By Melissa Donovan – DPS Magazine
Digital print providers rely on sophisticated productivity software to run their operations. The latest tools incorporate core aspects of a workflow from end to end, including online ordering, print management, management information systems (MIS), production workflow, and output workflow.
Analyst firm InfoTrends refers to this as a compact workflow. According the company, instead of trying to satisfy every technical or business need with singular focus software, compact workflows integrate with existing software solutions or implement the correct feature set required for high-volume, on demand work.
Print providers are considering implementing a compact or end-to-end workflow into existing digital and hybrid operations today more than ever as the need for greater efficiency becomes paramount in an increasingly competitive market. These same organizations may have legacy, on premise solutions in place, but must see past the challenges of overhauling their established processes to benefit in the long term.
Based on InfoTrends’ definition of a compact workflow, this solution is typically delivered via Software as a Service (SaaS). It is built upon the premise that jobs originate online—sometimes from multiple sources—and are then standardized in a single, backend production system.
Incoming orders are preflighted, routed, imposed, and batched to streamline production. These orders are tagged with print management functions like job ticketing and scheduling and can be output to a variety of digital front ends. Shop floor data collection is available with live updates on job status that can be consolidated into user-friendly dashboard viewing. Additional integrations to other online platforms like third-party shipping or accounting are usually available.
The act of automation from end to end streamlines production. According to Carol Andersen, chairman, EPMS, the need for a compact workflow takes precedent over standalone solutions in today’s world. “Driving this preference is the need for greater efficiencies with less manual intervention in the entire job planning/job production process,” she says.
Print providers continue to update their analog facilities with digital printers, which creates a hybrid of technologies, but room for error increases due to more touchpoints, or as Joanne Gore, director of marketing, Avanti Systems, refers to them, “breakpoints.”
“A breakpoint in the workflow is where data has been entered in one system and has to be re-entered into another system, resulting in duplicate data entry and the potential for costly errors. We call this ‘islands of automation’ throughout the print shop and it is becoming more prevalent as printers take a hybrid approach by offering a mix of digital and offset presses in addition to other products and services offered,” she continues.
“It has become more commonplace to have print shops with a mixture of print vendor equipment, so it has become important that an end-to-end workflow solution support direct ticketing to the various print vendor’s production equipment,” agrees Vincent Tutino, senior product manager, Rochester Software Associates, Inc.