Why your customers are getting in the way of automation

2 min read
11/07/16 12:34

When working with one of our customers the other week they told me that around 80% of the manual adjustments they had to make to artwork were down to incorrect specifications from the customer at the time of quote. This isn’t unusual either. In most printing and converting businesses, estimates are produced without having sight of the artwork - it’s the nature of the industry – and customers don’t always know how to spec a job out correctly.

The problem is that these companies can end up producing a price for an automated job that actually requires manual intervention. Suddenly, the profitability of that job has shrunk.

So how do you stop this from happening? Well from my experience, there’s two approaches you can take with this. The first is to try and stop the incorrect specifications from happening in the first place. To do this, you’ll have to educate your customers on how to specify a job correctly, teaching them about things like spreads, sizes and colors. I know a few printing companies that do this already, putting on workshops and training for their customers, and it’s a fairly successful approach. I’m sure it doesn’t do their retention rates any harm either. But you’ll only ever get a small percentage of your customers attending these and even those that do will still get it wrong sometimes.

The other approach is to implement a customer self-service strategy using web-to-print, where PDFs are validated or rejected on upload. Customers are automatically notified if their artwork doesn’t fit onto the page sizes they’ve specified or that they’ve got the number of pages wrong. This way you’re pushing any problems back on to them; they have to re-enter the correct details or have the artwork amended themselves before trying again. And for problems that the customer can’t fix, you can then offer your support (via an automated message) for a fee – so you’re getting paid for those value added services that you would normally provide for free just to keep the workflow moving.

You can take this one step further still by integrating your MIS and web-to-print with automation software like Enfocus Switch or Esko Automation Engine. This clever middleware allows you to create quite complex workflows that will analyze the uploaded artwork and amend the job with the correct specification.

So the workflow could look like this:

  1. PDF received
  2. PDF passes through traditional preflight
  3. PDF validated and compared to job spec
  4. EITHER the job is amended (e.g. the MIS updates the job spec with an increased page quantity or different page size) OR the PDF is updated (e.g. reader pages are split) and the Customer Service team is advised via an automated message
  5. Job submitted to workflow

And there you have it - through integration, an incorrectly specified job has passed seamlessly through the workflow without the need for human intervention. Its profitability is intact.

It’s important to point out that this isn’t an off the shelf solution – printers and their technology partners will have to work together to achieve something that works for their unique workflow. And there’ll always be an element of human intervention involved, no matter what. But, by working together, it’s entirely feasible that we can get that 80% down to 20%.

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