Category: Production

How Automated is your Workflow Automation?

Pat McGrew
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 »

The Messy Business of Job Onboarding

Pat McGrew
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 »

Komori Highlights the Impremia IS29 at an Open House in Tsukuba, Japan

Jim Hamilton
Dec 12, 2016

We were in Japan last month and as luck would have it we were there at the same time that Komori held an open house to showcase its newest digital print solutions. This international event took place at Komori’s facility in Tsukuba, Japan and drew hundreds of attendees from all over the Asia Pacific region. It provided the opportunity to showcase Komori’s Impremia IS29, a B2-format, sheet-fed, UV inkjet printer capable of speeds up to 3,000 simplex sheets per hour. Also on display were a six-unit, 18,000 sheet per hour, B1-format Komori Lithrone GX40RP H-UV offset press running UV inks and a Komori Apressia DC105 die cutter. Komori’s recently announced sales partnership with Highcon was clear to see through the demonstration of the Euclid II+ during the open house. Horizon, also a Komori partner, showed a saddle stitcher.

Komori facility entrance - 700

The theme running across all of the products shown was a demonstration of a hybrid workflow for test marketing a national campaign for a cosmetic product. Read more »

Winding Through Workflow Touch Points and Bottlenecks

Pat McGrew
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 »

The Next Big Thing

Frank Romano
Nov 2, 2016

 

Look around the industry. What do you see? Offset presses. Digital printers. Wide format inkjet printers. Offset litho was discovered in 1900, but did not gain traction until the 1950s. Digital color printing was introduced in 1993. Wide format inkjet came in 1995. Walk into any plant; they may have all three.

It took a while for all three printing technologies to find their place in print production. All three were challenged by a status quo. Offset was once described as “only for quick and dirty printing.” Ironically, they said the same for digital color. The president of Xerox was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying almost the same about inkjet printing (2004). Now Xerox is becoming a force in inkjet.

Yet, all three processes make money for printers. What will be the next big thing? The technology is already here. We just have to find markets for it.

Flatbed UV inkjet can print on any substrate—plastics, wood, glass, board, metal, ceramics, textiles, carpeting, and more. Commercial printers print on paper. Where is the market for printing on all those other substrates? Read more »

Tip Toeing Through Your Workflow

Pat McGrew
Oct 26, 2016

Efficiency Straight AheadIn 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 »

New Print Sample Videos for International Print Day

Jim Hamilton
Oct 18, 2016

In honor of International Print Day, InfoTrends is releasing ten new print sample videos. This brings to 100 the number of print sample videos I’ve recorded since 2012. Here are the new ones:

  1. HP Indigo books and output on canvas
  2. Kodak Flexible Film technology demonstration
  3. Touch7 and the Ricoh C5110
  4. Xeikon Trillium and 9800 samples
  5. OKI C942 CMYK plus white on colored sheets
  6. Selected dimensional and foil print samples (included are examples from Duplo, Eagle Systems/Kurz, Intec, Konica Minolta, MGI, and Scodix)
  7. Envelope printing (included are examples from Bell+Howell, Pitney Bowes, Sensible Technologies, and Spiral Binding)
  8. Canon imagePRESS 850 direct mail and photo book samples (finished on a Duplo DC-646 and a Plockmatic BLM50)
  9. An International Paper substrate comparison on the Canon Océ VarioPrint i300
  10. Why I Record Print Sample Videos

For the previous ninety videos, go to the Print Sample channel on the Jim Hamilton YouTube page.

For those who are not familiar with International Print Day, it is “24-hour celebration without borders” for “anyone with an interest in the original communication delivery device…to join the planet’s largest conversation about print in all its forms.” International Print Day starts at 6 pm ET on October 18th (11 pm GMT, 9 am AEST) and will finish 24 hours later. Those wishing to participate on social media should use the hashtag #IPD16.

International Print Day logo, IPD16_site_hdr

Read more »

Growth & Creativity – FESPA Digital Textile Conference Milan 2016

Ron Gilboa

How are some of the best known designer clothing brands in the world using digital textile printing? If you want to know, you need to go to Italy, where last month about a hundred attendees met at the nHow hotel in Milan to exchange ideas, network, and hear about the latest in technologies and techniques at a conference sponsored by FESPA. FESPA, the driving force behind this event, has been promoting digital printing of textiles across the globe from Italy to Turkey and China.

Milan is one of the world centers for fashion with many brands headquartered in the city, including Armani, Etro, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dolce & Gabbana, Iceberg, Marni, Missoni, Moschino, Prada Trussardi, Valentino, Versace, and Zegna. About 50 kilometers to the north in the Como region, a large community of suppliers and manufacturers have been serving the fashion and décor industries in Europe and beyond for many decades. These companies as well as local associations helped to sponsor the event. These included Platinum partners EFI Reggiani, EPSON, MS Printing Solutions, and Mimaki as well as FESPA ITALIA Association, Sistema Moda Italia (SMI), and Associazione Italiana Disegnatori Tessili. Read more »

What Do I Take Away from the 2016 thINK Conference?

Jim Hamilton
Oct 17, 2016

Last week I went to Boca Raton, Florida for the 2016 thINK Conference. thINK is a user community made up of Canon Solutions America (CSA) inkjet customers. This conference was the second such meeting and it has grown since the inaugural event in New York a year ago. Attendance is up significantly (from 350 to 450 attendees). Also impressive is the growth in partners. Nine additional partners joined for 2016, which brings the total number of partners to 34. This resulted in a larger exhibit area (or Partner Pavilion, as it was described on site). Finishing systems, paper, and software tools are the recurring themes of these partners.

thINK logo 3 - 400

Keynote sessions included tennis great Chris Evert, inspirational speaker Scott Burrows, the Winterberry Group’s Jonathan Margulies, and David Humphreys of The Economist. Though high-profile keynotes are intellectually stimulating and inspiring, I find that the two most important benefits from events like these are the educational sessions and the opportunity to network with peers. The conference program this year expanded to include twenty sessions across five tracks. Those sessions that I attended were well done and thought provoking. The opportunity to hear innovative peers speak about their experiences is priceless. Two examples will demonstrate this. Read more »

What’s Next for Graph Expo?

Jim Hamilton
Oct 13, 2016

Graph Expo’s first visit to Orlando can be considered a qualified success, in part based on the low expectations that most exhibitors had for the show. It followed drupa, and a drupa year will always be a challenge for Graph Expo. What the future holds for this venerable show is up for discussion.

Let’s first consider attendance in Orlando. Thayer Long, the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) president, said in a WhatTheyThink interview that the number of visitors (including booth staff) exceeded 13,000. This is down significantly from Graph Expo 2015 in Chicago, but is more or less in line with a reduced show that had at least 30% less exhibit space than in 2015.

Another factor is cost. Chicago is a great city, but Read more »

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