Category: Workflow

Live from FESPA 2018: Ron Gilboa on Mass Customization

Ryan McAbee
May 17, 2018

Making Efficient Workflows: 2018 Solimar User Conference

Pat McGrew
May 13, 2018

San Diego is known for being a hub of invention, from inkjet development to dynamic software solutions. Solimar Systems is embedded in that innovation hub, with 27 years of providing solutions to companies with workflow challenges. Their 2018 User Conference in San Diego (May 8-10) brought together their top users to share their solutions, learn about new features and provide feedback to the Solimar technical team. I am a huge fan of user conferences for the networking opportunities they bring for both the solutions staff and the customers. Face to face is always the best way to gain trust among users and for users to develop all-important relationships.

This year’s event began with a Customer Advisory Council meeting that included a Keypoint Intelligence Keynote: Like Childred, Your Workflow Needs Attention! The council consists of 23 Solimar users who meet on a regular cadence to provide guidance. The goal of the keynote was to talk through the power of workflow automation in driving efficiency and profitability. We are advocates of workflow assessments, as are the team at Solimar Systems, so the presentation walked through a ten step review of workflow processes, with supporting data from the latest Keypoint Intelligence North American Software Investment Survey.

The most interesting takeaways from the Customer Advisory meetings was the diversity of issues faced by Print Service providers of all sizes, and the variety of approaches they take to move toward efficiency. We heard from companies that approach workflow with multiple solutions and some that approach with a single-threaded workflow approach, all using the Solimar products to add efficiency to their production processing.

The Solimar User Group encompasses the Advisory Council and an extended group of Solimar Users. The event included presentations from partners, including Konica Minolta, SCREEN, Ironsides Technology, Reality BLU, BCC Software, and RISO. Customer panels included deep dives into Operational Efficiencies, Differentiated Services, Compliance and Security, and Customer Experience, allowing customers to share their best practices.

Two keynotes touched on tangential workflow issues. The first was the Keypoint Intelligence presentation by Pat McGrew: The Workflow Revolution: Are You On Board? The goal was to provide guidance on how to approach workflow as a moonshot, moving toward the best level of optimization possible. The theme was that operational excellence requires an executive commitment and an open mind to allow change. The goal is Smart Print Manufacturing that embraces automation.

The second keynote came from Tim Cooper, Chief Enterprise Architect at Harland Clarke. If you have not heard a Tim Cooper presentation you have missed something special. Tim has decades of experience in workflows and is a deep thinker when it comes to optimization and breaking down barriers. His presentation was A Discussion on Workflow Facts that Can Lead to Wrong Conclusions. He walked through how looking at data in a vacuum can lead to the wrong architecture and implode operational efficiencies.

Tim shared how he arrived at his philosophy of workflow, and how using the Solimar solutions he was able to wrangle multiple, disparate workflows in to a single workflow, and reduce processing time from more than 3000 hours to under a couple of days. That drew gasps from PSPs in the room struggling with the same challenges.

The true value of user group meetings comes from the networking and sharing, as well as guidance that analysts can supply to provide guidance for decisions about the next investments and architecture changes need to be made. The Solimar team did an excellent job of tuning the mix of technical sessions focused on products and solutions with partner presentations and announcements, and customer panels.

Solution Focus: Corebridge – A Modern Management Solution for Wide Format

Ryan McAbee
Apr 25, 2018

Look around. What do you see? Chances are good that you see signage used to promote, inform, or direct. The ubiquity of signs makes it an attractive product for print service providers looking to capture a piece of a growing market. Due to advancements and growth in digital printing equipment, print shops can get started quickly at many different price points.

Buying the equipment is only one part of operating a successful print shop producing wide format applications. How will customers know what you offer, get pricing, and confirm their order? How will they upload artwork files? Once the order is confirmed, how will accurate job details flow through each department of the shop? What happens when there is an issue and how will that be communicated internally and externally to the client? As you can see, managing a wide format print operation has a lot of moving parts beyond just printing. Read more »

Highcon Releases the Euclid IIIC

India Tatro
Mar 5, 2018

Highcon, developer of the revolutionary “Euclid” digital cutting and creasing technology for paperboard, recently announced the commercial release of a new machine, Euclid IIIC, which can cut and crease thicker media, in particular several grades of corrugated. The new machine features can work with single ply paperboard, laminated stocks, and N, F, G, E, and B-flute corrugated from 1mm to 3mm in thickness (40-120 points). The Euclid IIIC thus allows the Euclid series to expand further, thanks to the new printer’s ability to finish thin to medium grade corrugated media. That media category has grown quickly in the past few years because of is use in packaging, in particular for primary packaging such as small but sturdy boxes for cosmetics, consumer electronics, and home furnishings.  Read more »

SGIA SPIRE Group Presentation 2018

Steve Urmano
Feb 22, 2018

This year’s SPIRE event has been ramped up to include great new content to help you manage your graphics business – all delivered at warp speed. 33 top tier graphic imaging professionals and 10 presenters participated in this eclectic conference to provide new ideas to build a framework to future growth requirements.

