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A Good Problem to Have? Managing Capacity When Volume Peaks

Capacity management has proven to be a challenge for many wide-format print businesses, especially as many jobs are specialized or customized in some way. What are the ways that shops are coping with this “pain point”?


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About Richard Romano

Richard Romano is Managing Editor of WhatTheyThink | Printing News & Wide-Format & Signage.  He curates the Wide Format section on WhatTheyThink.com. He has been writing about the graphic communications industry for more than 25 years. He is the author or coauthor of more than half a dozen books on printing technology and business. His most recent book is “Beyond Paper: An Interactive Guide to Wide-Format and Specialty Printing.


By Cory Sawatzki on Feb 19, 2015

I am working with a company right now that has this very issue.

The bottleneck portion of the program can manifest itself in many ways. I have found that consistency is a big issue. If you can not repeat a good process over and over, you will have rework, and charge-backs. Insult to injury to be slow, and waste material.

You don't have to be on the cutting edge, but you do have to be repeatable.

Good topic Frank!


By Howie Fenton on Feb 19, 2015


Excellent article and I think you're spot on in terms of capacity/demand/staffing and finishing bottlenecks. I don't know about anybody else but I was surprised when I saw the InfoTrends research that showed that bottlenecks in finishing are the fourth most important workflow initiative (http://blog.infotrends.com/?p=11127). Now at InfoTrends, I will try to write more about this for this for WTT.

What I've seen since the great recession are most companies are leaner and working with less staff. Prior to the recession, most companies staffed at average demand requirements. Generally that means that during peak demand staff may have to work 15% to 25% longer (over time). With companies now staffed at below average demand, staff may have to increase their workload 25% to 35% during peaks.

Workflow automation is very important but most of the automation features are targeted at commercial print and finishing workflows and not signage workflows.

Other strategies leading companies implement to deal with peaks in demand are cross training and on-call staffing strategies. On-call staffing is something we’ve seen companies do for years. Generally it has been relegated to manual production tasks such as finishing and mailing operations, but leading companies have found ways to extend that upstream to other more value added production areas.

Cross training is one of those strategies that everyone agrees is important, but most companies don’t fully embrace. Although many companies feel they are focusing on cross-training, I would recommend anyone who wants to analyze their commitment to measure it. On one axis list all the operational tasks on the other axis list all the production staff and calculate the percentage of tasks cross-trained.

Thanks for this great stuff!

Howie Fenton, Infotrends


By Richard Romano on Feb 19, 2015

Thanks, Howie (and Cory). Wide-format and specialty graphics shops typically think they can't automate as much as they probably can. A lot of it is probably just education and letting people know what's possible.

I've not heard of cross training, at least not in this context (I had a bizarre image there for a moment). Interesting; I shall have to keep an eye out.




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