Winding Through Workflow Touch Points and Bottlenecks
The fourth item in the Workflow Quiz is where we identify every stop along the workflow path and how those stops are tracked. Last time your job was to lay out all of the documentation and learn where the holes are. This time the job is to put a name to every step in the workflow with a goal of identifying who owns that step and how the status of the work is reported as it moves through that step.
Touch points are the discrete processes required to move a job through the workflow. Color management is a touchpoint. Ripping a file is a touchpoint. Printing is a touchpoint. Having a CSR track down a customer file is a touch point. Troubleshooting a wrong profile is a touch point.
Your goal should be to create a master map, or set of maps, that typical jobs follow from job onboarding to job delivery. Each touch point should have a named owner and an identified reporting path. It isn’t enough to say that someone is responsible for the workflow or is the workflow manager; for this task the goal is to identify specific assignments, even if at the start there is only one name in every box (or even no name in a box).
Now identify the places where you experience delays or bottlenecks. It may be only on certain types of jobs, or it may be on every job. Try to identify how many times jobs have to go back a step because of missing information. Look at the situation surrounding jobs that get to completion, but aren’t correct. It might be wrong color profiles or even incorrect finishing. Trace the steps that allowed it to happen, and put a flag on that step.
Let me give you an example: I visited a production print shop on the night shift to see how their work flowed in the middle of the night. After sitting with the team for an hour with no obvious issues, a crowd gathered around the production manager’s desk. Everyone there knew that the next job in the queue never ran and required extraordinary measures to get through production. I asked why the job wasn’t fixed so it would run, and the answer was that they weren’t sure who to go to. When they pushed it back to the day shift and production director they were told that the customer didn’t know how to build the job correctly so they just needed to live with it. That should have been a big red flag!
As you build a view of where you experience delays, no matter how few and far between they might be, also look at how you corrected them. Did you have to send work back to a customer to get a corrected file? Did the on-site team manipulate files? Were die lines missing for finishing or profiles missing? Were there mistakes in reporting during the process? Each incident should be documented and processes updated to prevent that same problem from happening again.
Remember, every time you have to make an in-process correction, it costs money.
When you have a good handle on all of the touch points and bottlenecks you should be able to set a plan for corrective actions that create an optimized flow.
Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP is the Director and Evangelist for the Production Workflow Service at InfoTrends. As an analyst and industry educator, McGrew works with InfoTrends customers and its clients to promote workflow effectiveness. She also has a background in data-driven customer communication, and production printing with offset, inkjet, and toner. Co-author of eight industry books, editor of "A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge," and regular writer in the industry trade press, McGrew won the 2014 #GirlsWhoPrint Girlie Award for her dedication to education and communication in the industry, and the 2016 Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award from Xplor International. Find Pat on Twitter as @PatMcGrew and LinkedIn.