Print production software, island living, and inchworms

Workflow 2 min read , August 13, 2021

by Zhenya Dean, Business Analyst, Enfocus

Photographer: Julian Timmerman | Source: Unsplash

Maybe it’s just me, but reading articles about automation is growing old. I mean, alright, already. We all get it. Automate, automate, automate. But wait, there’s more. Integrate, integrate, integrate. If I see the term, “lights-out” one more time, I’m going to write an angry article even if no one publishes it. If you haven’t caved in, given up, and put a for sale sign on your print shop, then you need to swallow this jagged little pill.

Software = process = business

Software is process is business in 2021. There’s no way around it. However, and I mean a very big “however,” let’s please stop pounding on the automation drum and look at workflow software. Throw out the automation mumbo jumbo and look at creating a process that makes business sense. If it’s new software, a faster device, or a four-armed robot let’s figure out what will make our print shop leaner.

Printing = manufacturing

We keep hearing about removing manual touches. Printing is manufacturing, which requires manual touches, even if a machine is making the touches. What needs to be done is removing the number of times that a job stops to wait for something. There is no practical method to get away from staging areas. Some equipment, teams, or processes take longer than others. An inchworm effect is going to take place in production.

How about we look for ways to kill off the inchworms in our workflow? Let’s look at the staging areas in our businesses and figure out how to break them down. Some of them aren’t there all the time. Some are as persistent as furniture. The strategy of staging is effective and not inherently a problem. Having jobs pile up prior to a process that can’t keep pace isn’t staging. It is a dangerous workflow destroying inchworm.

Print production = island living

There is an island-chain of technology subsystems from customer service to prepress to proofing to RIPs/DFEs to finishing to shipping. Each island is connected to the next by a footbridge. An employee must hand-carry job tickets and files, then manually attend to some data. This is working, so what’s the problem? It’s not efficient and it’s not lean. A modern connection should be stringing the islands together. Files and data should be traveling along those connections without any human handholding involved.

After we’ve got our technology islands strung together with high-speed data, the only job staging left can be managed. The only remnants of the inchworm will be due to workload over-whelming a process. Planning can deal with this a bit, but not entirely. People can be shifted around. Jobs can be logically scheduled to reduce downtime for device setup. What can’t be changed is device throughput. Machines can only operate at certain speeds.

So where does the software come to the rescue?

There is software lounging around on each of the technology islands. It is island living, after all. Since we’ve already laid down the trans-island data cables, we only need to connect those lackadaisical pieces of software together. But how? You guessed it. More software. There is no logical need to replace any of our island investments. Let’s look at an unbiased, workflow-unifying solution. I would suggest heading to “the Google” and searching for “print workflow development platform”. Scroll down past the presumptuous ads and click on the Enfocus link. Or just click here.