The beginning of 2022 was a mix of anticipation for getting back to pre-pandemic norms and concern that it might never happen. For most businesses, the changes needed to survive through the start of 2022 have long tails. Here are three changes you may have experienced in 2022 that you should carry into your 2023 planning!
Assessments Become the Norm
When we started 2022, we didn’t know what to expect. Would there be more lockdowns or were we returning to full steam ahead? Depending on where you are in the US and what industry segments you serve, your experience varied. One thing that many print companies realized is that they did not understand their current business environment. They realized that business had changed, staff situations were different, and customer needs were a moving target.
To get their arms around the business they could do, current customer needs, and staff challenges, they heeded the call for assessments. Some decided to hire consultants to help them walk their workflows. Some leaned on their vendor partners to help review current hardware and software installations, as well as options for automation to mitigate labor challenges. But even more took a self-service approach, quietly reading blogs and articles, conversing with peers, and building a plan to review their job flows.
Using simple checklists, they walked their job workflows to find the friction points and failure points, identified where there were misunderstandings, and searched for unnecessary loops and delays. Armed with new understanding, they began the process to streamline. For some, this is still a manual process, but with more emphasis on optimizing touchpoints. Others found that this was a good time to add automation or to complete the automation journey by joining islands of automation to create the most efficient processes possible.
For 2023, smart companies will continue using assessments to keep their companies moving forward. Each new assessment event will uncover new options for streamlining, leading to even more options to optimize costs and increase capacity.
Capabilities Triage Emerges
Most print companies think of workflows and equipment, but an important element of the business is the capability set—those things that the company can do. Capabilities triage is the effort to look at everything you can do with a fresh eye.
For example, consider the franchise printer sitting on three wide-format devices, each with different capabilities, plus two cut-sheet color toner devices and an embroidery machine. They regularly print signs and do occasional T-shirt jobs, but none of their equipment is used above 30% capacity. After looking at the books at the end of 2021, they realized that there was a lot they could do but they didn’t sell it. Capabilities weren’t spelled out on their website, and the two salespeople didn’t know that they could sell the feather signs and other types of signage. No one told them.
They asked everyone in production to come to a meeting and they made lists of everything they could produce. Then they invited the sales team in to discuss the lists. They settled on five new products to try to sell to existing customers, and it took off from there.
They aren’t alone. Many print companies are doing the same type of capability triage, even if they don’t call it that. The goal is to find new things to sell to existing customers, and lure new customers with a broader array of options. Going into 2023, the practice of reviewing your capabilities should be as regular as reconciling your books each month!
Workflow specialists have been preaching the power of automation for years, but it was easy to ignore as long as everything was humming along. Once we went into lockdowns and had to send staff home, continuing to operate became more of a challenge for companies that hadn’t invested in automation. For those that had robust digital storefronts and web-to-print portals, the work could keep coming in. If those elements were linked to prepress automation that included automated preflight and color management, the work could flow up to the point of burning plates or scheduling queues to the DFE.
That reduced the number of people needed in the plant, often to the levels required by local governments during the lockdowns. But for companies without the automation, getting available work onboard and into production took more loops and turns. And the nature of the available work changed.
The push to automation grew. Companies that could do so began the process and heading into 2023 more companies will be looking for automation solutions. Subscription-based solutions are a great place to start the journey. They can provide great options with a lower start-up cost!
The coming year will re-establish baselines for our businesses. Start from a position of strength by understanding your friction points and automating as much as you can. If you have ideas for 2023, drop me a note or add them to the comments!