17 May 2023 By Tom Peire
Between skilled labor leaving the industry and mixed signals about economic recovery, Connected Automation will be a crucial asset for the Large Format printing industry to explore. The press agrees, and so does Fespa Belgium.
In 2022, several news outlets published on Connected Automation in Large Format printing stating that the perceived future involved incorporating this into the printing industry. After the pandemic, the printing industry struggled to find and keep workers on board. Automation could offer a partial solution to the problem, but it was unexplored territory. Nonetheless, because of the changes in the industry, the industry had to step up its game.
Four Pees is spearheading the movement of Connected Automation within the Large Format printing industry and is fully prepared to service and connect with industry professionals. So, we went straight to the source and invited the members of Fespa Belgium over for a candid discussion on all things Connected Automation. These companies, in their esteemed opinions, analyzed the future of Connected Automation in their Large Format businesses. This roundtable discussion included debunking some popular myths on Connected Automation and shedding some light on the reality of this game-changing technology.
Truth time – a lot of companies don’t measure, which is how you miss out on all the fun benefits automation has to offer.
Take the 80-20 rule in business – 80% of the consequences stems from 20% of the causes. A lot of people will focus on the 10% they can’t fix in the consequences, while Connected Automation could be fixing 90% of the “issues” they’re having. Blind spot staring never helped anyone.
The group said that keeping an open mind toward Connected Automation allowed larger and smaller companies to reap the benefits. A company of 140 employees measured and saw that Connected Automation saved them time and money. Smaller businesses benefit also by keeping admin costs under control. Even the smallest of improvements can turn out to be a larger advantage in the long run.
Connected Automation includes a solution setup for every budget and every setup can scale through the years, along with the companies. How so, you ask?
That does not eliminate the human quality control factor. There are some things that simply cannot be automated. Large Format is such a niche expertise, you simply cannot rule out the human factor. But you can make the life of your team easier, the jobs better, and the margin higher. Connected Automation ensures a more streamlined workflow through each stage of production by taking the load off of workers and enhancing speed and accuracy.
Involve the people who know what they’re doing and invite them for an open discussion on how Connected Automation can cause them less stress and help them to be better at what they do best.
3Motion makes a clear distinction between project management knowledge and print expertise– automation helps reduce repetitive jobs, freeing up time for people to build up the expertise they want to elaborate. Printers don’t just print; they also have to factor in accountancy efficiency. You can only print it right at the right price if you operate at the correct cost.
Automation facilitates precise color calibration, accurate cutting and finishing, and efficient print head maintenance, resulting in superior print quality and customer satisfaction. With connected automation, printers have greater control over the production process, enabling them to consistently deliver outstanding results.
If they’re not solving problems, they’re creating new opportunities. That should be the trade-off.
We’re still selling a service, not just prints – profitability needs to rule.
Quite the contrary – get it right from the start and you’ll see automation does not just apply to the bulk assignments, as people often assume.
Before opting for automation, you need to be willing to perform both a business analysis and a data analysis. What is the value of speeding up a process if the analysis reveals it costs you more in the end? Was it worth it or should you re-track?
And it’s not just in the prepress process. Automation can also involve improving simple settings in the process to reduce some of the repetitive manual tasks.
Bear in mind this is a 2-way process – the better the implementation and consequently feedback from the company, the better the process can be fine-tuned and tailored to the modus operandi of the printer.
If you’re only in it to win it, you will miss out on how to do better in the long run.
You’ll often hear me say there are 3 types of automation tools you can get: standard, tailored, and adaptable.
You need to make an informed decision. Integrators are not always the most reliable source of truth – you need a partner who’ll assess your priorities, needs, and wants and who will offer you a roadmap and timeline with options. Maybe you’re fine for now with a standard setup. Most of the time we see a tailored solution does the job today and prepares for the future. The true visionaries will most often go for an adaptable flow – preparing them for whichever next step they’re working towards. It all depends on how candid you are about what you want to achieve today. And tomorrow.
That’s the only way to make your investment in automation viable, scalable, and profitable. Automation can provide enhanced productivity and reduced turnaround times. The cost is offset by the savings in time, accuracy, and productivity.
When it comes to automation, don’t buy it because the price is right, buy it because the value is correct.
A lot of printers are trying to scale through specialization. That means they outsource what they’re not exceptionally good at. Pass the job on to another printer, take some margin on it, and save your press uptime for jobs you know you’ll ace. And if you’re already acing it, why would you automate it?
Humans are still capable of the occasional error and automation can eliminate that and improve customer satisfaction. The road to automation seeks to aid the printer in the Large Format process, not hinder it and this transformative technology is capable of only improving the workflow.
There is always room for improvement, people seem to be blissfully unaware that the software only gets stronger, especially with AI taking the design world by storm. Not to open the debate on AI vs. art, but a lot of people want to see their AI designs printed – the software will need to keep up. The better shape your setup is in, the more agile your business model will become.
Keep up if you don’t want to be left out.
In conclusion, Connected Automation is a revolutionary technology that will improve printers’ productivity and deliver exceptional results. Connected Automation remains controversial and clouded with misconceptions that hopefully are cleared up after reading this. In the dynamic world of Large Format printing, Connected Automation will revolutionize the printing processes and result in more satisfaction from customers.
Intrigued or convinced?
Schedule a chat with us at Fespa Münich to find out more!