Rightsizing Resources: People, Processes, Technologies

By Pat McGrew / Published:

Efficiency happens when people are working effectively, processes are as automated as possible, and the right technology is applied to each task and touchpoint. It is especially true in an inkjet production environment because today’s production presses are both high resolution and high speed. Without efficient upstream processes, presses may sit idle waiting for work. And that isn’t making anyone money!

Start with a review of your staff assignments. How many people are involved in onboarding the work that comes to the shop? The numbers may vary based on the types of jobs.

In transaction environments, the setup is often done at the start of the contract and remains constant with minor tweaks. Of course, the initial onboarding has been known to take months and consume a large bucket of hours. If this sounds familiar, look at the people involved and the tasks that consume that time. Where are the typical problems? There may not be a preflight or optimization protocol during onboarding, which could catch many of the issues. You may also discover that you have excellent tools installed that aren’t in use during onboarding. Look at your document re-engineering toolkit to see if there is a better way to bring new work into your workflow.

In direct mail businesses, every job may require a unique setup. Some of the tasks required will emerge from quoting and estimating processes, but others will not become clear until the files land in the plant. Making it even more challenging is that you may have long-term relationships with clients who send regular work that always has what they think of as minor tweaks but may require significant changes to get into production. Put a robust onboarding protocol into play!

Start with how you gather job information. If this is a manual process, captured via phone calls, emails, and notes left on the CSRs desk, consider replacing that process with a well-designed online process. It may be a solid web-to-print system encompassing a customer portal for each client that locks down the specifications for their regular work and requires a specific administrator login to create new work. This can save hours for clients and the onboarding team!

Spend some time looking at how you work with your customer’s assets. Do they send print-ready files or pieces that you assemble for them using your composition and re-engineering engines? Do you have access to their Digital Asset Management systems? Do you have a content management system to manage customer assets, or are you living with customer file folders (digital and physical)? Converting your process to use a proper asset/content management system will add efficiency and accountability to your job management processes.

As with transaction onboarding, look at optimization and preflight tasks. If they aren’t part of your job onboarding, you are missing an efficiency opportunity. The good news is that you can automate! Your file acceptance process should include optimization and preflight as the first step to mitigate anomalies before moving to prepress.

Remember that one of the most important assets you can create and maintain is the documentation that defines your policies, procedures, tools, and tasks. It’s invaluable if you need to implement your disaster recovery plan, but it is essential to ensure consistency and accountability beyond that.

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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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