Jan 25, 2017
Ricoh announced on January 18th that they had taken their strategic investment into Avanti Computer Systems to the next step by acquiring the company. The acquisition is not a surprise for those that have been watching the workflow story develop at Ricoh. The company acquired MarcomCentral (formerly known as PTI Marketing Technologies Inc.) in 2014 and expanded its software partnerships in recent years.
Avanti is best known as the provider of the Avanti Slingshot print management information system (MIS) targeted to exactly the types of print shops where Ricoh finds success for their Pro C product lines. With Slingshot, Ricoh now has a JDF-certified Print MIS that can be on premise or cloud-based. Its modular, open platform lays the groundwork for integration with other Ricoh software solutions. The platform also provides the ability to distribute business intelligence, plan production and integrate into fulfillment and logistics. For Avanti, they now have the resources of Ricoh to support expansion into Europe and then worldwide.
From the workflow perspective, this acquisition gives Ricoh a tested, mature print MIS. Coupled with the MarcomCentral acquisition and their growing professional services offerings, Ricoh is better positioned to grow their commercial customer base and become more deeply entrenched with the mix of customers they support today. This graphic from the Avanti web page illustrates the modular nature of Avanti’s solution and, as important, the partners that connect into it.
Both companies have stated that the acquisition does not change any existing partnerships, but does this acquisition open the door to some other partnerships for Ricoh? Avanti has a slate of automation partners, including Ricoh competitors Xerox, HP, Esko, EFI, CREO, Aleyant, Konica Minolta, Agfa, Fujifilm and Kodak. Aleyant gives them a path to large format automation with a refined set of prepress tools. Esko opens doors into packaging.
The big question is if this is the slow continuation of an acquisition spree for Ricoh. Avanti makes Ricoh one of the few digital printer vendors who can claim a viable commercial print MIS product in their software tool kit. That gives them a strong foundation to move deeper into the general commercial print market with both their color toner and color inkjet products.
While it will take some time for Ricoh to fully integrate the power of the Avanti solutions into their workflow talk track, it is hard to believe that this is the last stop on the acquisition path Ricoh has been following.
Jan 13, 2017
There are still a few more items in the Workflow Quiz to work through before we can say that every stone has been turned over in the quest for optimization and documentation. In this segment it’s time to look at what processes you have that might qualify as islands of automation that should be linked together.
Most print shops have some automation in place. Tools are purchased to meet a specific need, and sometimes suites are brought in to automate specific sets of processes. What tools and suites have you brought in over the years to automate? Web-to-print solutions? Order entry and management solutions? Job tracking? Are your production processes linked to your accounting processes?
Workflow Automation orchestrates the handoffs between processes to eliminate human intervention and create seamless activity from the start of a job to delivery. It may include automation of resource allocation, flow control, and consumables ordering, but always includes reporting as each step is completed.
Over the years I’ve visited shops with some amazing automation. Some was bought, some was assembled from a variety of software sources, and still other solutions were written in-house. In most cases the teams working in the shop started their automation out of a need to streamline multiple job onboarding processes or tie multiple touchpoints into a single process. The goal is always to move jobs through faster. Read more »
Dec 20, 2016
The fifth item in the Workflow Quiz is where the business of making money begins. Up to now we’ve looked at processes and tracking, but now it’s time to take a critical look at what happens when a customer wants to place an order and you want to accept that order. In a sense we’re coming back to the beginning now that you’ve named all of the steps in the workflow and have a good idea of the paths that jobs take through your shop.
Onboarding is the set of processes the start when a customer places an order and ends when the job is in the production workflow. It includes acquisition of the final job specifications, print files, associated data and resource files, job ticketing, logging the job into the accounting system, establishing proofing requirements, defining delivery requirements, and defining the payment methods.
How many ways can a customer place an order with you? Are customers required to have a sales person, or is it possible for anyone to place an order over the phone, via fax or email, or using a web-to-print or web-to-order process? How the orders are received and verified drives many of the next steps.
Read more »
Nov 7, 2016
The fourth item in the Workflow Quiz is where we identify every stop along the workflow path and how those stops are tracked. Last time your job was to lay out all of the documentation and learn where the holes are. This time the job is to put a name to every step in the workflow with a goal of identifying who owns that step and how the status of the work is reported as it moves through that step.
