Our Top 4 Reasons to Automate Your Print Production Workflow in 2021

If you are still not convinced to take advantage of workflow automation in your printing plants, we have gathered our top 4 reasons to automate your print production processes now. If applied at just the right insertion point, even small changes can deliver big results.

One of the biggest topics at virtual.drupa 2021 was workflow automation. And why wouldn’t it be? Industry 4.0 combines the thrill and innovative spirit of a new approach to print by using future technologies with the very real benefits, including the optimization of production task execution to improve efficiency and production throughput and even better your company’s overall financial health. In Fact, experts agree that holding back the investment in workflow automation means holding back growth potential. So we have gathered our top 4 reasons to automate your print production workflow in this article.

#1: Workflow Automation Raises the Productivity and Profitability of Your Company

Automation is sure to deliver productivity and profitability. You might not need to automate your entire production line. Even a modest degree of automation goes a long way in improving production speed and productivity. The key here is finding the right spot to upgrade your processes in order to gain the biggest benefit possible with the least effort necessary. An important message from the research is that automation does work. Broader adoption will improve printing companies’ profitability, competitive agility, and ability to serve customers. And just a little tweak in the right place can do the trick.

#2: An Investment in the Right Software Increases Your Output

Of course, switching to an automated workflow requires an advanced investment into automation software. Maybe even an entirely new system for your printers. However, the investment is well worth it, if introduced at the right point: Automation software can manage and automate prepress workflow, handle shipping as well as billing, estimate and schedule print jobs, preflight work, support managing operations, submit jobs via online portals, and impose print work. Therefore, higher levels of automation enable printers to accept and perform more jobs from customers via online submission portals. Online print job submission is an essential step in this – and it has never been so easy to profitably integrate it into your operation. People who have invested in automation already report more jobs per day than respondents with less stake in it. High throughput links directly to profitability because it minimizes non-chargeable plant time. Read more about the trends in and advantages of online printing in our articles “3 Online Printing Trends to Embrace in 2021” and “How the Printing Industry Adapts Online Strategies”!

#3: Workflow Automation Enables the Increase of Volume of Shorter Run Work

The rise of on-demand printing production in small quantities is one of the changes that have been bothering printing companies for years but are also recognized as a necessary “evil” to make the printing industry sustainably profitable in the digital age. In short: If we want to survive, we need to adapt. And the faster we do it, the better! Right now, smaller print shops tend to handle this change considerably better than well-established industry giants that are used to being sought after for their fast, high quality output. But producing and managing a high number of small jobs is unlikely to create bottlenecks with careful adjustments and automating key points in the overall workflow. This also indicates that our industry is learning how to manage the decline of long print runs and the switch to a higher amount of small on-demand commissions.

#4: It’s Easier to Avoid Bottlenecks

One issue that is always a little tougher to address: the elimination of human error. Sure, switching to a (more) automated workflow means restructuring your overall printing processes, which may also lead to a reorganization of your workforce, but it is still something to consider and not blindly shy away from. Unfortunately, people are a key source of production line issues such as the creation of bottlenecks in your workflow that obstructs the throughput of your job volume. Of course, bottlenecks can also occur when equipment breaks down or an external event, like a power outage, interrupts the production sequence. Most of the time, obstructions like these are the result of ongoing but subpar manufacturing routines though. This is where workflow automation comes into play: People agree that the most potentially problematic area of their printing plants is relying on expensive labor or high-touch processes. Reducing labor expenses and eliminating needless touches are what workflow automation is meant to accomplish. This means adding more automation wherever the need for it exists can be crucial for your overall success. And even if a bottleneck was to occur after the switch to such an approach, highly automated plants are most confident in their ability to deal with them. So when we say finding a key point to automate for maximum improvement, an identified bottleneck in your production is one of those points best suited for exponentially better results.

Do Your Research

These days, print providers have many software options to choose from for the restructuring of their workflow, from print management information systems (MIS) to web-to-print to workflow. But it is essential to find the right option for individual businesses because with workflow automation, there’s no “one size fits all” solution! When it comes to improving operational efficiency and future proofing your business, it is essential to find just the right approach for your company’s wants and needs. So we highly recommend taking advantage of the available research. A few months ago, we already took a closer look at industry 4.0 in industrial printing and the print 4.0 report “Scenarios for the Year 2025” by the bvdm and the Fraunhofer institute. Industry giant HP sponsored research looking to quantify workflow automation advantages which lead to the creation of two recently published reports as well: „Strategies for Leveraging Automation to Enhance Performance“ and „How Workflow Automation Optimizes Operational Productivity and Results„. For these two, NAPCO Research surveyed 245 commercial printers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to find out how print providers are pursuing automation. Next to the results they are delivering, a deeper dive into the key reasons to invest in tools to automate workflow is taken. So you should be able to at least find some inspiration to take on the change to automated processes in your workflow with this solid starting point.

Do you want more insights on workflow automation? Our virtual.drupa video library has all of our exhibitor’s web sessions neatly organized for you to watch anytime on demand with your free drupa account until the end of this year! Log in and start (re)watching right here

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