Web-to-print means many things. In my previous post, I discussed web-to-print as both a sales enabler and an onboarding expediter. For some, it is the fundamental way to capture some job information through a web interface. For others, it is a comprehensive environment that captures and validates job specifications, provides online design tools and displays a proof for final approval. It may have a payment portal. It may be integrated into the business systems to provide insight into stock availability and delivery timeframes. It may be a customer self-serve portal for existing clients, but it may also be accessible by non-customers who want to buy print. It can be as comprehensive or as bare-bones as you want, but the best practice when feeding high-speed inkjet environments is to make the web-to-print environment the system of record for job capture.
A system of record is the single source of truth about the work coming in the door. The job specifications, delivery requirements, and every other critical detail should be captured in that system, and it should be the go-to source when there are questions. When you are working with a growing number of jobs with tight delivery deadlines, every bottleneck and every mistake impacts the margins.
To make the web-to-print environment, your system of records, it needs to be linked to the rest of the business. It can’t be an island of data capture that generates a job ticket in a void.
Consider these essential elements of a web-to-print environment that can sustain the capacity an inkjet web press brings to your business:
- Specification Validation:When a job is captured in a web-to-print environment, the goal is to capture the information needed to complete it. Dimensions, quantities, substrate specifications, and finishing are important elements. If your solution doesn’t validate the entries into the fields, you could have a job moving through the system that can’t be produced.
Consider your equipment, print, and finishing, as you look at the fields. If you allow customers to enter the specifications, ensure they are validated to ensure that you can complete the work. By locking down the fields against a validation table, you can also decide if some sizes and finishes command upcharges, so there are no surprises!
- Product Library:Some companies work only with a product library to standardize production. If that is your method, your web-to-print solution should be able to show the products in your library. Some solutions also have 3D rendering options to show folds, creases, and cutouts.
Whatever your product library looks like, the goal is to have it integrated to the web-to-print portal. If you don’t have a product catalog built, this can take some work, but when you have it, the payoff is an easy way for customers to select products.
If you pair the catalog with an online design tool, you give them greater options for self-service!
- Job Ticket Export:Supporting a high-speed inkjet press with manual job tickets is the path to madness! Your web-to-print system should be able to create directly or integrate with a system to generate job tickets that travel with the job.
Many shops still use paper job carriers, which are a very hard habit to break. The best practice as you grow your volume will be to migrate to online job ticketing and online job travelers that can be monitored from easily accessible dashboards.
- Schedule Validation:
Whether your web-to-print outpost functions primarily as customer self-serve and sales team entry point or it faces outward as a consumer portal, when someone enters a job, they have delivery expectations. The portal should be integrated with scheduling to ensure that the delivery dates can be met.
When you integrate, you take the value of the web-to-print systems used to manage print and finishing scheduling to a new level. You are positioned to support tight deadlines. If your web-to-print doesn’t have this capability, your high-speed inkjet press may sit idle, waiting for jobs to be documented, validated, and prepared.
- Proof DisplayAnother common bottleneck is approval, which can add hours and sometimes days to moving a job into production. In the world of high-speed, that is expensive time. A web-to-print solution that shows what the job will look like can alleviate some of the approval challenge.
Even regular repeat jobs can benefit from a soft view for approval since product owners may change. Subtle changes like some changed wording or more apparent changes like a new logo could be enough to alter how a page flows, causing unintended problems with the final product.
Finally, Print MIS, ERP, and business workflow integration also bring value. If you are living with islands of automation and data silos, the acquisition of a high-speed inkjet press is a great reason to spin up integration projects that seamlessly link your web-to-print with the rest of your business and production systems.