Wide-format printing workflow is more than just printing, says Hennie Kruger, DDS product and marketing manager of Oc'e South Africa. While technology advances have delivered hardware that's faster, cheaper and better, in order to achieve optimum productivity, it is important to broaden the purchase consideration analysis to look at pre- and post-production requirements as well.
Workflow is not just a buzzword; it is truly the cornerstone to achieving efficient productivity, creating competitive advantages, and improving the bottom line. It encompasses the document submission and job preparation steps leading up to printing and the finishing, distribution, and archiving of the finished output.
Workflow can account for a vast majority of costs, but it can also deliver the richest area of increased efficiencies.
The stages of workflow
Workflow can be broken down to three stages: pre-production, production and post-production. With a better understanding of what makes a large format printing solution productive, as well as the bottlenecks that can occur in each, you will be better equipped to select a large-format solution that meets your organisation's specific printing workflow needs.
Pre-production is the process of submitting documents to a large format printing system. This can be a single file submitted via a print driver, a large print job consisting of multiple originals, or a hard copy original put into a scanner to either make copies or to make a digital file. In this stage, not taking advantage of the latest technologies, especially with respect to software, can have a negative impact on your overall operations. For example, selecting a digital workflow software solution that enables users to avoid costly bottlenecks by batch-processing and previewing files from the desktop, while providing flexible print output options, simplifies the pre-production stage. An accurate digital file that can be proofed on-screen helps ensure each page of every document will print exactly as intended, the first time. In essence: what you see is what you print.
In the production stage, users are concerned with how the large-format print system interacts with the files it receives; including how the controller processes the file so that printing can occur quickly, and how the scanner interprets the data from a hardcopy original and renders the file for duplication or digitalisation. Here, choosing equipment that delivers true multitasking ability will not only save users time, it will increase productivity. For example, equipment with advanced queue management allows users to change settings of printed jobs or jobs on hold, prioritise rush jobs, and reprint processed jobs. Users have full view and control of all pending and active jobs. Likewise, systems that combine templates with powerful advanced image technology that automatically analyses each pixel to ensure optimal quality can deliver one-touch copying/scanning and the right results, the first time.
Post-production is the final workflow stage and encompasses what the user has to do with the output from the large format system. Post-production is the user experience after the job is printed. This can include everything from retrieving single or multiple prints, to hand-collating output, to sending and receiving a digital file. At this point, any impediments to quickly accessing output can not only lead to frustration, but also reduced productivity and poor quality finished jobs. Improper stacking or poor document collation can result in messy and disorganised prints. Or prints may end up on the floor, resulting in missing sheets or miscollated sets.
Once you understand your organisation's unique workflow needs, you can select the large-format production printing equipment that is best positioned to help the users achieve a productive workflow; which, in turn can have a significant impact on their everyday operations and a company's overall business goals tied to operational performance, profitability and business growth.
Improving operational performance
Investing in large-format print solutions that streamline and optimise workflow can critically impact the "big picture", improving overall operational performance. It is possible to simplify pre-production processes, increase productive output, and improve post-production print handling with equipment that is capable of eliminating traditional blockages in these stages. When the overall operational performance of your organisation is improved, so is your ability to increase revenue and expand operations.
Increasing profitability is directly linked to the ability of your organisation to decrease costs tied to variables such as labour, service and consumables; even file processing time. With a highly productive large-format printing solution, it is possible to overcome these challenges as intuitive equipment means less time spent on manual processes; equipment designed with durability in mind means fewer service calls and downtime; and output that is accurate the first time reduces waste and costs associated with re-prints.
Expanding business growth
Growing your organisation's volume and revenue can be inhibited by an inability to offer new services, competitive pricing, or even open new locations. Selecting the right large-format equipment that delivers reliable, quality output consistently, and is adaptable to your expanding business needs, can set you apart from your competitors. Also, with a productive workflow that cuts out excess waste and inefficient processes, it might be possible reduce your operating costs, which could then be passed on to customers in terms of more competitive pricing or used to invest in your organisation's future growth plans.
It's clear that the costs of productivity inefficiencies can be high, but at the same time the rewards of replacing inefficient processes and equipment with productive ones can be exponential. As you take the next step toward investing in a large-format printing solution, consider how the equipment will impact your organisation's path toward a truly productive workflow. Going beyond the spec sheet will not only address the challenges faced by individual users, but those across your entire organisation.