1. What is print automation?

Print automation: Benefits and top strategies [2024]

In 2024, the push towards more efficient operations makes print automation beneficial and essential. If you have an ecommerce or print on demand business, print automation can minimize human error and enhance your workflow efficiency. Also, by cutting down on material waste and optimizing your print operations, it can help you save a lot of money. 

This blog post explores the multifaceted benefits and essential strategies that lead to successful print automation implementation. Let's dive in.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Print automation presents a significant opportunity to elevate efficiency, cut costs, and reduce errors in the print industry.

  • Key components of print automation encompass processes such as order management, pre-press, production, and post-press automation, as well as shipping and fulfillment automation.

  • A step-by-step approach to implementing print automation involves evaluating current needs, identifying automatable processes, choosing the right tools, and providing necessary training to the team.

  • The monitoring, adjustments, and updates to automated procedures can help optimize workflow efficiency and effectiveness in the long term.

  • GelatoConnect emerges as a leading solution for print automation, offering innovative features like intelligent pre-flight checks and gamified quality control.

What is print automation?

Print automation is a technological advancement in the printing industry that streamlines printing processes, from order management to shipping and fulfillment. It enhances efficiency, reduces error rates, and lowers operating costs, making it a vital tool for businesses aiming for digital transformation in their print operations.

Components of print automation

Print automation setup

Let's look at print automation's integral components, each playing a crucial role in enhancing your print operations and driving business success.

Order management automation

Order management automation is one of the fundamental components of print automation. Here's what it brings to the table: 

  • Easing order tracking: With automation, the age-old hassle of manually monitoring multiple orders becomes a thing of the past. Updates can be tracked in real time, offering better visibility and control over all orders.

  • On-demand printing capabilities: Automating order management improves on-demand print fulfillment. It also considerably reduces waste and overall costs.

  • Reduced errors: Manual processes are inevitably prone to errors. Automation minimizes these risks, ensuring precision in every order.

  • Improved customer experience: Transparency and timely updates contribute to a greatly improved client experience. Plus, automation minimizes delivery times, boosting customer satisfaction.

Pre-press automation

Print automation would be incomplete without the incorporation of pre-press automation. Let's venture deeper into this cornerstone of print automation:

  • Increasing importance of intelligent platforms: As firms lose track of print know-how, pre-press automation via intelligent platforms has risen in importance. Such platforms enable automatic error checks and file optimizations, enhancing the overall output quality.

  • Addressing turnaround requirements: Businesses that harmonize analog and digital presses in their pre-press operations can address all sorts of print jobs. Based on cost, quality, and turnaround requirements, companies can pick the appropriate printing device.

  • Embracing production inkjet and electrographic presses: These advanced technologies can create a diverse range of printed materials formerly produced using traditional offset lithography. 

  • Navigating the digital transformation: The transition to digital has posed challenges to the printing industry. However, pre-press automation has unlocked new possibilities in cloud print, scanning, digital extraction, and automated document processing.

Production automation

Automated print production is the smart solution to the rising demand for faster turnaround times and lower costs, making your print on demand operations more efficient and economical. Here's how:

  • Accurate color management: Automation software ensures consistency and precision in color reproduction, reducing the need for manual adjustments and reprints.

  • Efficient job scheduling: Print jobs can be automatically queued based on their priority and the availability of resources, maximizing productivity and minimizing downtime.

  • Automated imposition: This involves customizing the positioning of pages on the sheet to optimize media usage, thus saving costs and reducing wastage.

  • Quality control automation: Automated systems can perform quality checks in real time, identifying and rectifying errors before they reach the final print.

Post-press automation

Post-press operations are a significant part of the printing workflow. With the rise of automation, the management of these tasks has seen significant improvements:

  • Reducing human error: As with other stages of the print process, automation can greatly reduce the errors often accompanying manual post-press operations, thereby improving the quality of the finished product.

  • Cost-efficiency: By reducing the need for laborious manual tasks, automation can save a substantial amount of manpower and resources, mirroring and reducing costs while optimizing resource use.

  • Fulfilling personalized orders: With the rise of ecommerce and personalized orders, post-press automation is becoming indispensable. It helps cater to individual requirements and deliver a higher level of customer satisfaction.

  • Seamless integration: Advanced automation tools can integrate smoothly with existing systems and software, providing a unified and optimized post-press operation.

