Optimal Workflow And Automation Guidance

Automation can make the production of printed materials seem like child’s play. But for optimal workflow to be achieved, machines need to be configured so that they understand the instructions and work in tandem.

The aim is for operators to have as little involvement as possible. After all, the more ‘touches’ a process requires, the less efficient it is. 

Printing industry supplier Heidelberg says we are evolving from a “Push to Start” approach to a “Push to Stop” philosophy. 

“Whereas today the operator must actively start processes on the machine, in future the machine will, wherever possible, do this itself,” the company explains


“It will automatically work through the queue of print jobs. And it will do this using the ideal, shortest makeready operation, with maximum net productivity as the result. The operator then only has to intervene if the process needs correcting.” 

Machines set the pace 

To get to this point, it is becoming increasingly clear that an industrial manufacturing process must be viewed as a whole. All steps before, during and after printing form an integrated process whose processes and cost structures must be adapted to the end product. The control of the data streams and the use of the information contained therein becomes part of a permanent workflow automation. 

Automation, then, doesn’t start with the technology but the processes in the print business from incoming orders to logistics and the go-to market including digital supply chain management. Print is no longer the actual printing process, but rather a component of an overall product, which also includes the increasingly important e-services. 

With this joined-up, holistic approach to automation – which minimises operators’ involvement – performance increases of up to a whopping 20% await. That’s because tireless machines set the pace, not the operators. However, the potential for increasing overall performance only emerges from the interaction of all components. This requires thorough thinking, analysis and networking. 

Print is no longer the actual printing process, but rather a component of an overall product, which also includes the increasingly important e-services

How do you get there? 

In our previous blog, we spoke about the hurdles that must be overcome in order to automate workflows into a fluid and continuous industrial process. As you proceed to tackle each one, here are some hard facts to keep in mind: 

1. Connect digitally to your partners 

As you go about digitising and connecting all processes from order to delivery, you need to factor in where your partners fit into it all. Networking with partners and service providers requires technical systems that have the necessary interfaces which enable the exchange of information, data and functions. 

Only with clear collaboration and mutual understanding can services such as factoring, online banking, credit checks, CO2 calculations, material orders, e-procurement, shipping, etc. be implemented and their effectiveness improved. 

2. Embed cloud-based ERP 

MIS systems are based on processes which are not outdated, hindering digitisation projects. Web-based ERP systems in the cloud, on the other hand, are the future, proving printers with the interactivity and flexibility required. The other reasons for using cloud computing are possible cost savings, less dependence on internal IT and more security. 

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3. Standardisation is a must 

A standardised order structure and a consistent data structure are essential for functioning, intelligent automation. Automation in data checking and preparation standardises the quality of production data.

The use of modern colour servers and colour preflights standardises the production data in terms of colour, simplifies the printing process and helps save printing costs. 

4. Continuous print optimisation is paramount 

Integrated and automated processes from order acceptance to logistics ultimately determine process quality. However, smart automation requires constant checking of current processes to see where optimisations can be made.

If all this sounds like a journey you’re not yet prepared to take, remember that’s the position all firms start from. The smartest first step would be to seek out specialists in the field who can give you the help you find the appropriate solutions for implementation. 

Read here our 3 articles about the print automation process 

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