With rapid technological advances in recent years, we in the graphic arts industry are all trying to adapt to a changing market. Today it’s all about the customer experience. Clients demand accurate work and fast turnaround. Thanks to many new technologies, companies are able to differentiate themselves with the efficiency and high quality attainable only through automation solutions.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” This idea, in a nutshell, is what automated job management allows. You need to measure key metrics like throughput, inventory, expenses, and customer satisfaction to better manage and control your operations. Progressive companies, like our speakers from Classic in Charlotte, NC, and DME in Daytona Beach, Florida, have systems to track these metrics and quantify their impact on performance, production workflow changes, and the effectiveness of the messaging they are providing their customers. Automated systems provide the most reliable data.

So how do you begin improving your process and embracing an automated system? Here are answers to some of the common questions about implementing new automated technology in the production workflow.

My company wants to optimize our job workflow to cut costs and increase production and quality. How do we get started?

To get the greatest ROI, first take the time to look at each individual step in your workflow, from how your company acquires customers to how products are delivered and invoiced, and assess how an automated system will fit in. Go for low-hanging fruit—those areas that cause the most issues or bottlenecks.

Once we have studied our current workflow, what automated solutions are available to track jobs throughout our facility?

Tracking and connectivity can include JDF and JMF messaging, shop floor data collection, or a direct machine interface. These selections may be fully integrated into an MIS or a standalone third-party system where you decide how integrated it is with your existing production workflow.

How do we choose between a fully integrated MIS vs. a third-party automated solution?

Each choice offers its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the specific needs of your facility. The important factors you need to consider when choosing are 1) the workflow circumstances within your shop, 2) any existing automated workflow systems, and 3) the greatest waste origins like production facility bottlenecks.

What benefits does an MIS offer?

The benefits are limitless, but mainly it increases efficiency and profitability for your entire operation when well implemented. As the sophistication of the MIS increases, the ability to collect and track job data becomes more refined.

What are some of the biggest advantages of embracing automation?

There are multiple advantages of using automation, and some of them are summarized below:

  • Tracking job performance metrics allows you to better manage expenses and inventory. It increase throughput, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, profits.
  • Managers are aware of a job’s status at any given time. They can use it to inform decisions like taking on new jobs and adjusting production schedules.
  • Managers have a sound basis for benchmarking operational performance and making more informed business decisions.
  • Providing metrics on the effectiveness of the campaigns creates an intimate relationship with the customer and helps justify a supplier’s role in those campaigns.

Is your company ready to embrace a new automated workflow or upgrade an existing system? Join the  2014 Automation Solutions Network Meeting, February 11–12, in Daytona Beach, FL at DME. Tour the trendsetting DME facility, a unique marketing solutions provider with a remarkable degree of automation. Register at www.printing.org/asnwinter2014.

Related resources:

Read the complete article, “Job Management and Tracking Product” and interview from Dr. Mark Bohan, VP, Technology and Research, in the Printing Industries of America: The Magazine September 2013 issue.

Discover more on MIS and other technology topics at the Free from Center for Technology and Research page.