Workflow Learnings from 2020: Automation Counts!

By Pat McGrew / Published:

If you were one of the many printing companies that used 2020 to assess what works in your workflow, rethink your processes, and add some automation, congratulations! You are starting 2021 ready to pivot to what the new year brings. The last year taught us that no matter how fast or well-configured your inkjet devices may be, resolving bottlenecks and enabling “less touch” in the production workflow makes it possible to support the changing conditions of remote working, new shift scheduling requirements, and even changes in the type of work coming through the door.

As we get rolling this year, take some time to set a new baseline for the workflow that supports your production environment. There are always improvements to be made and new features to consider, but before you begin investigating new offerings in the market, review the workflow you have to see what is working and where gaps have emerged. That review will be much easier if all the information about your workflow touchpoints and the tools in use exists in a central location.

Consider a Workflow Wiki! In its most basic form, a Wiki is central repository for collaborative documents governed by a set of access and editing rules. You can resolve to have a location where you hold the flowcharts, instructions, tutorials and other relevant documents for your workflow without the structure of a Wiki. Many companies find that DropBox, OneDrive, or GoogleDocs work sufficiently. However, if you want to bring more structure, add semantic hierarchies, and formalize your repository, there are dozens of Wiki tools in the market that work well. Decide if you want to host it onsite or use one of the cloud-based tools, and then start exploring. Look at products like Slab, Notion, TikiWiki, and Bit to start, but also search on your own to see what fits into your environment. If you are running a content management system or archive tool, check with those vendors for recommendations.

If you did the assessment work last year, this is a good time to revisit the outcome. Did you add new solutions last year? Take the time to revisit the flow to ensure that it’s working as expected in your current environment, and it will be ready for whatever 2021 throws at it. If you kept the status quo for your workflow in 2020, this is a great time to do a quick self-assessment based on your current processes while looking for gaps and bottlenecks that might have quick solutions.

Start with a review of the software that came with your inkjet press. Even if you did a review last year, start the year fresh. Check with your vendor to see if updates are available for the DFE, and if so, ask for the details. If there are options for more quality control, ask for a demonstration! Also, ask about updates or additions that give you more control over color profiles and ink management. If you are a G7 shop, ask if your vendor has new options for managing to the G7 guidelines. If you are using vendor-supplied profiles, this would be a good time to ensure that how they work and how you think they work match. Your goal is to meet your client’s color requirements while using the least amount of ink, and some vendor-supplied profiles make that harder.

Color management software designed to work with your inkjet printing environment is the other part of the color equation. Start the new year by looking at how you handle color management and determine if you are using best practices. If you are using software, is that software up-to-date? Have you looked at your payment options to see if you are getting the best deal? Start the year by squeezing every option to get the best deal.

How automated is your job onboarding process? For contract print providers in the transaction space, this is often automated based on contractual agreements and security requirements. If that is your shop, turn your attention to jobs that come in ad hoc. Even if you do not sell to the general public, consider a web2print solution that can face existing customers and which can be used internally to capture new work specifications in a consistent manner and speed your internal production.

If you are in the direct mail or general commercial sectors and have not built a method to consistently capture job specifications and share them with all departments, this is the time to look at one of the many inkjet-friendly web2print systems in the market. They come as standalone installations or cloud-based solutions with both single payment plus maintenance or subscription payment options. Even if you think you have the best job onboarding process, start the year with some investigation into the features and functions of the solutions in the market. If you decide you have the best system, you may still pick up some ideas for features to add.

No matter where you are on your workflow journey, there is always room for improvement. Start with these touchpoints, and let me know what you find. If you make a change that makes a material difference, let me know! And if you’ve created a workflow that you’d like to share, let’s have a chat!

Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have a question for Pat? Get in touch.

Share
About the Author

Pat McGrew

Twitter

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.

Leave a Comment