Print 4.0: Printing in the Age of Digitalization

drupa 2024 comes with many new highlights. One of these main focuses is print 4.0! Digitalization in the printing industry is becoming increasingly important, and companies should keep an eye on how they can adapt to this transition. Print 4.0 can be a solution for this as it optimizes process flows within a print job.

Every aspect of life is affected by digitalization. Industries also need to go with the times if they want to stay at the cutting edge. The innovations of the Internet that enable data to be retrieved, processed, and stored quickly at any time are constantly driving the digital transformation. This transformation can lead to customers changing their expectations – and the printing industry is no exception.

For example the desire for more individualization in graphic printing leads to smaller print run orders, requiring frequent format changes, which calls for a growing variety of production processes. All these individual wishes should be fulfilled at the most favorable prices possible. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to optimize the work, communication, and transaction processes. Print 4.0. can provide this level of optimization.

What is Print 4.0?

​​Print 4.0 refers primarily to the optimization of all processes involved in the ordering, production, and delivery of print products.

Within the work process, print 4.0 is focused on increasing productivity and flexibility through a continuous networked workflow, a high degree of automation, and precise mechanical engineering. The goal is to start and carry out production without manual intervention as far as possible while not being slowed down due to coordination and information tasks.

As mentioned earlier, optimization through print 4.0 is taking place in all areas in the commerce of print products, including the ordering and transport process. Accordingly, the communication and transaction processes must also be digitized and brought up to date with online services. One way to achieve this is to introduce ordering portals and other online platforms.

Step by Step to Print 4.0 Optimization in All Areas

The first step towards upgrading a print company to a print 4.0 state is to check the current status within the various areas such as production, ordering, and delivery. This examination involves analyzing all the stations that a print product passes through. When doing these analyses, it is important to investigate the entire process, because, with print 4.0, all the processes involved in the workflow are connected with each other. After examining the current state, the company should then set clear goals for the overall optimization of the process chains.

Given the fact that the improvement of process chains in print 4.0 is an ongoing cycle, it should be assigned its own area of responsibility with employees who either already have digital expertise or can develop or build up such expertise. Their job is to define and analyze the process flows and their results, so that improvements can always be made to the workflow based on these investigations.

In terms of communication and transaction processes, it is essential to keep a constant eye on new innovations in order to always be able to make fresh offers to customers and their special needs. Print stores, web-to-print, order portals, print-on-demand, or augmented reality print production are just a few examples of the wide range of ideas that print 4.0 can offer in this field. Nevertheless, as already mentioned, it remains key that all areas – from ordering and production to delivery – are linked by systems and programs so that customers can remain flexible in terms of both time and location when placing their orders and receiving their deliveries.

Benefits of Print 4.0

In the long run, print 4.0 can lead to optimal and short makeready sequences with high net productivity. Contrary to some concerns, the automation of print 4.0 does not lead to mass unemployment because it does not create less work, but different kinds of work that become more creative in terms of content and reduce routine activities.

Some companies are already working on their print 4.0 systems. Kodak, for example, has a cloud bases solution in cooperation with Ricoh. And Tetra Pak has been operating a connected packaging platform for some time now. By the way, in 2021 we already had a brief glimpse of the development of workflow automation and are looking forward to drupa 2024 where print 4.0 is going to be one of the highlights of our program!

Print 4.0, similar to many other areas of Industry 4.0, is something that is constantly evolving and thrives on the use of companies. Does the 4.0 system appeal to you? Have you actually already taken the first steps in the direction of 4.0?

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