In-plant Forum: Workflow Automation Can Save Your In-plant
“Automation can be your superpower,” said Pat McGrew, managing director of McGrew Group, during an In-plant Forum on workflow automation that was hosted by IPI during PRINTING United Expo and sponsored by Canon USA. “The more you automate, the more efficient you will be.”
The In-plant Forum was the second of two such forums held that day. It drew more than 65 in-plant managers, who talked over lunch prior to the presentations.
When you automate, McGrew said, everything becomes better. Fewer staff touch jobs, you make more money, you achieve greater operational integrity, and it creates an environment where you can prove jobs costs and start estimating more accurately. Other benefits include brand control, production file validation, efficiency in routine tasks, and increased profits.
Her strategy recommendation is to start with the low-hanging fruit such as the following tasks:
- Onboarding: Automation ensures you don’t miss production specs that may cause routing a job through less efficient machines that can increase costs.
- Preflighting: You can catch problems on every single job and print efficiently.
- Approval management: Getting approval at various stages costs money. Automation makes it easy to send files electronically to clients for approval with the push of a button. It can take three people and many hours out of the approval process.
- Job scheduling: Software functions more efficiently than human brains and assesses more variables. AI also learns your processes, improves on them, and eliminates human tough points so you can push more jobs through the presses.
She was followed by Greg Salzman, CEO of Aleyant Solutions, which manufactures the Pressero web-to-print software system.
“The online effect has changed consumer expectations,” said Salzman. “Customers today want jobs quickly. You have to reduce delivery time, eliminate errors, and make production cheaper. You also need to be easy to deal with on a 24/7 basis.”
Other challenges facing in-plants include the need to bring customers into the printing process, labor shortages, and pressures to become financially self-sufficient.
Web-to-print systems can help with all these challenges.
Online quoting, for example, saves time by displaying all pricing on the website where they are easily accessible. Online job submission ensures all necessary specs are included with jobs, templates make prepress more efficient and less error prone, and recurring orders can be easily handled. A web-to-print system can be integrated into MIS systems and other workflows so presses can be configured automatically, online job status functions save time, and shipping can be integrated with carriers.
The goal for any in-plant, he said, is to achieve continuous improvement of operations, not 100 % immediate automation.
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