by Piet De Pauw, Head of Marketing, Enfocus
Web-to-print and automation have shifted the print market. Service providers have to compete across a much larger geography. The challenge is not only how much print business can be acquired online, but how to best implement that channel.
Print customers are buying online more than ever. Print service providers are integrating web storefront systems with production systems. However, web to print can become a challenge well after it’s integrated with an MIS. The issue may not be with system connectivity, but with more jobs coming into the shop than can be handled. The nature of the business has become more short-run, lower-margin jobs.
Customer service could be bogged down. Prepress could be scrambling. The pressroom might be getting behind schedule. Jobs may be stacked up waiting for bindery. It’s also possible that an influx of jobs is like a bulge moving through a garden hose.
Each process gets temporarily overwhelmed handling a clump of orders. Eventually, the jobs get done, but not without some back-pedaling. If the morning rush or the afternoon rush or second shift rush, it amounts to a burst of extremely busy followed by a period of straggler clean up. Printers have to automate just to keep up. And they must do it to smooth out the workflow.
Simply competing online isn’t enough. Print service providers must deliver consistent timely products to their customers. Businesses should be pointing toward the effective implementation of full automation. This doesn’t mean lights-out, but automation from job acquisition to product delivery. The technology available has made what recently seemed to be a fantasy into tangible possibility. For many printers, it’s already a reality.
There is a growing portion of the industry that is being taken over by entrepreneurs. These guys know nothing about printing but manage to assemble an automated print shop that makes money by heavily relying on technology.
Automation allows orders to be onboarded, processed, and delivered in hours instead of days. Where automation truly has an impact is the point where the entire workflow is connected and communicating. Islands of technology merge into a contiguous entity. When jobs are passing through a print shop, unhindered by human interaction is when automation is truly working.
Personal customer service will flourish in an automated environment because the human touch can be shifted away from production and onto customer relationships.