Order shipping and fulfillment automation

With automation here, expediting orders while reducing errors becomes a reality. Let's break down order shipping and fulfillment automation: 

  • Real-time tracking: This provides instant visibility into the status of shipments and reduces uncertainties concerning order fulfillment.

  • Automated labeling and packing: This significantly reduces the time required to prepare orders for shipping while simultaneously improving order accuracy.

  • Streamlined return process: By automating the return process, customer satisfaction is improved while simplifying product returns and exchanges.

  • Reduced delivery time: Automation can help optimize shipping carriers and routes, reduce delivery times, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Benefits of automating the printing process

Efficient automated printer

Automating the printing process offers numerous advantages that can transform your print on demand business. Here are some key benefits:

  • Faster turnaround: Automated systems can process orders and manage production much faster than manual methods.

  • Lower labor costs: By reducing the reliance on manual labor, automation helps cut down labor costs.

  • Uniform output: Automated printing ensures consistent quality across all prints, meeting customer expectations reliably.

  • Scalability: Automation allows for easy scaling of operations to meet growing demand without compromising efficiency.

  • Personalization: Automation enables the production of personalized products efficiently, catering to specific customer needs.

How to automate your print workflow step-by-step

Planning print automation

Here's how to streamline and automate your workflow to enhance profitability and productivity in your print operations.

Evaluate your current printing needs and workflow

This crucial first step identifies what's working well and where improvements are needed, setting the stage for successful automation implementations in your workflow. 

Here's how:

  • Understand your printing needs: Examine the type and volume of print jobs typically handled by your business. If you have an ecommerce business selling custom mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, and other products, take time to understand the required print quality, speed of delivery, and any other unique services that you offer.

  • Analyze current workflow: Map out the existing printing workflow from beginning to end. Identify key steps and stakeholders involved in the process. This provides a clear picture of how print jobs move through your organization.

  • Pinpoint bottlenecks and inefficiencies: Look for areas in the current workflow where delays or errors commonly occur. These are prime candidates for automation, as reducing these issues can drastically improve efficiency and quality.

  • Evaluate resource utilization: Consider how well resources, like machines, personnel, and time, are currently utilized. If resources are being underused or overtaxed, automation can help balance the load.

  • Assess client satisfaction and needs: Understanding the expectations and needs of your clients provides crucial insight. Automation initiatives should aim to improve service delivery and meet evolving client expectations.

Identify processes suitable for automation

Not all processes in the workflow stand to benefit from automation. Identifying those most suited to digitization is a critical step in your automation journey. 

Here's how to identify them:

  • Process with time-consuming manual steps: Augmenting these tasks with automated systems boosts efficiency and productivity. For instance, addressing alignment and formatting in the pre-print phase can often be automated.

  • Recurring processes: Tasks that occur repeatedly or at regular intervals are another good fit for automation. This includes tasks such as order fulfillment and shipping. Automating such processes ensures they occur, such as clockwork, saving time and resources.

  • Processes prone to human error: If a process features frequent mistakes or discrepancies when handled manually, automation can prove a prudent solution. Print production, for example, could see a reduction in error rates with automation.

  • Tasks that bottleneck workflow: If a task induces delays in your workflow or holds up subsequent processes, consider it for automation. Something as simple as automated file optimizations can significantly smoothen your print production schedule.

Select the right automation tools and software

When it comes to selecting automation software, focusing on your specified requirements is key. Let's delve into some guiding points to keep in mind when selecting your ideal automation tools:

  • Scalability: Choose an automation solution that can grow with your business. Better yet, choose one that adapts to different sizes and types of printing jobs, both digital and analog, to ensure all customer needs are met. GelatoConnect  reduces operational costs and supports scaling operations without a proportional increase in workforce or overhead.

  • Integration capabilities: Your new tools should easily integrate with your established systems. Look for software such as GelatoConnect that enables smooth communication with cloud-based depositories.

  • Efficiency and intelligence: Software should offer services like digital extraction and automated document processing, which will considerably reduce manual labor and errors. GelatoConnect automates and reduces errors with tailored file adjustments and gamified quality checks. It also automates the entire print process, from order intake to final output, reducing human error and manual intervention.