Touch points are the discrete processes required to move a job through the workflow. Color management is a touchpoint. Ripping a file is a touchpoint . Printing is a touchpoint. Having a CSR track down a customer file is a touch point. Troubleshooting a wrong profile is a touch point.
Your goal should be to create a master map, or set of maps, that typical jobs follow from job onboarding to job delivery. Each touch point should have a named owner and an identified reporting path. It isn’t enough to say that someone is responsible for the workflow or is the workflow manager; for this task the goal is to identify specific assignments, even if at the start there is only one name in every box (or even no name in a box).
Read more »
Oct 26, 2016
In this series we are looking at the world of workflow. Based on your feedback it is a hot topic, especially during the budgeting season. One thing that emerged from the conversations is that we are all using the word workflow, but we don’t all mean the same thing. For some of us it refers to a tightly defined set of processes, while for others it covers the business and production processes within a specific application set, like commercial print or packaging. All of these definitions are accurate, but to have the conversation we need to be able to share our expectations about all of the things that workflow covers.
One way to identify what you mean by workflow is to look at how the term is used in your organization, and to review your documentation of the workflow components. This is the next item in the Workflow Quiz. Start with the workflow documentation you have.
Workflow: The repeatable and auditable tasks, events, and processes used to consistently move work from job onboarding through to completion. Some or all tasks may be automated toward the goal of super-efficiency and predictability in production and supply chain management.
You may have discovered that there is not much documentation available. Don’t panic! Working together we can get you on the road to a well-documented workflow. The first step is to locate what you have available. That may be in the form of vendor manuals, internal strategy documents, workflow diagrams, internal system architecture presentations, or even an assortment of internal emails. This might sound odd, but print out anything you have in email form, and at least the opening pages of any longer documents.
Read more »
Sep 6, 2016
Clearly, the idea of documenting your workflow architecture and environment resonated with those who read the last installment. It is not surprising! We all know that every business process should be backed up with documentation, but it is easy push it down the priority list. Perhaps raising the visibility will help raise the priority!
The next item in the Workflow Quiz asked if there was an owner for your workflow process, and if you have an assigned owner, does that person have a named backup. It is an important question because without a named owner your workflow processes are at risk. In addition, without a backup, the risk only grows.
Read more »
Aug 16, 2016
In the last installment the first item in the Workflow Quiz asked if there was documentation for your workflow architecture, and if it is was up-to-date. It turns out that many of you don’t know if there is current documentation on your production workflow, even though it is the backbone of your company. This isn’t too surprising. Every production workflow has many moving parts, often installed at different times but different stakeholders. Once software tools are installed the processes that use the tools may never be documented, with the user manuals for each component considered the documentation. The truth is, that isn’t a documented workflow.
A truly documented production workflow identifies all of the touch points,
from the point where a job is brought on board to the workflow process,
through each step until the final delivery requirements are met.
Read more »
Jul 19, 2016
Most companies that have a printing operation believe that they have a workflow process. In-plant departments, packaging converters, direct mail providers, commercial printers, sign shops and transaction producers all know that to keep the business running they must identify each job, break it down into components, and track it through their organization until it is delivered to the end client. That makes the obvious answer to the question: Yes! Of course our company has a workflow. Jobs come in and they flow through the organization.
What is Workflow?
The repeatable and auditable tasks, events, and processes used to consistently move work from job onboarding through to completion. Some or all tasks may be automated toward the goal of super-efficiency and predictability in production and supply chain management.
On closer inspection, however, what most organizations have is a series of processes that have grown over the years to mitigate bottlenecks as they arise. Whiteboards, spreadsheets projected on the wall, boards with sticky notes holding job information, flags and lights visible across the enterprise, and physical job jackets, emerge over time as teams look for ways to ensure that all of the stakeholders know the status of the jobs coming through the plant. While all of these processes serve a purpose, they rarely provide a consistent view of a slice of time because they are only tied together by the thinnest of strings and an agreement among the participants to keep the reporting current. What happens when a team member is on vacation or new team members are added? The process often suffers because new thought processes were added. New team members may have new ideas, even better ideas, on how to move work and report on progress. That begets change and evolution, but is it a workflow?
Unless all of the processes are tied into a Read more »