1. What is print workflow automation?

Print workflow automation: The complete guide [2024]

Decision-making in printing
Connect BlogMay 2 2024
business management

In today's fast-evolving print production scene, traditional processes often run into several hurdles, including delays and uneven quality control. However, the introduction of print workflow automation is changing the game. This innovative approach simplifies the entire print production cycle to enhance efficiency, cut costs, and improve consistency in quality.

This comprehensive guide takes you through the ins and outs of print workflow automation, showcasing the latest technologies and methods and highlighting the transformative impact of GelatoConnect on the print industry.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Understand the pivotal role of print workflow automation in addressing industry challenges and the organization's productivity.

  • Explore the diverse advantages of implementing automation, from increased efficiency to enhanced quality assurance.

  • Unveil the various types of print workflow automation software and their functionalities.

  • Gain actionable insights on selecting the right print workflow solution tailored to your specific business needs.

What is print workflow automation?

Print workflow automation optimizes print production through technology, automating tasks from order intake to delivery. It simplifies processes, reduces mistakes, and accelerates turnaround times so businesses can get more work done in less time. 

This approach reduces costs and offers a competitive edge, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Advantages of implementing print workflow automation

Implementing print workflow automation offers numerous advantages for print service providers. By leveraging technology and digital tools to smoothen and optimize print production procedures with specialty printers, businesses can achieve significant improvements in various aspects of their operations and avoid costly mistakes.

These improvements include:

  • Increased efficiency: Automation eliminates time-consuming manual tasks, allowing for faster job processing and simplified workflows. Tasks that once required hours of manual labor can now be completed in a fraction of the time, leading to higher productivity and throughput.

  • Reduced labor costs: By automating repetitive tasks, print workflow automation reduces the need for manual intervention, resulting in lower labor costs. This allows businesses to allocate resources more efficiently and focus on tasks that require human expertise and creativity.

  • Minimized errors: Automation reduces the risk of human error, resulting in fewer mistakes and rework. Automated procedures follow predefined rules and guidelines, ensuring consistency and accuracy in print production. 

  • Optimized resource utilization: Automated workflows enable businesses to optimize resource utilization, including equipment, materials, and manpower. By scheduling jobs more efficiently and reducing idle time, print service providers can maximize the use of their resources and improve overall profitability.

  • Faster turnaround times: With automation, print jobs can be processed and completed more quickly, leading to faster turnaround times for customers. This allows businesses to meet tight deadlines and respond more effectively to customer demands, enhancing their competitiveness in the market.

  • Enhanced scalability: Automated workflows are highly scalable and adaptable to changing business needs and market conditions. As demand fluctuates, businesses can easily scale their operations up or down without significant disruptions to their workflow. This flexibility ensures that businesses can remain agile and responsive to market dynamics.

  • Improved customer satisfaction: Automation enables businesses to deliver prints faster and with greater consistency, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers appreciate reliable service and fast in-plant printing turnaround times, which can result in repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Cost savings: Over time, the implementation of print workflow automation can lead to significant cost savings for businesses. By reducing labor costs, minimizing errors, and optimizing resource utilization, businesses can improve their bottom line and achieve better profitability.

Print workflow automation software types and functions

Diverse printing machinery

Automation software comes in various forms, each serving specific functions within the print production processes. These solutions are designed to simplify and optimize different aspects of print workflows, catering to the diverse needs of print service providers. 

Let's look at their types and functions in detail:

1. Prepress automation software

Prepress automation software is essential in streamlining the initial stages of the printing process. This type of software focuses on tasks performed before printing. It ensures that print-ready files are generated efficiently and accurately, reducing prepress errors and minimizing production delays.

Its core functions include:

  • File preparation: This process automates the conversion of various digital file formats into a standardized, print-ready format that meets specific printing requirements.

  • Color management: This involves managing color profiles and settings across different devices to ensure accurate color reproduction in the final print product.

  • Imposition: Automatically arranges print layouts to optimize paper and ink usage, reducing waste and cutting production costs. This process is crucial for maximizing the number of prints per sheet.

2. Production management software

Production management software serves as the backbone for managing and streamlining the entire print production workflow. It helps manage the print production process, from job timetables and resource allocation to workflow tracking and reporting. 

It provides visibility into ongoing jobs, facilitates collaboration between teams, and optimizes production efficiency. 

Key functionalities include:

  • Job scheduling: Allocates print work and more projects based on deadlines, priority, and resource availability, ensuring efficient workflow and timely deliveries.

  • Resource allocation: Manages the distribution and usage of resources like paper, ink, and digital assets to avoid bottlenecks and optimize output.

  • Workflow tracking: This provides real-time updates and tracking of print jobs from start to finish, enabling proactive management of the production cycle — from pre-press to post-press. 

  • Reporting: Generates detailed reports on production metrics, such as output rates, resource usage, and turnaround times, helping identify areas for improvement and ensuring accountability.

3. Web-to-print solutions

Web-to-print solutions enable custom ordering, file submission, and proofing, allowing customers to submit print orders remotely through web portals. These solutions smoothen the order intake process, reduce administrative overhead, and enhance customer satisfaction by providing a convenient and intuitive ordering experience. 

Web-to-print solutions transform how customers interact with printing services by offering:

  • Custom orders: Customers can place orders directly through an online platform, selecting specifications like paper type, binding options, and quantities.

  • File submission: Users can upload their print files via the web portal, streamlining the process and reducing manual handling.

  • Proofing: Digital proofs are provided for customer review and approval online, ensuring that the final product meets their expectations before printing begins.

