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Commentary & Analysis

Transforming and Automating Workflows: A Critical Success Factor

This new series by David L. Zwang focuses on the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows and business to prepare you for the new challenges ahead. With this introductory article, David lays out the business drivers and some of the series topics. As the print industry and the marketplace as a whole continue their digital evolution, business process transformation becomes an increasingly critical success factor.

By David Zwang
Published: December 7, 2012

We often read about how, as an industry, we need to transform our businesses to keep up with an evolving market. For years we have also been hearing about automating our processes as a way to reduce our costs and cycle time. It all sounds very logical. And when looking at vendor product messaging, you would almost think it as easy as signing a check to purchase the ultimate solution. However, it is really not as easy as purchasing a solution. Transforming and automating business processes, in a way that meets your needs today but can continue to meet evolving market demands, requires a serious investment of more than just dollars.

Beginning in January 2013, this new series will look at the changing requirements, as well as some of the tools that are available to help you make those choices and changes. But more importantly, it will specifically discuss the steps you need to take to evaluate your business and enable necessary changes. We will also be examining actual customer implementations so that you can see how they were able to succeed in this important process. Some of the topics we will be covering include:

  • JDF. What is the state of implementation and adoption? Is it everything it was promised, or is there more to do?
  • Successful automation requires normalization or constraint of input; what are the methods and tools that can be used to embark upon those important steps?
  • How do you currently use your ERP/MIS solution, and what are the other potential benefits available if you further integrate it into production workflows? Perhaps more importantly, do you have an ERP/MIS solution?
  • Is it better to move to an all-inclusive workflow solution or bridge component solutions? How do you make those determinations, and more importantly, what should you be looking for in supplier partners?
  • Lights out imposition: Can you set up a system that will detect what you are sending and impose automatically?
  • It is becoming increasingly important to create a better bridge to your customers and their internal workflows. Many have used web-to-print solutions, but do they really serve the needs of all types of work and customer integration? Are all of the web-to--print solutions the same? How can you determine how to integrate systems (internally and externally) and become a more streamlined and customer-friendly operation?

These are just a few of the many topics we will be covering. If you have any topics you think are important and would like us to cover, please let us know!

Look for this exciting and informative new series to begin in January on WhatTheyThink.

David Zwang, travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. With over 40 years of industry experience, David specializes in process analysis and strategic development for firms in the fields of publishing, design, premedia, and printing.

Please contact him at david@zwang.com

David Zwang travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. He specializes in production optimization, strategic business planning, market analysis, and related services to companies in the vertical media communications market. Clients have included printers, manufacturers, retailers, publishers, premedia and US Government agencies. He can be reached at david@zwang.com.



By Erik Nikkanen on Dec 07, 2012

Yes, the goal is automation but to obtain that goal requires capable processes, which are not in place now. The lack of interest in looking at the capability of processes will always be a road block to full automation.


By Greg Goldman on Dec 07, 2012

As Erik correctly points out, perhaps not all customer and business process workflow connectivity points are in place today. However, going through the evaluation process of what points CAN be connected in your business will be critical to your success long-term. What David is describing and what I find from my consulting practice takes leadership, IT investment, industry experience and lots of cooperation between the department silos that have been created over time by management and in some respects industry vendor solutions. The results in taking your company through this process can be very rewarding. Benefits include; better customer connectivity, faster throughput, lower costs and higher profitability. Looking forward to David's upcoming series.


By Gina Danner on Dec 07, 2012

"Eat People" by Andy Kessler is a great read related to the value chain. Our industry is challenged in getting to true automation. Established organizations are still too often handcuffed by the perception that our clients won't play along.

My belief is that if we can automate more of the tasks we take on the better the story our clients will live. More importantly it is difficult to compete unless you are able to realize the savings that go in with more automation. We can only cut costs so far without effective automation plans.


By Bob Raus on Dec 21, 2012

Once-upon-a-time printers could be profitable producing 10's of jobs a day, all personally sold by a dedicated team of trained sales people and touched by (MANY) people.

Fact: Job run lengths continue to decline. Today it is more likely to be 100's (survival mode), if not 1000's (thriving mode) of jobs per day coming from a variety of Web2Print, MIS, Mobile Apps, FTP sites, and hot folder workflows, (oh, and the occasional CSR too). Clearly, those who don't innovate, adapt, and automate will continue to struggle and not survive.

This series holds a lot of promise and I look forward to reading and commenting on it frequently. Things I hope to see include: a focus on business (vs. products), and how technology and best practices deliver $$ benefits, market statistics on past/future run-lengths, active commentary and debate from printers and vendors alike, real-world examples with ROI, and more.


By David L. Zwang on Dec 21, 2012

I couldn't agree more.

In fact, that is what inspired me to do this series. As I travel around the globe and see the same challenges, and frustrations, it is clear that we need to bring the issues to the surface and have a structured conversation. This should allow both PSPs and Vendors to start thinking about how they can begin address the needed changes.


By Joju Adekanbi on Jul 01, 2013

This critical appraisal is worthty of great readership. I will circulate to stakeholders in the print industry in Nigeria.


By David L. Zwang on Jul 01, 2013


Thank you for your comment. This entire series on Transforming and Automating workflows is targeted at the most important factors in print production. How do you get the most value from your existing equipment and people, and prepare for the future.

best regards


By Joju Adekanbi on Jul 01, 2013

You're welcome Dave; I simply plan ahead with right networking


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