Why You Should Incorporate Automation Into Your Workflow
Should we be doing this? And if so, where do we start?
As a small printer doing your best to keep pace with market changes and the competitive landscape, how many times have you asked questions like these about a product, technique or technology?
A lot, I imagine. Well, if you aren’t already, you might want to start asking those questions once again when it comes to how your customers order products.
I’m talking specifically about incorporating automation into your workflow by investing in a Web-to-print system.
Understanding How Web-to-print Can Work Well for Your Customers — and You
Yes, there are lots of advantages to adding online automation to your printing capabilities. But before I get into them, I want to make clear that I’m not talking about trying to be like the national printing giants out there.
They’re working with price points and volume levels vastly different from my company’s, and probably yours as well.
I’ve written before about staying competitive with the big boys not necessarily by beating them on price but by staying close enough with your costs — and then adding value in other ways.
And that brings me back to automating your orders with an online system. Is such a system necessary for every kind of product or customer? Absolutely not.
On the other hand, small, locally based printers who incorporate a Web-to-print system have a profound opportunity to create a great customer experience—the kind of experience that makes it really hard to leave you.
I’m talking about giving your customers the ability to . . .
- Have a printing partner who can manage all of their projects online
- Use an individualized, interactive web portal, essentially their own printing website
- Upload designs easily and provide special information conveniently
- Bypass sales reps and get quotes automatically for frequently purchased products
- Request and access proofs online
- Order products in a snap for one or multiple locations
The Benefits for You
Once you get a customer accustomed to the automation mode, the ease, clarity and convenience can help cement your relationship.
So even if your costs are, say, 15% higher than a national printer option, customers are way less likely to shop around. They not only have a more personal connection with you, they have a system that’s working for them, one that saves them time — and headaches.
But you can benefit in other ways as well. Since my company delved into online automation five years ago, I’d say a third of our workflow is now fully automated. And I can tell you unequivocally that it’s helped our business’s bottom line.
Adding an automation system saves us time and money in lots of ways, especially when it comes to our sales team working more cost-effectively.
How to Take the Automation Plunge
I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s taken a lot of work on our end to get where we are now. And I don’t want to overstate my expertise on this topic. I can only speak to what we’ve learned so far — and our system is still a work in progress.
But if you’re serious about adding this feature to your own company, I do have a few suggestions:
Become a student of automation. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time thoroughly researching your options — because there are now a lot of them out there.
Make sure you can justify the cost. Research your market and crunch the numbers in relation to investing in automation. How long do you estimate it will take to pay for itself? Will you need to hire new staff? And how will you sell this service to customers?
Be realistic about what you can take on. How advanced are you? Do you have staff who are tech-savvy and aren’t afraid to learn about and play with new technology?
If so, you could opt for a more flexible system that can plug in and match with various software packages.
If you’re not particularly strong in this area, then you may want something more turnkey in nature.
When is the Right Time?
Frankly, it may never feel like the “right” time to start automating. (In fact, I wish we had started five years earlier!)
You just need to start somewhere and commit to it. I believe there’s plenty of room for growth in the industry for small printers who are willing to do the research, find a system that’s right for them and start strategically automating.
About the Author
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 27 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Today, POV solutions provides printing services from Cleveland, Ohio, servicing clients coast-to-coast with commercial printing, graphic design, and spot UV printing for finishing services.
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 27 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. POV Solution provides printing services from Cleveland, Ohio, servicing clients coast-to-coast with commercial printing, graphic design and spot UV printing for finishing services.