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While trends show a continued rise in the use of digital printing technology among printers that serve specialist markets with screen printing, there is another trend that cannot be ignored. That is the move toward efficiency. With more printers having to eat a smaller pie, faster job turnaround, accurate estimating and lower labour costs are essential to maintaining or achieving higher profits.
As digital printing takes the lead in fulfilling more jobs previously handled with screen printing, the workflow gets continuously more complicated. Transitional workflows include a number of legacy and new technologies. Managing such a workflow can be daunting, not to mention inefficient and costly. Workflow or print management software helps solve the problem. But to be truly effective print management software must be JDF (job definition format) enabled. JDF allows multi-vendor systems to talk to each other and operate seamlessly from a single control station.
The next step in the efficiency formula is connecting the production workflow to administration, estimating and customer service. This requires a central MIS system that carries the job through the entire company system from the moment new job specs arrive to the minute the job is ready to ship. The best systems remember customer input and eliminate re-entering job data at various points in the workflow. This simplifies data flow, reduces labour and increases productivity.
Sahara Printing located in Cairo, Egypt provides a good example of the benefits of such systems. The company prints for renowned publishers such as MacMillan Publishing in the UK and they produce local magazines such as Egypt Airline’s Inflight magazine.
Services include a variety of printing and finishing options. According to Dahlia Sobhy, Sales and Customer Service Manager, all departments can access their EFI Monarch database at any time and analyse, interpret and evaluate the data it contains. The system provides the employees with valuable information that can be used to optimise individual processes. “EFI Monarch helps us ascertain where there are problems in the process chain and helps us eliminate them”, she says. “It is now easy to tell which orders you are making money on and which orders are losing you money”.
Having the best printing technology does little good if you lose money from poor job tracking and estimating. In fact, studies have identified estimating as the Achilles heel in the production process; faulty estimating is the single greatest cause of revenue loss. This is especially important in a hybrid environment where printers run both traditional and digital workflows.
Denona Printing based in Zagreb, Croatia offers services ranging from graphic design to finished product. Denona’s Production Manager, Robert Valpotic identified estimating as one of the most vulnerable points in the workflow. After installing an implementing EFI’s Monarch software he said: “Having everything in one system: estimates and jobs, purchase orders, inventory receipts and material transactions allow you to easily locate information instead of searching through lots of papers, and most importantly it allows you to compare real material and production costs with estimated costs for a job. This is really important for every company. It allows you to identify which types of jobs are most cost effective and most profitable and then build a sales strategy around that”, says Valpotic.
Not having to input the same data over and over again shortens the production cycle, eliminates errors and in the end, makes customers happier. DPN in Weurt, The Netherlands illustrates this. DPN director, René Jeurissen was an early adopter of EFI Digital StoreFront web-to-print solution which allowed him to provide a richer customer experience and automate order entry. As the business grew and the workflow became more complex he recognised the need for a print management system. “EFI Pace runs as a central system and keeps track of the order capacity on the machines, from which it gets direct feedback. It is fully JDF-based, and we can see the complete planning via a web interface. We can also run simulations. For example, we can mimic what would happen if a machine broke down or if we increased production capacity. It’s another leap forward in terms of effective automation”, says Martijn Kessels, DPN’s IT and Automation Officer.
Those who have implemented print management technology (MIS and ERP) have the best of both worlds. Not only can they produce eye-catching colour with their new wide-format printer or manage a multi-application workflow, but they can do it more profitably.
Being nimble is not only important in a difficult economy; it is the foundation for future growth.