  • Customer-focused services: A provider that offers a wide range of services tends to be favorable among buyers. Select software that aligns with this trend, prioritizing customer convenience and service diversity. GelatoConnect offers excellent customer service wherein you have direct access to professionals who can address issues promptly to prevent delays in the workflow.

Integrate automation software with existing systems

Here are some strategies to ensure a seamless integration: 

  • Comprehensive compatibility check: Before integrating, ensure the automation software is compatible with your existing hardware and software. Compatibility issues could lead to inefficiencies and workflow disruptions. 

  • Platform integration: Choose automation platforms that allow secure login to printers and mobile-based workflows. This feature facilitates easy and efficient print job management.

  • Adherence to industry standards: Ensure the chosen automation software complies with industry standards. Compliance ensures that software solutions work harmoniously with existing systems and minimize risks associated with digital workflows.

Train your team on new automated procedures

Our journey into print automation now enters a crucial phase: training. So, let's explore how to bring your team up to speed: 

  • Leverage e-learning platforms: Virtual training platforms make learning flexible and convenient. Use interactive modules and tests to assess understanding and track progress.

  • Appoint automation champions: Identify staff members who grasp the new technologies quickly. They can then help train their peers, foster a learning culture, and ensure smooth transitions.

  • Encourage constant learning: Technology evolves rapidly, and so should your team. To keep your staff updated with the latest developments, encourage an environment of continuous learning.

  • Provide hands-on training sessions: Real-world, practical sessions are an ideal forum for your team to master the new procedures.

Implement machine-specific file optimizations

Machine-specific file optimizations are essential in your print automation journey. Here's what you need to know:

  • Understanding your equipment: For you to maximize efficiency, it is crucial to know what file configurations work best with your specific machines to avoid errors during the automation process and ensure top-quality outputs.

  • Standardizing document formats: In a world of multiple file types, choose a standard format and stick to it - this will simplify your automation setup significantly.

  • Applying color management: Implementing machine-specific color management helps maintain consistency across jobs and machines. It's a key factor in delivering high-quality print products.

  • Automating pre-flighting procedures: Standardize, automate, and align quality control processes for your print files. This move will help flag and rectify errors before they make it into print, saving you time, resources, and potential re-runs. Reduce rework by up to 70% with intelligent pre-flight, gamified QC and machine-specific file optimization on GelatoConnect.

Monitor and adjust automated processes for efficiency

Here are some key aspects to focus on: 

  • Track performance regularly: Identify any hiccups or inefficiencies that may need tweaking. Monitoring software can provide insightful data on how well your automated processes are running.

  • Keep an eye out for bottlenecks: Any process can be susceptible to bottlenecks that slow down workflow. This is especially true for automated processes where one small glitch can affect the entire system. Regular monitoring helps identify and rectify any bottlenecks before they escalate.

  • Maintain your machinery: A timely check for worn-out parts, software updates, and overall health can enhance the life and performance of your machines.

  • Continuous improvement mentality: Be open to learning advancements in the automation sector and constantly seek improvements in your current processes.

Update and upgrade systems routinely

 Keeping your print automation software and tools up-to-date is key to ensuring effective performance, enhanced security, and improved efficiency. Here's why:

  • Improve overall productivity: Upgrading systems can provide access to newer features, which can streamline operations and improve overall productivity. 

  • Ensure security: Most system updates come with enhanced security features that safeguard your data from potential cyber threats. Failing to update could leave your print systems vulnerable to exploits and attacks.

  • Incorporate the latest tech innovations: System updates may include compatibility with the latest tech innovations. This could allow you to integrate your print automation systems with other emerging technologies.

  • Maintain supplier support: Suppliers often only provide support for recent software versions. Updating and upgrading your systems ensures you maintain these vital support lines for troubleshooting and problem resolution.

  • Enjoy cost-effective operations: Although it might appear costly at first, regular upgrades often prove to be cost-effective in the long run. Enhanced features can facilitate faster operations, reduce downtime, minimize errors, and cut down waste.

Optimize printing efficiency with GelatoConnect

GelatoConnect holds the key to unlocking unprecedented levels of efficiency and precision in your print on demand operations with cutting-edge technology and  superior automated processes

Propel your productivity with our intelligent pre-flight checks and gamified quality control and encourage sustainable practice with our optimized order management and fulfillment automation.

Take the first step towards simplifying and automating your print workflow for your ecommerce store! Sign up for GelatoConnect today!


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