Print businesses large and small must start automating processes to save time, money, and increase throughput. For many smaller print businesses, however, automating their print workflow can be a daunting and expensive challenge. This EFI-sponsored article shows how a misunderstanding can keep companies from achieving greater profitability and that getting started with workflow automation is a lot easier than you might think.
By John Henze, EFI Fiery
In a highly dynamic and highly competitive market, manufacturers understand the need to automate processes as much as possible in order to both reduce costs and increase throughput. The same applies to the commercial printing market. For many smaller print businesses, however, automating their print workflow can be a daunting and expensive challenge. This is a misconception that keeps companies from achieving higher profitability. In fact, getting started with workflow automation is a lot easier than you might think, and you probably already have many of the tools you need!
It’s also a misconception that workflow automation is all or nothing. Even if you start with the simplest of automation steps, such as: For example, automating repetitive tasks, you can achieve high returns. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Cindy Ley, Production Specialist at Allied Reliability Group said:
“I’ve learned how to save time by automating production for repetitive booklet types, for example by filing files in Fiery Hot Folders with print settings, including Fiery Impose templates.”
And John and Tim Rozema from Get It Now Print produced around 20 jobs a day, more than 100 jobs a day. John Rozema says:
“We implemented a number of EFI tools. It’s all easy-to-use software that is easy to program, very user-friendly, and built into our MIS. Now we can really do the job. Customers keep amazed at how fast we can train compared to others who have used them in the past. We can also offer them a better price based on the increased volume we can bring through our printer. “
Do you use hot folders?
If you have an EFI Fiery digital front end (DFE), the Hot Folders feature is likely already built in. Fiery Hot Folders provide the ability to drag and drop files into a specific file folder to automate repetitive tasks. Let’s take order submission as an example. In a manual process, orders are checked upon receipt by the prepress department. This then has to determine which printer the file should go to and convert it to PDFs for native files. The file is then copied to the queue of the corresponding printer. Depending on the size and complexity of the file, this can take anywhere from five minutes to half an hour. While five minutes doesn’t sound like much, think of Get It Now Print: Those five minutes mean more than 90 minutes of prepress in a day when you’re processing 20 simple files a day. However, this time increases to eight hours (!!) if you process 100 jobs! And expect complex files – the result is even worse.
Hot Folders allows a customer service representative to determine what type of file is being received; For example, a 5 “by 8” brochure, and simply copy the file into the brochure hot folder. This takes seconds and is the type of automation that Get It Now Print has used to increase daily throughput by a factor of five. The file can then be processed automatically after being sent to the appropriate printer based on the instructions built into the hot folder. Fiery servers also allow the creation of presets that can be incorporated into the hot folder structure. Presets can be used in a variety of different Hot Folders, making getting started on the automation path even easier.
If you follow the brochure example, your company is likely using some type of imposition software that will correctly insert a native file or PDF file into the correct layout for brochure printing. While this saves time over previous fully manual imposition work, it still takes time. Imposition templates can be integrated into the Hot Folder / Preset workflow, with workflow automation going beyond basic job settings and submission by automating job layout and creation.
Imposition templates streamline job submission and reduce both clicks and errors. With Fiery Impose, a module that you can easily and inexpensively add to your Fiery server configuration, you can automate the imposition using pre-existing templates or custom templates that you can easily create. This is what Martin Klop, Head of Prepress and Digital Printing at CREZÉE, does:
“Imposing a job is a breeze with Fiery Impose. With just a few clicks, I can create a new form with bleed, registration, cropping and color markings. The form can be easily saved as a template so that I can use it again for a similar job. “
There’s nothing worse than starting to print a booklet and finding that the imposition layout is wrong – or worse, not discovering the error until the job reaches the bindery!
Stepping stone to greater profitability
As you can see, you can quickly and cheaply improve your productivity by streamlining individual, labor-intensive tasks without hiring expensive consultants.
Of course, when you look at automation, you need to see exactly where to start. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a great vision or a comprehensive automation design to get started. Do a simple analysis of the common jobs you produce each week and start there. Then start optimizing and automating repetitive tasks associated with those jobs.
This is just the first step that users can take to automate even more efficiently. Each level is a discrete step that you can take at your own pace, and each leads to efficiencies that warrant continued investment for even more automation and higher profitability.
The next article in this series builds on these first steps and shows you how you can quickly link tasks into simple workflows for even greater productivity benefits.
Download our free eBook for more information on how you can improve workflow automation in your printing process: Automation Building Blocks: 6 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Print Production. (https://go.efi.com/en_Fiery-Automation-ebook.html.)
John Henze is vice president of sales and marketing for EFI’s Fiery business. For more information on EFI Fiery digital printing solutions, visit www.efi.com/fierydfe.