Investing in hardware and then sitting back and reaping the financial rewards used to be a fairly successful business model in the graphics arts sector. Installing a new and faster press meant you could complete more and longer runs per shift. Then came the digital revolution followed by the financial crisis, changing the landscape of print production as we knew it forever.
Improving margins and assuring faster return on investment became the overriding consideration. But hardware could not deliver these by itself. Attention then turned to the role and functionality of software solutions and what they could offer. They could deliver faster error-free production, smoother workflow and increased throughput for enhanced capacity. They could also minimise downtime and enhance profitability.
The digital revolution enters the large format industry
The commercial sector was at the forefront of this step change, largely pushed by the relentless drive for shorter runs, faster turnaround, jobs that require consistency of production and colour from one order to the next. More recently the large format industry came to face similar demands, realising it can no longer afford to take single or short run work in an un-automated manner.
Not only are customers requiring job-to-job consistency and accuracy - particularly when it comes to colour - but to ensure production is as profitable as it can be orders need to be processed with as few human touch points as possible. This will enable systems to run to their optimum.
Let’s take flag manufacturing for example. The process includes making grommets. Before the producer had to print the flag and then manually measure where each grommet needed to be placed. By implementing a basic workflow and prepress action the grommet marker is automatically placed saving up to ten minutes per job. The savings on that small run alone could be enough to justify the investment made in the automation solution. It goes to show that the speed of hardware doesn’t always matter if there are other elements that impact production times.
Exit growth, enter profitability: the value of automation
The value of automation can be significant for anyone actually. Resellers are also scoping the opportunities and they are increasingly integrating prepress and automation solutions in their sales offerings. That way they can show their end users an immediate return on their investment, and on top of that foster a stronger long-term relationship that supports growth.
"In the past customers have focussed on growth, and more specifically the ability to produce more and thus increase revenue. Now every company I deal with is looking for profitability. They want solutions with a faster return on investment that increase productivity and automation."
Integration must be a key functionality of any prepress, workflow and automation solution so implementation can go as smoothly as possible. We cannot stress that enough. The goal of any solution is that implementation into the current set-up goes as effortlessly as possible, so as to have the daily operation at its most optimal flow as soon as possible. To continue to offer a highly flexible solution we work with many solutions partners and are always looking at how to further expand our network.
In the past customers have focussed on growth, and more specifically the ability to produce more and thus increase revenue. Now every company I deal with is looking for profitability. They want solutions with a faster return on investment that increase productivity and automation. That is the key that will unlock their potential.
We’ve come a long way with automation and the universe of opportunities just keeps expanding.
At FESPA we have demonstrated how all three of our software solutions, Switch, PitStop and Connect, can help large format printers enjoy those benefits our graphic arts customers have already explored. On their own the gains can be small, but when they add up the impact can be significant. Just ask the flag manufacturer I mentioned earlier. He’s an Enfocus customer. Obviously.