At Conquest Graphics, we often describe ourselves as a technology company with a focus on print. We feel this description accurately reflects our commitment to making both the customer ordering process and our production and fulfillment processes as efficient as possible.
To do this, we often have to make changes to our pre-existing workflows to incorporate new technologies that will automate the given process or to eliminate outdated, inefficient ones that are no longer beneficial.
Since this process increases efficiency by removing a manual process from the print workflow and replacing it with an automated one, we call it print automation.
Many printers focus their automation efforts on eliminating the number of “touches” in their workflow, i.e. the number of times an order relies upon a human’s approval or manual assistance to progress.
While this, in theory, should reduce the possibility of human error interfering with a project’s quality and speed, it doesn’t address certain types of orders or products that may actually need more “touches” to be done correctly and with a shorter turnaround.
As a result, we believe print automation isn’t something as simple as a cookie cutter software solution that can be adapted to a certain printer’s process with minimal tailoring.
Automation in Action: Portals
One of the exciting print automation opportunities available for customers is the ordering portal. It’s basically a tailor-made version of the Conquest Graphics website with a simple interface that allows you and any users of your choosing to quickly access, design, and order printed materials, direct mail, digital assets and promotional products. In addition, online portals provide an inventory tracking and fulfillment solution.
Whether you have 5 or 5,000 employees, take your marketing to the next level with an online ordering portal with Conquest Graphics.
Print automation is actually highly complex, as it needs to account for the various strengths and weaknesses of individual workers along a given workflow. Automation must strike the perfect balance that varies from print shop to print shop, so no two automation processes will look the same.
In general, however, automation relies upon three key data recording points in the print order acceptance, processing and fulfillment processes to identify and analyze inefficiencies and introduce new automation opportunities.
Printing companies usually start at the beginning, by looking at their order entry processes. There are a number of routes to placing an order that rely upon either the customer themselves or a sales representative.
From there, we classify orders by attempting to ask questions that yield common answers by which they can be grouped, not necessarily by media type or printing method, but by details that actually matter for automation.
The third key point in the ordering process is the route an order takes through our business. To hopefully make sense of all this, we’ve visualized a hypothetical set of data collected from these three points in the infographic below.
These three points of data for each order can collectively be used to see how certain classifying details for each order can be correlated with the route they’ll take through our business, which can ultimately help us find shortcuts for jobs that have certain identifying characteristics.
Why is print automation important?
The print media industry underwent a paradigm-shifting revolution when digital media emerged and absorbed a large amount of its market customers. Thankfully, industry leaders assert that nearly all of the ‘hollowing out’ of the industry due to digital replacement of print is behind us.
Instead of a constant movement of customers away from print towards digital platforms, there has emerged a somewhat steady equilibrium. The demand for print has reached a stable, more predictable volume, albeit much lower than it was before the 2008 recession.
Many printing companies that were unable to change as quickly as they needed to during this digital “revolution” period have closed, merged or otherwise transformed to capitalize on the most profitable parts of their businesses.
Additionally, the life cycle of a printed piece is shrinking to keep up with the “always editable” nature of digital competitors. This translates to a higher number of orders being replaced by a smaller group of customers.
So, while the print industry has recovered, along with the economy as a whole, it isn’t nearly as strong as it once was. Overall, print companies face an uphill battle as they are challenged with increasing prices of paper and other supplies, as well as an increased demand for more specialized (and therefore more expensive) printing orders.
The natural response to all these newly emerging costs and economic changes would be to raise the price of their printed products. Printing companies would also have to eliminate a large portion of their production costs which included trimming costs in business sectors such as fulfillment and shipping, sales, estimating, customer service, planning, pre-press, proofing and even accounting. Most print companies have chosen to go this route.
But at Conquest Graphics, we want to provide our customers with the most affordable, highest quality printing and customer support available.
Print automation has been and continues to be an absolutely vital part of maintaining low prices for our customers and ensuring that their orders are all fulfilled with the utmost speed and quality.
Through print automation, we have found and eliminated as many unnecessary parts of our business and workflows as possible. We also have implemented and continue to introduce new technologies and systems to our workflows as often as possible to enhance our overall efficiency both in and around production.
Ultimately, this benefits you, the customer, in one of many different ways: by either ensuring consistent product quality, saving you time, saving you money or preventing unnecessary hang-ups in the ordering process.
If you choose to schedule an online portal demonstration with us today, you can figure out how our print automation can make your print ordering even more efficient than it already is. However, you don't necessarily need to build a portal with us to take advantage of print automation.
Whether you order brochures, catalogs, posters or any of our other products, you're utilizing a system of print automation that we've developed to shorten turnaround times and provide the fastest and simplest print ordering system possible.