4. Quality control tools

These tools ensure that prints meet specified quality standards and customer requirements, reducing the risk of rework and customer dissatisfaction. Quality control tools are vital for maintaining high standards in print production through:

  • Automated color matching: This method ensures that the colors in the print job match those specified by the customer or the original design, using sophisticated color calibration techniques.

  • Image inspection: Automatically scans and analyzes images and printed materials for any defects or anomalies, ensuring consistency across all outputs.

  • Print validation: Verifies that the final product meets all predefined quality criteria and standards before it is shipped to the customer.

How to choose the right print workflow solution

Streamlined print operations

With a wide range of options available, selecting the best solution requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure it aligns with the business's specific needs and goals.

If you are looking to find a print workflow for your business, here are the steps you should follow to find the right fit:

1. Know your requirements

Begin by evaluating current workflows, identifying pain points, and determining the specific challenges that need to be addressed. Understanding your business's unique requirements will help narrow down the options and focus on solutions that offer the most relevant features and capabilities.

2. Consider compatibility

When choosing a print workflow solution, compatibility with existing hardware and third-party systems must be considered. The chosen solution should seamlessly integrate with the current technology stack to ensure smooth workflow continuity and data consistency.

3. Evaluate scalability

Select a print workflow solution that can scale with your business as it grows. The chosen solution should be flexible enough to accommodate increasing demand and evolving business needs without requiring significant reconfiguration or investment in new systems.

4. Examine features and functionality

Look for print workflow solutions that offer a comprehensive set of features and functionalities tailored to the specific requirements of your business. Consider whether the solution provides tools for order intake, file preparation, production management, quality control, and reporting.

5. Cost analysis

Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including upfront costs, ongoing maintenance, and potential return on investment (ROI). While cost is an important factor, it's essential to consider the long-term benefits and value that the chosen solution can deliver to your business.

6. Seek customer feedback and reviews

Research customer feedback and reviews to gain insights into the performance, reliability, and user experience of different print workflow solutions. Feedback from other print service providers can provide valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each solution

How to automate your print workflow

Streamlined print operations

Automating your print workflow is a strategic move that can revolutionize your print shop's efficiency and productivity. By harnessing the power of technology and digital tools, you can streamline processes, reduce errors, and expedite job turnaround times. 

Here's a brief guide on how to automate your print workflow effectively:

1. Identify key automation opportunities

Identify key areas of your print workflow that are ripe for automation. This could include tasks such as order processing, file preparation, job scheduling, color management, proofing, and quality control. Prioritize automation opportunities based on their potential to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance overall workflow.

2. Select the right automation tools

Choose automation tools that are tailored to your specific workflow needs and objectives. Look for tools that offer a combination of automation capabilities, such as workflow automation software, pre-press automation tools, and web-to-print solutions. Ensure that the selected tools integrate seamlessly with your existing systems and processes.

3. Implement incrementally

Implement automation gradually, starting with small, manageable tasks before tackling more complex processes. This allows you to minimize disruptions to your workflow and mitigate any potential risks associated with automation. Gradually scale up automation efforts as your team becomes more comfortable with the new tools and processes.

4. Provide training and support

Provide comprehensive training to your team on how to use the new automation tools effectively. Offer ongoing support and guidance to ensure that employees feel confident and empowered to leverage automation in their daily tasks. Encourage feedback and collaboration to improve and refine automated workflows continuously.

5. Monitor and measure performance

Continuously monitor and measure the performance of your automated workflows. Track key metrics such as job processing times, error rates, and customer satisfaction levels to assess the impact of automation on your print shop's operations. Use this data to identify areas for further optimization and refinement.

6. Iterate and improve

Embrace a culture of continuous improvement by refining and optimizing your automated workflows. Solicit feedback from your team and customers, and use insights gained from monitoring performance metrics to make informed decisions about how to enhance your print workflow automation efforts further.

Automate and elevate your print shop with GelatoConnect

GelatoConnect is an excellent platform to help you with your workflow automation, streamlining print production with precision. 

Leveraging machine-specific file optimization and gamified quality control, GelatoConnect empowers you to:

  • Optimize production efficiency: Automating file optimization and quality control accelerates job processing.

  • Reduce overheads: Automated workflows cut manual labor costs and material wastage, saving print shops money.

  • Enhance quality assurance: Rigorous quality control ensures consistent print quality, exceeding industry standards.

  • Deliver exceptional experiences: Streamlining order processing delivers prints faster, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Ready to revolutionize your print workflow? Sign up for GelatoConnect today and embark on a journey towards automated excellence.

Print workflow automation FAQs

Can small print businesses benefit from automation?

Absolutely! While print workflow automation is beneficial for large-scale operations, small print businesses can also reap significant advantages. Automation can help small businesses compete with large enterprises by enabling them to produce high-quality work more efficiently. It can also allow smaller teams to handle larger volumes of work without compromising on quality while expanding their capacity and business reach without the need for extensive investment in additional personnel.

What are the common challenges faced during the implementation of print workflow automation, and how can they be addressed?

Implementing print workflow automation can present challenges such as compatibility with existing systems, staff resistance to new technology, and initial setup costs. To address these, it’s important to choose automation solutions that are compatible with existing hardware and software. Training programs can help ease the transition for staff, and a phased implementation strategy can help manage costs and integration complexities effectively.

How does GelatoConnect enhance print workflow automation?

GelatoConnect is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing print management systems, offering advanced features such as real-time tracking, automated error detection, and predictive maintenance scheduling. This enables print businesses to optimize their operations by automating complex tasks, reducing downtime, and ensuring high-quality outputs with minimal human intervention.


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