Commercial Printing

How to profit from efficient digital print processes

From job to material order to the finished packaged print product: printers who digitise their processes work more productively.

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Workflows have changed. Work scenarios have become more fluid. Different solutions, services and offers want to be combined. It is time for printers to digitize their workflows to work more productively and efficiently internally. The central question is: how can digitisation succeed in the backend of print shops? We reveal the answers in this blog post.

First, we look at a digital print shop that already uses modern, online-based software solutions. For customers who place an individual enquiry in the online portal or the web-to-print solution this ideally calculates an intelligent, web-based management-information system (MIS). It independently calculates the best production route, the corresponding cost centres, the materials required, the manufacturing costs and the selling price. The print shop staff use this information to create the quotation at the click of a mouse, send it out promptly and are reminded by the system to check with the customer after a few days. The software automatically identifies missing material and triggers order suggestions, presses and staff transmit all current job data and production planning automatically calculates the deployment of the relevant colleagues.

The advantages of a digital workflow for a printer are obvious: the processes are digitally automated, the workflow runs efficiently without error-intensive human intervention, and the orders are processed quickly and cost-effectively. This allows the employees to concentrate on advising customers.

Tip #1: Use web-based MIS systems 

Traditional printers often still calculate individually, a time-consuming process. The craftperson’s principle that regards each job as a one-off is outdated. Today, more and more customers calculate prices for their print products online within seconds with the help of web-based MIS solutions that are cloud-enabled. This way you can improve the company's processes. Order processing, the pre-press system, the printing presses and financial accounting exchange data with each other and communicate simultaneously with the external systems of parcel senders, online banking, payment services or CO2 calculators etc. The digitised processes thus run across several platforms without a break and cover the entire value chain and workflow system.

Tip #2: Network all participants in the workflow 

As a printer you should focus on networked communication between people and machines. Digital workflow production processes can be controlled worldwide via notebook and internet, orders can be executed and other information can be passed onto this end, link the order processes and customer communications that you receive via your shop, order portals and job interfaces directly with the web-based MIS. Software and databases used by customers, such as an asset management system for web-to-print, should also be integrated into the management system to streamline production processes. Material suppliers can also be linked directly to your print shop. As soon as a raw material in the warehouse reaches a reorder level, an automatic order can be transmitted from the system directly to the supplying company. The internal process is supplemented and completed by automatic data transfer to payment providers, logistics companies, suppliers or rating portals. The automatic control of processes between all people and systems involved increases productivity considerably, while at the same time reducing costs in printing operations. Your customers and service providers also benefit, because they enjoy a perfect shopping experience and a smooth, seamless workflow.

Tip #3: Use staff more wisely 

Calculation, upload, editing or ordering and payment entail new processes and digital workflows internally. With the introduction of a web-based MIS, you should therefore adapt and standardise the operational processes to improve productivity. Employees only have to carry out decision-relevant activities from ordering to delivery of printed matter. Simple tasks such as document generation and printing, email-notifications or data transfers can be carried out by the system itself.

In addition to lower process costs per order, the employees have more time for sales and customer advice. These simplifications are not only noticeable in print production; financial accounting, purchasing and colleagues in dispatch also benefit from automated accounting and dunning, automatic re-ordering, tracking and printing of dispatch labels.

Tip #4: Think and act agilely   

The prerequisite for the realisation of digitalised processes is not only the technical solutions, but, above all, the employees in the company. The more and the faster the digital workflow can be adapted to the internal requirements and the expectations of the client, the more flexible the staff in the company must be able to react to them. Rigid guidelines and instructions are a thing of the past. The printer must always be able to adapt. This only works with agile working methods, which should be introduced consistently in a company.

Tip #5: Digitalisation is a matter for the boss 

Those who introduce digitalised processes often transform a company from the ground up. It is imperative that the management sets the course for this change - only they can take the staff with them and  set the guidelines for successful digitisation. The employees know the customer requirements, the demand for quality and service, efficiency and cost optimisation. The management has an intrinsic interest in the success of the company and the responsibility for developing new business models and digital services. Strategic digitalisation is not a task for the IT-department, as many may still think. And unfortunately, sustainable change often only emerges in companies when the management experiences an existential threat from the competition and thus recognize the urgency of change. Then, at the latest, it is time to act, to replace the tried and tested with something new, and to keep a close eye on the market

Courage to digitise 

Daniel Baier, managing director at Rehms Druck, a full-service printing company on the Dutch border, explains how efficient workflows pay off in practice: "With Konica Minolta's solutions we have taken a big step towards automation. Because we are digitally linking more and more orders from the open and closed shop systems with other devices and systems, we are able to automate processes - despite our large variety of products. From order entry and processing to the warehouse, we're benefiting from automation."

Printing companies that want to generate more revenue and reduce costs cannot avoid integrated and digitised processes. This is the only way to achieve better margins and improved price elasticity in the market. By integrating customers into the company's processes and through improved communication, you can offer your clients not only business cards and flyers, but solutions, added value and unique selling propositions. This will clearly distinguish yourself from the competition on the web.

Here you can find more inspiration on how to redefine the digital workplace:
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