By now the whole printing industry understands the importance of automation, but exactly what should be automated is still somewhat of an unknown to most. If you fall into this category, you’ll be pleased to know that this is absolutely and completely normal. Because every company is different, and what you can automate in one workflow, might not work in another.
So how do you work out what to automate?
You really don’t have to do all integration and automation projects by the book. In fact, there is no book! It’s very much a ‘you don’t know until you try’ situation. We always start by asking our customers if there are any processes in their workflow that they believe could be improved and streamlined, and then we look for automation opportunities from their answer.
What we always find is that our customers start off with one automation task and before long they’re thinking ‘How far can we take this? What else could we do?’. Before you know it, they’re automating 50 tasks!
Some examples of printers who have thought outside the box and aimed high…
With direct mail and versions
One company I know creates hundreds of monthly direct mail brochures, which cover all different neighborhoods, with each neighborhood receiving a different version of the brochure. This company wanted to automatically create and send a production ready estimate to the press solely from the artwork PDF and a spreadsheet of recipients, with the correct number of each version being printed. We achieved this using CXML, Switch, Apogee and our new imposition tool, The Layout Library. Sooo cool.
With targeted marketing
Another good example is a project I worked on with a document solutions company who gets sent databases full of personal data, and they create marketing materials using this personal data, so each demographic will receive a different piece of marketing material. The software they have interrogates the database to calculate how many of each version they need to create and then outputs an XML file into Tharstern which then creates an estimate (based on a price list) and job. Easy-peasy.
By automating email orders
A printer that I recently visited had booked 3 days of workflow consultancy but didn’t really know what they wanted me to work on. After a bit of a chat they mentioned one customer who they create 50 orders for each week. They receive an email with a list of files and they create estimates for each file. It was a long process with 6/7 different steps included so I instantly recognized it as a fantastic automation opportunity. We set up Enfocus Switch so that the email could be forwarded into the system, with set parameters, so it would create the job and download the relevant artwork automatically. We could then create an XML file for each item and send it into Tharstern. The end result will be that, from one email, the job is created and the artwork attached so that it’s ready for prepress, saving the printer a LOT of time.
Before I left, this company was already thinking of other ways they could use the integration. Which reinforces my point that you don’t need to know exactly what you want to automate, you just need to look at the processes you’d like to improve, and then work with your MIS provider to come up with a solution. You just need to decide you’re going to automate something/anything and then jump in feet first!