Streamline Your Graphic Production Workflow
In today’s industry, there are common graphic workflow challenges that we see almost every day. Ignoring these problems causes profit draining, and continuing down this dangerous path can greatly affect the success of any company.
Implementing a few simple, low-cost solutions that quickly move files accurately from client to press can improve your employees’ work experience as well as your bottom line.
Currently, only a very small percentage of innovative print producers have figured out that workflow doesn’t start at prepress or the press. Profits can be made from the time the sales team and CSRs get a phone call or email announcing that a project is coming in, so waiting longer creates the problem. Too often, companies think that their MIS system can be modified to solve this issue. They throw more people and money at the situation without realizing that there is a better way that already exists. It doesn’t replace the MIS, but it makes it much more effective.
In the very early stages of a job, profits can be lost, and the obvious causes can often be overwhelming: new orders and jobs, managing what you have in-house and the onslaught of emails, updates and carbon-copied messages. Being overwhelmed by these time-killing tasks is hurting both the morale of your employees and the profits of your operation.
Fortunately, there is a better way. By utilizing more automation to streamline your workflow, you can enter the data automatically and most important, never more than once. If you are not doing this, the examples in this article may sound very familiar.
What Not to Do
The challenges I will explore do not stem from incapable staff. The examples I will outline come from an actual company that we have examined, referred to here as Anonymous, Inc. This company has a knowledgeable production manager with support from very skilled prepress technicians. They pay conscientious attention to detail, but the team is challenged in getting print-ready files into production. Their production has a high capacity, but is delayed by problematic files, scheduled jobs being pushed back, getting held up with changes and waiting on approvals from clients.
Problem 1: A Silent Manpower Drain
Anonymous, Inc. is receiving between 30 and 40 job-related emails per hour (an average of one email every two minutes). Email content includes questions on printability, pricing, requests to download files, checking on status updates, changes, updates and other job-related questions. Their response time for each email ranges from 10 seconds to 15 minutes per email. Every email is being copied to multiple people, therefore doubling and tripling the email manpower drain.
Problem 2: Herding Cats into a Barn
There is no standard file submission procedure, so at times it seems like Anonymous, Inc. is trying to herd cats into a barn. Some files are appended to emails and some emails contain download links, while others reference files in FTP folders that have to be manually sorted and matched to jobs. Furthermore, email subject lines do not lend themselves to indexing or easy identification. The emails themselves are sent at times by the salesperson and at other times by CSRs. There is no hierarchy or classification of emails to help, leading to further confusion.
Problem 3: Incorrect Workflow Assumptions
All current MIS systems at Anonymous, Inc. assume that orders and jobs flow through without interaction, never stopping or moving in diagonal directions. Without the ability for flexibility and total collaboration on each job, chaos can occur outside the workflow.
Problem 4: Sales and CSRs
Sales and CSR expertise appears to vary widely. They appear to have excellent customer service, but jobs are given equal status; i.e., a job that comes in requiring manual download, several corrections and email exchanges moves through production at the same speed as jobs with all the files directly delivered to prepress.
Problem 5: Sales-to-Production-Manager Bottlenecks
Though these are commonly considered CSR issues, the production manager at Anonymous, Inc. has to deal with notifications and follow-ups about not receiving enough information, a lack of artwork, incorrect information and/or a lack of proofs. All of this follow-up time causes even more delay within the workflow.
Problem 6: Production Procedures That Hurt Streamlining
Files are converted to Postscript for output. This should be changed so that files are left in PDF format if they begin as such, and files that do not should be converted to a PDF format. Additionally, imposition is done manually when needed, but decisions of impositions change costs and profitability. For status updates, the production manager creates an email and edits the list, manually addressing each job one by one. This is normally a three-page report, and it is time consuming. The more time you spend on a project, the more money you lose.
The solution to most of this chaos is a simple 10-point thought paradigm:
1. Workflow is not linear. It is an ongoing collaboration that can drive you crazy if you use email, text messaging and phone calls to send PDFs and other files.
2. Provide the information to only those who need it, without human touch as much as possible. This is only possible through automation, and it should include using an MIS that allows upload, download and two-way communication with your collaboration system.
3. Customers or CSRs should upload and check their own files through your system. They should get automated preflight results in minutes, taking the workload away from the production department. Automate the preflighting, fix-ups and redundant tasks of the incoming file as much as possible.