Most print providers (commercial, in-plant, corporate) won’t need a wand or cape to discover that some parts of their workflow are in better shape than others. Over time new software tools are added and job flows are re-worked to take advantage of faster print and finish options. While all of that is happening new work comes in, decisions are made about circumventing automated workflows to push critical jobs ahead in the queue, and ultimately what started as an automated, efficient workflow takes a few steps backwards.
It happens almost without noticing because the business of getting business out the door is critical. Big jobs, small jobs, critical jobs and jobs with longer delivery timeframes all vie for the same production queues. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone! It’s normal! And, it all starts with how the jobs come into the shop.
But with just a few, incremental changes (magic wand optional) you can get your workflow back into alignment.
Across all of the KeyPoint Intelligence / InfoTrends surveys, the job onboarding process is the place where most workflows experience problems. Printers around the world identify it as a bottleneck. They point to problems handling the larger numbers of jobs coming into the shop, and they tell us that more jobs come in with more problems. If jobs cannot be moved from order entry to production efficiently, it is almost impossible to realize their full revenue potential.
What’s a printer to do?
The first incremental change is to take a look at how jobs come in and let the data tell you where your problems occur.
- In the last 45 days, how many jobs came in that went straight into production without a problem?
- In the last 45 days, how many jobs needed to be sent back to the originator due to file formatting problems?
- The incremental question is, when did you realize the file had a problem?
- In the last 45 days, how many jobs got into production only to be stopped during print or during finishing due to problems with specifications?
If you lay out the numbers for these three situations and your biggest number is aligned with item 1, you are in good shape! But if you have any numbers against items 2 and 3, it’s time to get out the Workflow Wand and identify the root causes of the problems. Most often the potential problems begin with the types of information you are gathering when the job is lodged with you. Start with linking your job onboarding questionnaires, forms, and worksheets to the problems that have occurred in the last 45 days.
What questions could you ask that would have kept the problem from occurring? The types of questions might be different depending on your types of customers. Files prepared by agencies tend to have different types of problems than those prepared by independent designers, corporate marketing departments, or business end users (think restaurants, hardware stores, real estate agents). Do files come onboard with color problems? Layer problems? Tranparency problems? Wrong resources for the intended output device?
Are you preflighting on order entry, before order acceptance, or is preflighting part of prepress?
By looking carefully at your file acceptance process you may find that there are opportunities for you to change a few steps in your process so that you can answer that your onboarding process does not cause bottlenecks!
For more workflow help, check out my Workflow Blog for the step by step guide on how to evaluate the workflow you have and don’t forget to stop by here every month.
Pat McGrew is the Director and Evangelist for the Production Workflow Service at KeyPoint Intelligence/InfoTrends. As an analyst and industry educator, Pat works with InfoTrends customers and their clients to promote workflow effectiveness. She also has a background in data-driven customer communication, and production printing with offset, inkjet and toner. Co-author of 8 industry books, editor of A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge, and regular writer in the industry trade press, Pat won the 2014 #GirlsWhoPrint Girlie Award for dedication to education and communication in the industry, and the 2016 Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award from Xplor International. Find Pat on Twitter @PatMcGrew and on LinkedIn.