher automation tend to produce work in faster timeframes than those with less automation.
- Workflow automation increases job profitability.
- Automation reduces the number manual job touches that can lead to potential mistakes and costs for reworking job.
The research is the result of a 2020 survey of commercial printers in North America and United Kingdom. The surveys captured responses from 201 commercial printers in North America, nearly all of which are located in the United States, and 53 commercial printers in the U.K.
The study focused on uncovering the primary benefits that workflow automation offers print providers. An essential step for defining survey results was to segment and classify responses by the level of automation of their organizations. The survey asked respondents to rank their organization’s degree of automation (fully automated, mostly automated, some automation, mostly manual or all manual) across various job stages from order submission through job shipping.
Most respondents report some level of automation across the various stages of production, but relatively few said they had achieved full automation from end to end. Based on their ranking for each job stage, all 254 respondents were scored and classified in one of three categories: high automation, medium automation, and low automation. Each job stage was weighted equally in scoring automation levels.
Segmenting survey responses by levels of automation revealed the following breakouts:
- High Automation: 28%
- Medium Automation: 43%
- Low Automation: 29%
These respondent segments are the foundation for evaluating the benefits and advantages printing operations are experiencing through workflow automation.
Printing Equipment: Digital vs. Analog
Respondents were given a number of options for reporting the analog versus digital composition of their printing equipment and were asked to select the choice that best described their operation. 50% of respondents report having an entirely or mostly digital operation, while 21% are mostly or entirely analog and 29% do not have a dominating process.
An interesting survey finding of respondents that operate only digital presses is that they required fewer people to onboard jobs and that in many cases, onboarding is totally automated. While respondents with high levels of automation reported higher levels of completely automated job onboarding than those with less automation, printing only on digital presses was more strongly correlated with automating this task and reducing the number of people needed to perform it.
Defining the Value of Automation
Workflow automation is based on the idea that every step in a printing a job can be digitally linked to other steps, creating a chain of programmed events that keep the job moving continuously ahead toward completion. Ideally, this chain of events extends all the way from order intake to delivery of the finished product, generating streams of data that track the job, monitor its costs, and yield insights into making the production of subsequent jobs even more efficient. More advanced automation uses business rules, predictive algorithms, and software to automate tasks and decisions, helping to minimize human intervention and cut implementation time.
This kind of end-to-end, fully automated print workflow is more than just theoretically possible. A few printers have achieved it. Most printers, however, are at the early to intermediate stages of workflow implementation. While some are still just starting to consider their options for making it happen, having an automated workflow is widely acknowledged in the industry as essential to competitiveness and to future-proofing one’s business.
This research report, the first of two on the subject of future-proofing operations with workflow automation, looks at the operational and business benefits automation is delivering to print providers. The next report will cover how printers are using workflow automation to integrate and optimize their processes, including breaking the bottlenecks that hamper production.
To learn more, download the full report Future-Proofing Your Printing Business: Workflow Automation Optimizes Operational Productivity and Results.
This report was commissioned by HP Site Flow. Learn more at www.hpsiteflow.com
Lisa Cross is the principal analyst of NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media) where she conducts market research and analysis on emerging trends and changing dynamics in the commercial, in-plant and packaging industries, and the market forces that are driving those changes. With decades of experience covering the graphic arts and marketing industries, Cross has authored thousands of articles on a variety of topics, including technology trends, business strategy, sales, marketing and legislation.