Steve Urmano, Director of Wide Format had a half hour presentation and Q&A on the topic: Convergence, How The Wide Format Industry Is Changing. It focused on all the different ink & media technologies and how the market opportunities are changing along with them. Attendees should come away with a view of new opportunities & adjacencies.

The schedule is so full, the 10 presenters are sure accomplish this lofty goal. With a limited number of spots available, attendees needed to register quickly to ensure they didn’t miss out on the event of the year. The SPIRE strong sharing environment allows for critical insight and game-changing industry networking.

A sampling of the presentations are as follows:

  • Richard Romano, What They Think, Developments in Production Automation
  • Patrick Morrissey, EFI, Review of New Products & Scope
  • Kerry King, Spoonflower, Décor & Shift Towards Online Portals
  • John Hagan, Hagen Graphic Assets, Exploring Employee Recruitment
  • Alexander Hussain, 3D Chimera, 3D Printing: Production & Partnership

 

About SPIRE

SPIRE is a unique network of CEOs and top executives from industry leading producers of retail, point-of-purchase, OEM, transit, outdoor, and similar graphic solutions. The interests, concerns, and challenges of SPIRE members are often different than those of individuals managing smaller companies within the SGIA membership. SPIRE has been in existence for more than 20 years, providing both educational and networking opportunities that are unparalleled in our industry. The members of SPIRE have carefully created an environment where printers from related markets, even direct competitors, can comfortably address common issues. In fact, just about every SPIRE member will tell you that their SPIRE network is their most valued SGIA resource.

 

Feedback from the Organizers

“I’m very proud of how we have advanced the quality and pacing of the SPIRE program. It’s dynamic, relevant content that speaks to today’s industry challenges.”

– Scott Crosby, SPIRE Program Co-Chair, Holland and Crosby

Scott Crosby of Holland & Crosby

“SPIRE has become the don’t-miss meeting in the print industry. At SPIRE, we provide high-level topics for top-level executives you can’t get anywhere else.”

– Terry Corman, SPIRE Program Co-Chair, Firehouse Image Center

Terry Corman of Firehouse Graphics

 

Meetings and Social Events
Ongoing changes to the graphic arts industry are profound, with new areas of convergence and unprecedented opportunities for those companies that can navigate change successfully. Attendees gained insight from Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends industry consultant Steve Urmano as he presented his views on how today’s changes will affect tomorrow’s realities.

 

 

Workflow in 2018: What’s Included in the Package?

Pat McGrew
Jan 10, 2018

In 2017 we walked the workflow, followed an audit trail, and ended with the admonition that your workflow is not proprietary. That last post might have seemed odd, but the reason for the post evolved out of countless conversations with printers who see their workflow as their Intellectual Property. It is understandable to want to protect processes that make a business unique and provide a competitive advantage, but when broken down the optimized workflow process has four components: Creating the content, getting the print job on-boarded, manipulating and managing the job files through to the RIP, and the RIP and Digital Front End (DFE).

Read more »

Comparting 2017: “Digitalizing Communication! Digitalizing Business Processes!”

David Stabel and Pat McGrew
Nov 17, 2017

Under the motto of “Digitalizing Communication! Digitalizing Business Processes!”, this year’s Comparting conference, held November 9-10 in Germany, was all about how digitalization affects the document and output management for enterprises as well as print service providers. Keypoint Intelligence’s Pat McGrew had the honor to provide the keynote titled: “Let’s Get Digital!” Other presentations also focused around the topic of digital transformation of customer communications. And, of course, Compart’s latest innovation, DocBridge Impress, had a central role at the conference.

Harald Grumser, CEO
Thorsten Meudt, CMO

Compart, who celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has successfully hosted this annual event since 2005 with the number of participants increasing each year. More than 400 people from 14 countries world-wide attended the conference, representing a 10% increase over last year. The number of participants outside of Germany almost doubled from 25% in 2016 to 40% this year and reflects Compart’s growing international business.

