batching jobs

Batching Jobs for Efficiency: Watch the Gotchas

By Pat McGrew / Published:

One of the best-kept secrets in production print is that you can batch short-run work together to create longer runs! OK, maybe you knew that. Many transaction printers have concatenated jobs together for years to keep the presses printing. When you concatenate or batch jobs, you also reduce waste and optimize resources!

Let’s start with some definitions for those new to the idea. High-speed continuous feed inkjet presses get faster every year. As they get faster, the capacity increases while your customers may be asking for shorter-run work. Twenty years ago, customers tended to deliver giant batches that might have your press running for days on end for a single job. Today they may be sending you smaller batches every night during the month instead of a monthly run. You can run each of these smaller jobs one at a time, but your startup and inter-job paper waste will start to accumulate.

Enter the concept of grouping jobs together to run as a super-job. By concatenating and batching jobs together, once the job is started on the press, it runs and runs. Pages can be added between jobs for breakpoints in finishing, which works even if the finishing is inline. Some companies create a full-color page to make it easy to see the job headers.

Now that the jobs are combined, there is a reduced number of linear feet of waste, and the press doesn’t stop and start. It also means that operators can attend to other work as the larger super-job processes. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it does take some planning and attention to job scheduling.

The beginning is a review of the work you do and the paper you use. If you are a shop with one or two house papers, those substrates drive your scheduling. Building batches requires matching the jobs to the paper and then understanding what will fit on a roll. The goal is to avoid waste, so filling the roll as completely as possible is the idea. If you use multi-roll unwinders, you still want to work towards fitting jobs onto a roll, but you have more freedom to cross over to a second roll with limited waste.

If you have a wide variety of papers that you support, your scheduling is more complicated. You want to optimize each roll you put on the press, so you will look for short-run jobs that share a paper requirement. They may require a bit more finesse in building your super-jobs but look to your workflow environment and your scheduling tools to help. You may add an additional tag to be carried in job records to help batch jobs together or simply read the metadata for the paper assigned to the job.

Remember to look at your document re-engineering software and document assembly software, which may provide easy ways to batch jobs together. Then, look at your job scheduling software, which may help build and schedule batches based on machine capability and availability.

Create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around the batches and the jobs within the batches. Over time you should be able to determine your cost savings as you reduce waste and keep the press as productive as possible.

If you are batching and concatenating print work, let us know how it has changed your workflow and your capacity management! Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note to [email protected].

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About the Author

Pat McGrew

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Pat is a well-known evangelist for inkjet productivity. At McGrew Group, she uses her decades technical and marketing experience to lead the industry toward optimized business processes and production workflows. She has helped companies to define their five-year plans, audited workflow processes, and developed sales team interventions and education programs. Pat is the Co-Author of 8 industry books, editor of A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge, and a regular contributor to Inkjet Insight and WhatTheyThink.com.

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