Welcome to 2022. Have you put your strategy planning in motion? Have you laid the foundation for investments to optimize the cost of production. The movement from strategy to execution can be a rocky road, especially in the current environment fraught with uncertainties. That doesn’t mean you should stop the forward motion. Instead, take a crawl-walk-run approach.
The business has workflows for the business processes, the production processes, and the delivery processes. Each workflow has software tools and may have comfortable manual processes that keep the business humming. Previous articles in this series have pointed to the value of doing self-assessments to uncover the gaps and bottlenecks in the workflows. If you’ve done that assessment, you may already know where the low-hanging fruit of opportunity is and built your strategy toward it. If you haven’t done the assessment, start there. Know your environment before you start buying solutions!
Your job onboarding can be better. No matter how good it is now (or how challenging), there is always room for improvement through normalization of data capture, automation of file onboarding, and optimization of the touchpoints. The lowest hanging fruit in most shops is that process of capturing job specifications, verifying their fitness for production, verifying stock availability, confirming scheduling capability on needed devices, and confirming that the print file is ready to print. Web-to-Print solutions are often an excellent path to optimizing the process but do your homework. They are not all created the same.
Look for solutions that are not asking you to sign on for weeks of professional services to integrate to your business systems. Look for solutions that allow you to constrain job specifications to what you can produce. And even if you are not using an ecommerce solution today to take payment at the time of sale, look for solutions that accommodate that approach to give you room to expand.
The other low-hanging fruit on the vine is ensuring that your business systems and production systems are sharing data. ERP and MIS systems should be integrated with the business systems to ensure that inventory and consumable costs are current across all systems. That information should be automatically updated in estimating systems. And the production system should be notifying the business system when there are change orders to ensure that all items are properly invoiced. It is also important to ensure that all completed jobs kick off a notification that cascades through the business systems to ensure job invoicing and the analysis that compares the estimate to the actual cost. Over time that becomes unbelievably valuable data.
People, People, People
The coming year will require a careful look at staffing requirements, skill levels, and training needs. Beyond the Great Resignation, there is the reality most printers are having a tough time maintaining staffing levels. They aren’t sure how much to invest in training because they aren’t sure how long new hires will remain.
The “people conundrum” is a good reason to look at every touchpoint in your workflow and identify candidates for automation. Concentrate your people on value-added tasks. Find out from managers and team members what training would benefit them and the processes. Invest in those elements to build the best workflow to carry you through the year.
Automation, integration, and education are your three missions for 2022. Evaluate where you are and start moving toward a more optimized workflow to unlock maximum margin from every job.
Don’t forget to let me know how you are doing! Please send your thoughts or add them to the comments!