Category: Workflow

For workflow, to scale or not to scale? That is the question!

Pat McGrew
Jun 19, 2017

It’s time to ask the question that is often missed in discussions about workflow – is the current workflow scalable? Scalable isn’t only a question of getting bigger; it is also a question of complexity. If your workflow was built to handle one type of job, like books or bills or bingo cards, and today you are handling magazines, direct marketing mailers, and posters, there may be a mismatch between your work and your workflow.

The mismatches often begin with how jobs are sold and onboarded. A common change in sales is the addition of a web-to-print solution to open your doors to a wider audience. When that addition happens, your scale of operation generally changes. Instead of sales coming in via relationships with your sales people, who know your capabilities, there are jobs coming in from customers who may not have paid attention to your website, and may not have followed your instructions. While most web-to-print solutions allow for rules-based interrogation of the incoming job, in many cases, contrary to how the systems are intended to work, someone in the shop is assigned to look at the jobs and determine if they can move into production. When you think about scalability, the more jobs that come in through a web-to-print application that require physical review, the less scalable that process becomes.

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Is it time for a Workflow Intervention?

Pat McGrew
Apr 17, 2017

Workflow ChaosBAs we come to the last few items in the Workflow Quiz it is time for some of the heavy lifting that comes with optimizing and right sizing tasks and processes in the workflow. Not everyone will be happy with the process because it uncovers their pet projects and sometimes lead to power plays that start with “this is how we have always done this job” and end with annoyed team members. Despite all of those risks, it is time to look at all of those places where it takes some type of manual intervention to get a job from start to finish.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you take on a job from a new customer, how much of the job setup requires a person talking to a person or a person talking with a group of people to get all of the specifications identified and coded into the system? Are there manual checklists sitting on a service representative’s desk in addition to what is in the system? Sticky notes on monitors in prepress and account management that detail what is missing in the job notes? If so, you have opportunities to optimise because all of those notes are taking time to manage!

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Geomarketing in your Workflow: Linking Seller to Buyer

Pat McGrew
Apr 13, 2017

When you look at the opportunities across the spectrum of marketing outlets the choices can be daunting. Which of the many channels should you use to communicate the value proposition of your product or service? There are hundreds of lines of blog content and millions of pages of guidance in books and magazine articles, and they all provide points to consider. What is missing in much of the guidance is a specific pointer to technologies that can help to change the marketing narrative.

One technology that is underused is geomarketing, the art and science of using location data in innovative ways. It can help to change the brand narrative by creating direct links between where the sellers of products and services can be found and the people who want to buy them. It can add valuable new revenue streams to the menu of services offered by marketing and print service providers. And while geomarketing techniques can work for any communication channel, marketing and  print service providers miss the opportunity to offer this valueable service.GeoServices - locr

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Key Take-Aways of Xploration 2017

David Stabel, Matt Swain and Pat McGrew

On March 28-30, Xplor International held its annual Xploration 2017 conference in Orlando, Florida, providing more than 60 educational sessions for vendors, service providers, enterprise attendees, and other industry experts from around the world.

xplor17

The educational sessions covered a broad range of customer communications management (CCM) and related topics including customer experience, workflow and automation, data management and compliance, e-presentment/payment technology and much more. This year, senior analysts from Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends hosted multiple educational sessions, participated in several panel discussions, and hosted a special Industry Analyst Workshop. Here are our key takeaways from the conference.

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Dover Corporation rounding up portfolio of digital printing technologies

Ron Gilboa
Apr 12, 2017

Last week Dover [NYSE:DOV] bought Caldera for 35 million euros. This acquisition is the third such recent move for Dover and expands their digital print capabilities to include color management, web-to-print, production workflow and automation.

Dover corp

Dover Corporation was a $6.8 Billion company in 2016, with global holdings served by almost 29,000 employees. The company’s holdings are in four key areas: energy, engineering systems, fluids, and refrigeration & food equipment. Over the past few years Dover has set its sights on the digital printing market and its related growth opportunities. This strategy has resulted in several acquisitions of which Caldera is the latest one. Preceding this acquisition Dover acquired MS Printing, a manufacturer of textile printing solutions in February of 2014) and followed this with the acquisition of JK Group, a manufacturer of inks for the textile industry, in October of 2015. These acquisitions of inkjet printing and inks companies were key to developing a value chain in digital printing, but one aspect was missing;  workflow. The Caldera acquisition helps round out the solution set.

Calder aLogo

Caldera, under the leadership of CEO Joseph Mergui, has been developing digital front-end solutions for wide format printing for over 25 years. Caldera provides a high-end color management, production management tools, web-to-print, automation and connectivity to most wide format type printers in this industry segment.

Over the past few years the Caldera team has focused on the demands of the sign & display industry and has begun to embed tools for advanced workflow solutions beyond simple RIPping and color management. The company has added job management, accounting, and production dashboards that allow print service providers to evaluate their production environment from job timing to ink consumption. Caldera also has begun to add solutions for emerging opportunities in industrial print segments and now offers solutions for textile printers and mixed environments for digital displays are in use side by side with printed output.

This acquisition will benefit both companies. Dover now has a workflow solution that integrates well with its existing assets, and through Caldera’s industry network they gain access to other markets. Caldera now benefits from the strength and market development capabilities of a large organization that sees digital printing in the graphics, industrial, and decorative markets as strategically important for future growth.

This acquisition is reminiscent of several others in this space, most recently that of AVT by Danaher, as well as that of Reggiani and Optitex by EFI.  A generation of innovative, smaller companies, are uniting with larger organizations for growth in digital printing and related areas. We expect these mergers and acquisitions to continue as industrial markets turn to digital printing as a mean to address end user demand for mass customized products.

Highlights from the Pitney Bowes 2017 Software Technology Analyst Summit

David Stabel and Matt Swain
Apr 6, 2017

Pitney Bowes held a Software Technology Analyst Summit in Half Moon Bay, California, on February 28 to March 1. It was the first dedicated technology analyst event in several years for the company. With 34 analysts from 19 firms in attendance from around the world, including senior executives from Pitney Bowes, the Software team was making a statement that they were ready to put their corporate wide go-to-market strategy center stage with the analyst community.

Marc Lautenbach

Pitney Bowes had put together a comprehensive and highly informative 1.5 day program to bring participants up-to-date on its software strategy, latest business developments, and latest software innovations. Next to the agenda and scheduled 1:1 meetings with senior management, participants had plenty of opportunities to network or to get live demonstrations on some of Pitney Bowes’ latest software innovations.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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