How much is workflow automation really being adopted in the print industry?
In a recent infotrends study 130 printers were asked to discuss their workflow automation, below we are looking at why the adoption of workflow automation is at the rate it is, the key challenges to adopting workflow automation and what should be done to encourage and get workflow automation running smoothly.
Shockingly, 88% say they still have manual processes in a significant proportion of departments.
European printers know they must automate their print operations. In fact, 68% of respondents want to reduce production costs and improve efficiency as a strategic initiative. Yet, only 12% have extensively introduced automation across most departments
A bias seems to exist between the potential benefits of investing in equipment versus software; many (44%) cite growth due to adding faster and more efficient equipment, only 29% thought growth was due to investing in software that increased automation. This is additionally reflected with what’s seen in showrooms, many attend demos asking for a faster press or faster guillotine than consider the alternatives.
‘The reality is that workflow demands a coordinated effort between processes, people, and technology to unlock efficiencies. Most workflows grow organically over time which introduces inefficiencies and bottlenecks.’
Workflow demands that organisations review the full picture, it requires a reset to thinking, how would organisations do this if they started again?
5 workflow challenges
- Job on-boarding is a mess as there are many paths to accept customer requests and files.
- Job onboarding needs standardization, it can be difficult to attain the identical information needed for all job onboarding.
- The sales & customer service trap. Several sales reps that indicated there was a SOP (sales operating procedure) for capturing the customer’s request. Which meant when elements required extra communication there is a slowed process and and increased potential for error.
- Leadership fails to install a change in management attitude. It has always been done this way, so why should we change?
- Financial decision makers are unaware of the need for automation or, more commonly, lack the information to perform a compelling cost justification. The decision makers should seek cost analysis data from industry sources and their vendors to build a financial model based on their operations.
Cost analysis: the financial benefits
Many printers perceive workflow tasks as a cost centre, rather than a profit centre to proactively manage. Unlike costs associated with equipment and printing-related tasks, most printers fail to understand the true costs of receiving and preparing customer files so they can be printed. Workflow cost is a €1.4 million opportunity that printers can no longer ignore!
Cost savings by optimising substrate usage via nesting or ganging multiple jobs together. Save over €8K by ganging/nesting.
Cost saving by cutting the number of errors. Research shows that waste has a significant impact over the course of a year of print production, with bad customer files impacting 1,173 jobs (on average) and finishing errors looking 988 jobs.
How to start successfully adopting workflow automation?
Workflow journey mapping. Mapping documents the people and technology take during each process from job on-boarding to completion and delivery.
Staff optimisation. Appropriateness of roles and staffing levels to meet organisational goals.
IT infrastructure. General robustness of physical components, i.e., computers and networking.
Failover & overflow plan. Policies, tools and procedures to move production seamlessly across the organisation during peak demands or resource blackouts.
Disaster recovery. Policies, tools, and procedures for recovering from a natural or human-influenced disaster.
Software utilisation. Full implementation of the software to maximise the potential benefit to the operation.
View of operations. Production dashboards or reports accessible to any production-related employee to view the location and status of a job.
Single system of record. The one repository of accuracy and truth for customer and business records.
Customer empowerment. Ability for customers to self-service and manage content, orders, and status.
Workflows. Optimised processes and automation following best practices to onboard, process, and output customer files.
Standard operating procedures. Defined, documented, followed and translated into quick start training.
- Workflow tasks took as little as 4 minutes for scanning and up to 72 minutes, on average, for artwork and design.
- Waste has a significant impact over the course of a year of print production, with bad customer files impacting 1,173 jobs (on average) and finishing errors losing 988 jobs.
- Only 12% of printers reported automation in more than one department, while 41% still indicated mostly manual processes.
- Workflow labour costs can total €1.4M, while waste due to file errors can equate to over €4M in lost revenue.
- Annual software spend for the year was €26K, but 40% of respondents spend under €10K.
InfoTrends: primary research; European software investment outlook; an evaluation into workflow costs and savings - January 2019