Over the past couple of months I’ve been to more than a few conferences and vendor events where workflow and workflow automation have been on the agenda. Everyone has a spin on what workflow automation means, but when I listen to their press conferences and look at their offerings, finding end-to-end automation is harder than I expected. And I think it’s important!
Let’s start with my definition of workflow automation. It means that human touch points are eliminated to the fullest extent possible. You aren’t running an automated workflow if the Web-to-print portal is automated, the color management is automated, and the job queues are automated, but there are physical pieces of paper following jobs through the show and there are people involved in ensuring that a job moves through the process. That describes what we call islands of automation.
To be fair, islands of automation can still be helpful if they make processes more efficient. It’s much better to have your web-to-print portal interrogate an incoming job and send it back to the requesting person if it doesn’t meet your criteria. Why wait until it is in process and have someone look at the job and figure out that someone sent you web resolution artwork for an offset or digital print job? Let technology do the work it was meant to do. It’s the same for other common islands. They do help you to become more efficient and get jobs through the shop a bit faster.
However, if you want to be competitive, you want to take a page out of the European print service provider’s book. When we look at our US Software Investment Survey and the European Software Investment Survey, we see that the Europeans are investing in workflow automation and they point to that automation as one of the reasons they are growing their businesses. The chart below is a comparison of the US and European markets, and it tells a story of opportunity!
If you aren’t currently looking at automation in your production workflow, you are leaving money on the floor. Consider starting with basic automation steps, and then set a course for end-to-end automation that increases your capacity using the same footprint.
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.