How Can Commercial Printers Move Business Forward When Faced With Resource Challenges?

Many businesses, including print providers, have been impacted by the pandemic. With print volumes increasing, both commercial printers and in-plant print operations are faced with resource challenges (e.g., staffing and paper). To address this changing environment and to retool operations, an emphasis on the means to advance print offerings and services can be helpful. Transitioning to the cloud, placing a greater importance on workflow automation, and evaluating print quality can be key components in improving output and service offerings to help propel their business forward. 

Transition to the cloud

NAPCO Research* conducted annual market research studies to help print providers better understand their customers’ needs and the operational capabilities for supporting changing requirements. Those findings include the importance of transitioning to cloud-based platforms. The majority of print providers surveyed reported items such as job submissions, workflow, file storage, and color management software mostly reside onsite, but they expect growth in the migration of this software to the cloud over the next couple of years. For example, 40% of the in-plant respondents expect their workflow to be cloud-based in two years [from 2021], up from 18% percent that reported having cloud-based workflows for print production in place at the time of the survey. 

Using cloud-based software can allow companies to reduce some costs and allows print providers to operate with, in many instances, less hassle and expense of maintaining, upgrading, and staffing the IT infrastructure. Cloud offerings can provide value in transforming the nature of work, providing increased flexibility for remote work. As an example of this added value, the cloud can assist in the collaborating process, allowing employees from multiple locations to work on projects in real time for a more streamlined process that can be both agile and efficient. 

Cloud-based solutions can also be easier to deploy and support, reducing both the implementation burden for the solution provider and the print service provider.

Workflow automation

Another means to help move a business forward is the utilization of print workflow automation, which can be at the heart of helping to boost productivity for production print providers. Automated workflows can help reduce costs, shorten turnaround times, improve productivity and minimize staff interactions in preparation of print orders. 

To that end, workflow automation can help improve the customer experience in multiple ways. Higher capacity simply allows companies to do more, equipping them with the tools needed to fulfill even complex job requests. but the ability to handle shorter print runs and faster turnaround times in an efficient way can be a determining factor in today’s on-demand marketplace. 

Automation can play a role in this ever-changing environment as well by reducing touch points and allowing jobs to move through different stages of production quickly while also helping to limit errors – and the costs associated with those errors – allowing for a more productive and streamlined process while helping to minimize production bottlenecks. Enhanced service delivery, along with other benefits, can hopefully lead to improved customer satisfaction while also demonstrating a print provider’s ability to meet the changing needs of clients, with automation serving as a tool to help with an aspect of their reliable service delivery and productivity. 

The importance of workflow automation remains a priority for organizations as far as investment opportunities. Helping customers streamline production processes can help them with their business. Job submission and prepress solutions can be important ways to help advance productivity and service delivery. 

Only 26% of the in-plants and 22% of the commercial printers that participated in the NAPCO Research study, “Enhancing the Print Customer Connection,” reported having fully/mostly automated workflows.  A high percentage (more than 60%) of the respondents also agreed that automation is the single most important element in keeping a print provider operating in the black today.  

Workflow automation is a tool that can help enhance productivity, service delivery and the print customer’s experience. A common characteristic of successful printing companies is a continuous pursuit to better serve customers while increasing quality and productivity.  

Evaluating print quality 

Print quality is naturally a high-level way dealers and vendors can help their commercial printer and in-plant print-provider better serve their customers. Ensuring consistent color across digital and physical output forms can be key, with a strong color management emphasis working to meet a set of standards, rules and procedures. A properly implemented color management workflow can help provide consistent color results across various devices. 

Producing repeatable color is a challenge for many print providers. With this issue in mind, many printing firms have embraced color standards such as G7 calibration and leveraging the automated color control modules in today’s production digital color presses. 

These print service providers understand that a successful operation depends on delighting customers at every turn, applying the latest industry innovations to production, and staying agile to adapt to industry trends and disruptions.

Now is a great time for print providers to retool their operations and expand their printing and service offerings. While supply chain issues and resource challenges can, to a certain extent, be beyond a business’s control, there are ways to position for a changing landscape. Embracing the benefits of the cloud, utilizing workflow automation and maintaining an emphasis on print quality can all be important tools to help combat the myriad issues facing printers. 

*A unit of NAPCO Media, the parent company of Printing Impressions and In-Plant Impressions

Robert Barbera is marketing director at Canon U.S.A.