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Transforming and Automating Workflows: Do I need to do it all at once?

In preparation for this article, David spoke with a wide format print service provider with a portfolio of disparate equipment that implemented the first phase of a production workflow system to automate and optimize some of his processes. The results were quite impressive.

By David Zwang
Published: April 7, 2014

In the last article, we looked at a company that was able to implement a system that offered full process automation from one solution provider. While it was a very comprehensive system that took into account both offset and digital production, this approach is not for everyone. Additionally, not everyone can justify automating their entire plant all at once. In fact, most companies find it easier to do it in multiple steps, usually starting with the low hanging fruit, as discussed in earlier articles.

This next company, S2K Graphics, a FRANKE Company, is a premier large format Digital and Screen printing company with production facilities in Los Angeles California and Nashville Tennessee. In business for 24 years, they provide the quick service restaurant industry with innovative point-of-purchase materials and project management. S2K serves a variety of national accounts coast to coast. Changes in customer requirements meant that they needed to find a way to transform their business processes to accommodate these new demands. The changes that they have seen, are very much felt throughout the industry by print service providers, and these include quicker turns, shorter runs, increased versioning, and a lot of regional customization. These market changes significantly impacted S2K’s CSR and production workload, so they were looking for a solution that would streamline and automate their overall workflow. 

S2K looked at many of the available solutions available in the market, and felt that they needed some help in finding the best one to fit their specific requirements. They approached the consulting division of one of their primary suppliers, Nazdar, and working along with Mike Ruff and Tony Quinn of Nazdar Consulting Services, they started to develop a plan of attack. After reviewing the processes, and finding the areas that would achieve the most benefit from optimization and automation, S2K opted to work with Tucanna Software & Development, based in Carlsbad, California.

Using the preferred and most successful method of process reengineering, they started by working with their consultant and Tucanna to review their operation and specific needs. As a result of the review, they installed tFlow Approval and tFlow Production to target client-facing plant processes and to automate prepress production. One of the benefits of tFlow Approval, and other similar systems available today, is that it can be installed on the local network or in the Cloud, and is accessible via a standard web browser. This greatly enhances the job-submission workflow and customer approval process by replacing the exchange of countless emails, low-res PDFs, and images which would have been required among all members of the project without this type of easily accessible online access.

S2K completed the installation of tFlow Approval and tFlow Production in the summer of 2013.   

With this configuration, after a client supplies the artwork to the salesman or the plant, it is directed to their fully staffed art department which receives the artwork and prepares a layout. Once the layout is completed, it is uploaded to tFlow Approval directly from Adobe InDesign via the tFlow Adobe Creative Cloud connector.  The connector extracts slug line information from the file and automates job and order creation, manages versioning, and initiates email notifications to the client or project manager that the layout is ready to be reviewed. The notification includes a link that takes the client directly to the layout, where they can make comments, request changes or approve the job. This process streamlines salesperson-to-client interaction, reducing time and paperwork between the CSR and the art department. Once approved, the job is automatically downloaded by tFlow Production, which repurposes the file for different output specifications, normalizes, and then routes the file to production for printing. And while this was only the first stage of a multi-stage transformative process, they were still successful in providing a 50% reduction in prepress production time.

S2K currently produces more than 1,000 jobs per month on large format UV flatbed and UV and Latex roll-to-roll printers, and this new system has no problem in keeping up with those production demands.

Phil Garcia, VP and General Manager of S2K, said, “We looked at other solutions, but they required that we alter our workflow to adapt to their systems, rather than having the system facilitate our existing workflow.” This should be a key consideration as you are looking at options for process optimization. He added, “Now that we have completed phase one, we look forward to further extending and integrating new tFlow functionalities into our workflows. It is easy to use, and it doesn’t require a lot of complex integration or training”.

Darrian Young, Managing Director at Tucanna, accurately reflected one of the themes we have constantly reinforced throughout this series: “Businesses of all sizes must be more agile to succeed and survive in this constantly changing and competitive operating environment. It is now essential to limit major capital investments, optimize your existing processes, and reduce ongoing operating costs.”

In the next article, we will continue to look at a how companies have found that automation can create amazing efficiencies that enhance their customer experiences while reducing cost and cycle time.

Remember, if you have any topics you think are important and would like us to cover during the balance of this series, please let us know! Or if you are a print service provider with a unique, integrated end-to-end workflow and would like to be featured, we’d love to hear from you.

For more detail on some ways to automate and transform your workflows, download an informative whitepaper, "Automating and Optimizing a Book Production Workflow."

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.

 

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