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).

For the next workflow arc the plan is to dive into each of the four categories and their components to establish what is included, where there are opportunities for optimization, and look at the trends influencing the software supporting the market. It is a moving target. In the last two years we have seen the rise of Online Design solutions, the emergence of software frameworks, new payment models, and new delivery models that change the way we look at workflow. Mass customization, Smart Print Manufacturing, dashboards, and cloud-enabled solutions are circling the Industry 4.0 conversation with new requirements for automation to drive more efficient printing.

And at the same time many printers are expanding their horizons by bringing in new equipment to support wide format printing, packaging printing, and new finishing options that add new products to their offerings. Those new products and the equipment to produce them needs a workflow review to ensure that all of the existing procedures and processes in the sales, estimation, and job onboarding processes, production and delivery still work. Or do the new products need different processes and supporting software?

Content Creation includes creative layout solutions, online design tools, and the solutions for variable data printing (VDP) in graphic arts and transaction. The lines that used to divide these solutions are becoming blurred, so it will be a lively review.

The Job Entry and Management category encompasses the software that accepting customer orders and managing the print jobs throughout production and delivery. Web-to-Print or Web-to-Workflow, Print Management Information Systems (MIS) and even the systems that might be called light MIS or web-based print management, and the interfaces to job onboarding are all part of the discussion.

In the Workflow category the focus is on color management and workflow management for both graphic arts and transaction. Over time we are adding coverage of wide format, digital packaging print, and digital textile, providing an ever-expanding opportunity to look at new options.

In the DFE category the focus is on the features and functions of DFEs supporting commercial and transactional, wide format and packaging, with coverage of DFEs in the digital textile printing marketing in the plan.

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