By Mike Tedesco, Worldwide UWS Product Manager, Production & Packaging Workflow, Kodak

Two-thirds of print service providers consider workflow automation a top investment priority simply because it enables them to better service customers and increases customer satisfaction. Today, customers typically want more speed and less cost, whether it’s 100 business cards or a half-dozen editions of 1,000 books each in different page dimensions—by tomorrow—from facilities on three continents.

For smaller providers, the growth of short-run jobs that comes about from increased demands for segmentation, direct mail personalization, and localized packaging presents challenges in achieving economies of scale. Automation makes short runs more practical, easier to manage, and efficient to produce through ganging. It also enables multi-facility operations, including international firms, to coordinate operations in complex projects. Linking multiple capabilities through hub-and-spoke structures—even in multiple locations and in mixes of web, sheet-fed, and digital lines—automation delivers consistency and efficiency.

Automation helps contain costs by reducing manual operations and introducing process improvements across the enterprise, increasing profit and enabling growth. Each operator touch adds cost, especially in template-driven jobs where Rules Based Automation (RBA) is designed to leverage savings. Reducing the number of touches enables providers to handle short-run jobs efficiently and frees staff for other beneficial functions such as cross-training, improving finishing and back-office efficiencies, prospect research and sales.

Providers rank file submission highest among the functions that automation can streamline; they also identify proofing and approvals, estimating, and preflighting as bottlenecks. Reducing labor costs through automation at these bottlenecks frees capital for investment elsewhere. Automation can streamline operations as well as production; from job submission to billing. When a job is finished, it can be invoiced instantly, which helps to improve cash flow.

Automation also provides accurate information management through centralizing. This “one-stop shopping” for information access facilitates feedback, process analysis and corrections. Greater clarity enables providers to identify issues, enhance efficiency, and prevent errors. The most expensive labor is that wasted in corrections or re-running jobs. By reducing errors, automation helps accommodate customers wanting jobs delivered faster and with fewer errors.

As one example of a powerful workflow solution, KODAK PRINERGY Workflow 6.1 represents a completely new vision for prepress production. It brings a new level of automation, accuracy, and efficiency to print creation, while reducing costs in the pre-planning print stage and expanding product integration across Kodak and third-party solutions. PRINERGY Workflow is the leading solution for commercial, packaging and publication printers seeking to centralize—and automate—print production.

Just as automation enables large providers to coordinate multi-location and multi-technology production, it offers flexibility in adding and upgrading systems. With automation, providers can be strategic in technology improvements, and they can scale operations around customer demand.

The proof is in the savings.

Using PRINERGY Workflow, one multinational direct-selling consumer company that produces packaging and sales literature in-house leveraged the automation to reduce turnaround from approved artwork to its print supplier from three weeks to three days by eliminating steps, saving $375,000 annually.

Similarly, a New England book publisher automated with PRINERGY Workflow to cut its manufacturing cycle from three weeks to three days. And a Canadian commercial sheet-fed printer used PRINERGY Workflow automation to coordinate conventional and digital presses, bindery, warehouse, fulfillment and mailings, and to handle short runs cost-effectively, helping the firm to double sales in six years.

Automation is the key; to cut costs, coordinate old iron with digital systems—even continents apart, manage short runs efficiently, expedite business operations, free up capital and staff, and expand strategically, all to compete successfully by making customers happy.

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