More Workflow Automation Built for In-plants
Last week I mentioned reviewing two new workflow automation solutions that seem to be particularly well suited for in-plant printing operations: Canon’s PRISMAdirect and EFI’s Fiery JobFlow. This article will cover why I think that PRISMAdirect could make sense for many in-plants.
Once again, let me note that as director of PODi’s Workflow Practice, I review various workflow solutions. In doing so, I try to distill what vendors show me down to the critical capabilities and to assess what works well, what needs some work, and what types of operations would find most value in them. My objective is always to prepare critical assessments for the printing community and to provide feedback to the vendors rather than to create promotional product materials. As a result, my opinions may, or may not, perfectly align with vendors’ marketing desires.
I spent a lot of time with Canon’s PRISMAdirect integrated workflow automation package last fall and came to the conclusion that it is particularly well-suited for many in-plants. This is mostly because it provides a single, integrated way to get the core benefits of MIS, production automation and online submission in a single package. The benefits of integrating all three of those elements together far outweigh the benefits of standalone elements, but few in-plants (or small to mid-sized commercial printers for that matter) have the funding or wherewithal to implement such an integrated system. Having a single, out-of-the-box solution providing all three seems like a good way for these types of operations to get into the game.
Now, before I proceed, let me be clear that PRISMAdirect focuses on the core functionalities of these systems. It does not provide the depth of a full-blown MIS system, nor the flexibility and extensibility of a rules-based workflow automation package. Canon has, however, done a pretty good job of pulling out the elements most operations will really need to use and tying them together into one package.
Also, PRISMAdirect takes a much wider view of managing orders and jobs throughout the entire production and delivery process than many other workflow automation solutions. Most of these packages focus exclusively on automating prepress. However, PRISMAdirect also incorporates tracking and managing work through postpress bindery through packing to shipping — including managing warehouse fulfillment line items. This is becoming increasingly important in a world where an order is no longer just a print job, but something that often contains a mix of multiple print and fulfillment line items. In this world, production managers need to efficiently gang and produce print jobs; warehouse managers need to efficiently group and pull fulfillment items; and CSRs and packing managers need to track order statuses and ensure everything comes together.
Some of the key PRISMAdirect elements that I think in-plants will find most valuable are:
- A diverse order and submission module. I’m not sure why, but internal clients seem to insist upon more ways of submitting jobs to in-plants than to commercial printers. The ability to support multiple submission methods is a big reason why I see PRISMAdirect as a good fit for in-plants. Jobs and files can be submitted via uniFLOW integration, Microsoft Outlook email, Dropbox, the PRISMAdirect Web store, or integration with third-party packages like EFI Digital StoreFront.
- A built-in Web interface. This can be used to create multiple, branded Web stores tailored for different departments, schools, branches or franchises. This can elevate the visibility and professional appearance of in-plants to the level of commercial alternatives.
- A workflow automation engine. This automation engine integrates into PRISMAprepare using templates to automate many makeready operations.
- A “show history” function that provides an audit trail of everything done to a job. I can only imagine how important this is for settling arguments and deducing when and where errors arise.
- A separate, but integrated, order management module. This gets at the challenge CSRs have of determining the status of entire customer orders instead of just the state of print jobs. Order statuses can even be automatically updated and presented to clients if the PRISMAdirect Web store function is used.
- A variety of MIS-style reports available to in-plant management to help run the business.
So, while many small to mid-sized commercial operations also face similar issues and could be well-served by PRISMAdirect, I feel that it’s the in-plant segment that will benefit the most from this solution. Go ahead and peruse the six short videos in my PODi Product Briefing where I demonstrate and discuss my thoughts on key capabilities, uses and limitations of this solution.
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Greg Cholmondeley is president of Cholmonco Inc. Cholmonco is a technology marketing consulting company that researches, analyzes and documents best practices and innovative solutions. Cholmondeley is especially interested in how industry leaders efficiently get work through digital printing and marketing services operations. He has also written two fictional novels. The first is titled “Nakiwulo and the Circle of Shiva” and the second is called “Princess.” You can learn more about his consulting practice and read more of his blogs at www.cholmonco.com. You can discover his books at http://books.cholmonco.com.