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Web-to-Print: The First Step to Production Efficiency

Investing in Web-to-print and enabling customers to submit jobs through an online portal streamlines the workflow process, resulting in more efficient production and better use of limited staff resources.

July 2013 By Stephanie Pieruccini and Chris Little
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In today's Web-connected world, real-time access and a laser focus on developing efficient processes are driving many business decisions. Web technology enables in-plants to create self-service options for buyers to order, track and collaborate on jobs using the Internet. As a result, Web-to-print storefronts have become an important part of the print business.

To remain competitive, in-plants need to explore new ways to harness the power of the Web to solve customers' problems, drive business growth, differentiate their offerings and ultimately deliver results.

In March of 2013, InfoTrends, in partnership with North American Publishing Company (IPG's parent company), surveyed 254 print service providers, including 158 in-plants, to find out how they are developing, implementing and growing Web-based business models. The results from this survey provide practical insights for service providers about how Web-to-print technology is being implemented in production print environments and the key opportunities it provides.

There are many definitions for what Web-to-print entails. Though often used interchangeably with print e-commerce, the concept of Web-to-print is defined by InfoTrends as "connecting print buyers with print sellers through a Web-based interface, where they can order print products." It also describes a category of software that enables this process. There are many levels of Web-to-print adoption, such as allowing one-off or ad-hoc file submission for non-recurring jobs, catalog ordering for static print or template-based ordering to enable personalized or variable print.

Opportunities for In-plants

According to the survey, 41 percent of participating in-plants offer a Web-to-print solution. Investing in Web-to-print offers in-plants many opportunities that outweigh the challenges of implementing new software and technology. Enabling customers to submit jobs through an online portal streamlines the workflow process from the start. The moment a job is submitted, automatic checks can be put in place to assess the file and ensure it is "print ready," removing human touch points. The result is more efficient production operations and better use of limited staff resources. Nearly all in-plants surveyed that have implemented a Web-to-print solution agreed that the investment resulted in higher levels of efficiency.

Capturing process improvement begins with understanding which print applications are commonly ordered. A large number of the applications in-plants produce are very similar, enabling them to automate their production once they reach the facility. The top five common print applications produced by in-plants include letterhead, business cards, brochures, forms and posters; all of these are great applications for online ordering.

 

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