Just as origami can turn a piece of paper into one shape as readily as another, workflow is what differentiates printer A from printer B, even if both have the same equipment. That’s the analogy Elizabeth Gooding used to open her Inkjet Summit presentation on the importance of workflow for obtaining optimal results with inkjet printing.
Gooding insisted that “workflow” and “software” aren’t the same thing: the latter is just one component of a larger set of resources for getting jobs into production quickly, economically and securely. Although the term “workflow software” is commonly used, she said, it blurs the concept and doesn’t convey the full scope of what workflow entails.
Gooding said the best way for printers with production inkjet presses to approach workflow is to “think beyond what you do now” to the new, value-adding product offerings that workflow makes possible: books for one, individualized business cards, magazines with recipient-specific content. Part of the conversation with workflow solution providers should be about what the shop hopes to accomplish around the lines it isn’t currently pursuing, she added.
Selecting a workflow solution should be a square-one decision, according to Gooding, who called upon inkjet adopters to make their selections “before, or at least in tandem with, the hardware purchase.” Part of the urgency lies in the fact that workflow does more than just get jobs into production: properly implemented, it can save inkjet printers considerable amounts of money as well.
On a high-speed inkjet press creating thousands of images per minute, she said, “every second counts.” An efficient workflow can reduce the frequency of paper changes and other steps that eat into uptime. The payoff of gaining just 10 minutes of productivity per day, she said, can be anywhere from $75,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the speed of the press.
Workflow achieves this by optimizing production data, variable data and production files. The general objectives are to make it easier for:
- the customer to engage with the service provider;
- employees to deliver what the customer wants; and
- the customer to stay with the service provider and grow the customer’s business.
An efficient workflow, Gooding noted, pulls everything together at the front end of the process, but still permits job components to be broken out for analytics and reporting. It also provides end-to-end protection from hacks, ransomware and the other hazards of working with customer data exchanged across the web. To this end, data should be encrypted “at rest, in flight and in the archive.”