Posts tagged: 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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Why Was ESKOWorld 2017 Worth My Time?

Pat McGrew
 May 25, 2017

Pat McGrew
Director, Production Workflow Services
Keypoint Intelligence

Most vendors have learned the value of user group meetings. They bring together their customers and their product teams, open the door to learn more about customer requirements, and build a sense of community that leads to customer loyalty. The team behind ESKOWorld, the North American user conference for users of ESKO (www.esko.com) packaging, printing and finishing solutions, accepted their mission and, with the help of their customer advisory council, created a well thought out agenda that addressed the needs of over 500 users and 100 brand owners and agencies.

One of the harder things to do at these conferences is to provide guidance on the product roadmaps. A company like Esko is managing more than a dozen products, each with enthusiastic customers looking for guidance, and a passionate product team wanting to share. At ESKOWorld the solution to sharing the roadmaps for the large product set came in two shots: an innovative set of short presentations by the product managers during the opening and dedicated roadmap sessions. For customers not familiar with the range of offerings, that overview from the product managers was an excellent way to bring everyone up to speed. Whether it was a 20year-old product like ArtiosCAD or a newer set of products like Studio or Keyshot, everyone gave you a reason to want to learn more. How can you resist wanting to know more about Studio, a product that allows you to see things that do not currently exist and to create variations before deciding on the final execution? Even the Automation Engine has had a makeover with a new browser-based user interface.

Another hard thing to program is the keynote, but this was not an issue. Dr. Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics brought one of the best overviews of the economics of the market we live in, with a good dose of which things to pay attention to and why. One of his more interesting points was that organizations must drive efficiencies to grow –a key element of the workflow story – but also that marketing is an essential element due to the competition.

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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.

Next Up for Vendor Shows: Xeikon Café in Belgium

Bob Leahey
 Mar 8, 2017

At this time of year vendors and users of digital print technology have a spate of events that qualify as vendor-specific tradeshows, ones hosted or sponsored by individual equipment suppliers. Among the best known are two that just took place, namely Hunkeler Innovation Days (February 20-23 in Lucerne) and Dscoop (March 1-4 in Phoenix, Arizona, for HP users). A third event, coming soon, is a pure play in digitally printed packaging and well worth visiting—the Xeikon Café that will take place in Belgium on March 27-30.

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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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Who Owns Your Workflow?

Pat McGrew
 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.

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Do You Have a Workflow?

Pat McGrew
 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?

WorkflowLight2

Unless all of the processes are tied into a Read more »

HP Announces Software to Enhance Mobile Printing Experience

Allison Correia
 Jun 2, 2016

 

hp logo

Following the spring hardware updates, today HP announced a range of solutions and enhancements to their mobile printing and print analytics solutions strategies for business. HP is addressing IT needs and end user expectations with these new solutions that attend to security challenges, cost containment, deployment issues, and device lifecycle management that IT struggles with, while also addressing end user wants such as flexibility and device diversity. Read more »

Xerox Making MFPs Smarter with New Enhancements

Allison Correia
 Mar 11, 2016

Xerox ConnectKey User Interface

Yesterday, March 10th, Xerox announced advancements to its Xerox ConnectKey technology to expand what multifunction printers (MFPs) can do in the workplace. The Xerox ConnectKey-enabled i-Series MFPs are equipped with ready-to-use apps, speed up paper-dependent business processes and make it easier for users to collaborate and work more effectively. The technology also gives Xerox and its partners opportunities to better understand customer business needs and uncover new recurring revenue streams. Read more »

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