Read more »

Solution Focus: IQ’s printIQ in the Expanding Scope of print MIS

Ryan McAbee
Oct 16, 2017

In the world of print production software there is no better example of a love/hate relationship than between print service providers and their print MIS solution. Print MIS solutions are, or should be, the one record of truth for the business which means the solution touches every function and every employee within the shop. Therein lies the problem. Print MIS solutions take a long time to setup and implement in the shop, assuming internal resistance does not derail the entire project.

Print shops usually start by implementing the core modules of estimating, quoting, purchase orders, job ticketing, and accounting which takes no less than a few months but can run over a year for larger operations. After the core is in place and running, some shops continue the journey and start implementing more advanced modules for shop floor data collection, inventory control, fulfillment, and customer relationship management. Still fewer shops continue to planning/scheduling and business intelligence modules which, sadly, can have the greatest impact.

So why would any print service provider, knowing the inherent challenges and implementation path, want a print MIS solution? Transformation. When done right, a management system can provide real and increasingly real-time data to enhance operators, production supervisors, management, and owners, with making the right decisions at the right time. Instead of experience, intuition, or guesswork, a fully implemented print MIS has the data to answer important business questions, such as:

  • Who are my largest customers and what percentage of total turnover do they represent?
  • Who are my most profitable customers and products/services?
  • What is my production capacity for any given time and will I be able to meet peak demand and maintain my SLAs?
  • Who are my most successful sales representatives? What type of work and what margins are they booking?

Getting to the advanced-user curve of your print MIS solution is the goal. However, the print MIS solution must work in coordination with other software to push you to the next level – smart print manufacturing.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

Print MIS solutions need to reach upstream and downstream to coordinate and record production processes (remember it’s your shop’s single record of truth). Can it receive online orders (through a module or third-party solution) and provide real-time, cost-based pricing to the customer? Can the job ticket, with all the customer’s intent, travel with the supplied artwork into your prepress workflow? Can it optimize material usage through intelligent planning and job ganging? Can it receive milestone updates from downstream software and equipment to update the job ticket and scheduling while also triggering alerts and notifications? Suddenly, your print MIS behaves more like a management and workflow platform for the entire shop.

That’s exactly how IQ, a software developer with operations in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States, designed their solution. Realizing customers were looking for “far more than just an MIS”, IQ bills their printIQ solution as a “Management Workflow Solution.” Beyond the core and advanced modules described above, printIQ has existing integrations with other industry leading software from Chili Publish, Enfocus, Kodak, and XMPie, to pass relevant production information upstream and downstream. The company publishes a set of APIs as another method for exchanging data and integrating with other software within your shop. Depending on the other software, IQ has simplified this process by using Zapier to link web-based applications (over 750), such as the accounting package Xero.

The company is trying to solve longtime challenges within print shops, i.e., capturing accurate, timely shop floor data. We know from our 2016 North American software investment survey, that two of the top reasons for not capturing shop floor data are because of resistance by staff and the amount of time it takes. printIQ took a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to the problem by creating an app that staff can download to their phones and capture the information with a device and interface that are already familiar. The phone’s camera can also be used to scan barcodes to speed up the process. Print shops looking for a new or different solution for managing the many aspects of their operation should give printIQ a close look.

Love it or hate it, print shops need tools that enable transformation. Smart print manufacturing is the next evolution in print production and many have already started on the path. Have you?

Read more in the InfoTrends Solution Focus series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Driving with Dashboards

Ryan McAbee
Oct 11, 2017

Get into your car, turn on the ignition, and what do you do? You glance at the dashboard to make sure there is no check engine warning light and that you have put the car into the right gear to take off. Modern car dashboards provide drivers with real-time information on the health of the engine, direction of the car, upcoming maintenance intervals, and how to get to your destination. Data-driven dashboards for print production do many of the same things for managers, production supervisors, and staff.

There are two primary types of dashboards used in print production today – job management and equipment operational efficiency. Job management dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of the work in production, its status in the shop, and whether the job will meet the milestones and deadlines agreed upon with the customer. Most dashboards are customizable to meet the specific needs of the user. Production staff dashboards might consist of work-to lists and a view to the day’s schedule. Manager dashboards are more likely to track service level agreements (SLAs) and other key performance indicators, such as spoilage rates and profitability. Since job management dashboards need to aggregate information regarding jobs, costs, schedule, and other business data, these dashboards are typically add-on modules to a print MIS or ERP solution.

Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Image: Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Operational efficiency dashboards use data provided by the connected equipment to provide actionable production statistics, such as machine up-time, and eventually predict when parts need to be replaced or maintenance needs to be performed. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), or the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive, is often a key metric that is used. OEE is calculated by multiplying availability and performance of the manufacturing process and the resulting quality of output. World-class OEE is considered in the range of 85% but OEE for leading print shops is usually half; Toyota manufactures the same car on a single production line versus a print company manufacturing batches of different products.

Explanation of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

InfoTrends explanation of OEE

Although dashboards are increasingly needed to effectively manage print production, there are a few drawbacks. Job management dashboards rely upon many supporting layers of data that are fed by multiple modules within a print MIS or ERP solution. This assumes you already have such a solution in place with the necessary modules implemented. Operational efficiency dashboards are not as complicated to setup and only need software from the equipment manufacturer. The issue here is that there is not an industry standard for what is measured, how it is measured, and a universal way for the data to be exchanged. Since print shops have a mix of equipment from many different manufacturers, it is nearly impossible to aggregate the data from all equipment into a single view.

Even with today’s challenges, data-driven dashboards are becoming essential tools to view and improve productivity and remain competitive in the market. Just like your car, these dashboards show you how you are doing today, potential issues to address, and how to get where you want to go.

As always, inquire with your preferred vendors to learn about what data-driven dashboards may be available and look at these solutions: Durst Analytics, HP’s PrintOS PrintBeat, and ONYX hub.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

What is Smart Print Manufacturing?

Ryan McAbee
Oct 9, 2017

The printing industry transitioned over the past four decades from a craft to a manufacturing process, driven by an endless stream of enabling technologies. The communication landscape continues to shift and evolve leaving print to compete against the speed, cost, and targeting capabilities of digital channels. Competition also remains stiff within the industry which remains focused on reducing costs through automation. The next decade will be about redefining print manufacturing to make it smarter as we transition to the next industrial revolution.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

SPM combines manufacturing methods with industrial technologies to optimize all stages of print production. Many print service providers have already implemented lean and just-in-time manufacturing techniques to optimize their supply chain and minimize waste. Mass customization and autonomous production, however, are still bubbling up.

  • Mass customization: creating customized, and in some cases personalized, products in small quantities while not increasing manufacturing costs.
  • Autonomous production: the use of data and networked communication to connect machines to management and information systems and other machines to decide and execute the most efficient manufacturing process.

While these concepts may seem as farfetched as the sci-fi technologies used by Jetsons when that cartooned appeared in 1962, the first generation of mass customization and autonomous production are already here. Cimpress, parent company of well-known online print brands in North American and Europe, is a mass customization company. Their brands produced 30 million orders from 17 million customers that resulted in 46 million customized products. The company has subsequently launched a platform, called Cimpress Open, to let merchants and other printers tap into its mass customization capabilities. As for autonomous production, most major equipment manufacturers that supply the industry have initiatives. Heidelberg demonstrated its “push-to-stop” technology at last year’s drupa tradeshow which allows the press to initiate processes, e.g., blanket washups, without needing input from the operator.

Source: InfoTrends

SPM relies on a stack of technology that is changing and evolving. In the table below we list the technology, description, and industry examples available today.

Technology Definition Sample of Industry Solutions
Analytics Software to interpret and visualize data that can be customized to individual users. Canon PRISMAlytics, EFI Fiery Navigator, Kodak Analytics, ONYX HUB, SpencerMetrics Connect
Big data Massive sets of data, often from multiple sources, that requires advanced software to capture, store, and analyze. Heidelberg (PTC Machine Cloud) and Pitney Bowes Clarity (GE Predix)
Business Intelligence Software that combines production data with financial data; often an add-on module to a print MIS or ERP system. Avanti Executive Dashboards, EFI BI, Tharstern BI
Cloud Computing An evolution of IT to pool and share resources (network, servers, storage, applications, and services) often via the Internet. Most cloud-based offerings in the print industry use a cloud computing service, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Cyber-physical systems Smart machines that translate data into actionable information to interface with other machines, systems, and people. Autonomous robots for materials movements.
Industrial Internet of Things A subset of the Internet of Things specific to manufacturing for increasing revenue through improved productivity, workforce transformation, and new business models. IIoT encompasses many other technologies in this list. No specific examples although many industry solutions are necessary parts of IIoT.
Robotics The use of robots to perform tasks, often repetitive, previously done by a person. Several vendors use robotic arms for material movements, e.g., from palette to cutting table, from suppliers like KUKA Robotics.

 

Print service providers of all shapes and sizes need to prepare, plan, and take steps to implement their own version of Smart Print Manufacturing. SPM is not just for the largest printers. While some technologies, due to cost or expertise, are out of reach for some printers, e.g., robotics, others are not, e.g., cloud computing. Those who wait will find it increasingly difficult to compete as the efficiencies of competitors trickle down to their cost structure and market pricing.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

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