The purpose of workflow software is to automate and streamline the movement of jobs through the printing company, with the resulting benefits of time, labor, and money savings and increased productivity and efficiency.
For many print shops, the benefits make the investment well worthwhile. But is workflow software the right investment for every shop? And if so, how much time does it take to get the system up and running? Who in the company should be responsible for managing the workflow software system? And what special skills are necessary to keep the workflow system operating optimally?
This month, QP looks at all these issues in an effort to help you make a reasoned decision if you choose to invest in workflow software.
Right for You?
The question most company owners ask when considering an investment in workflow software is whether the many benefits justify the cost.
According to Bryan Hughes, product marketing manager for Workflow Products with Fujifilm North America Corporation, much depends on the size of your firm, as well as its functionality requirements. “A RIP takes files and renders them to output to computer-to-plate or proofing,” he says. “Now, I define workflow as a step above that, where the software is providing the automation. There are so many factors that you can’t do anything but evaluate each one of them individually.”
A very forward-thinking company looking to automate as much as it can will use all the tools provided in a modern day workflow software system, Hughes says. But in a very small operation with few files, the ends may not justify the expense. In other words, an owner of one shop may say it’s worth it to pay $40,000 to automate processes, Hughes says. Another owner may not agree.
One of the most important keys to a software system’s applicability to a particular shop is its scalability, as well as its ability to interact with or integrate with other software systems the shop may be using. “As a printer, I want to grow my business without adding to direct labor,” Hughes says. “I do that by having the processes and the tools to increase efficiency without adding labor.”
Other experts believe there isn’t a printing business, regardless of size, that doesn’t need workflow software. One such expert is Udi Arieli, Chicago-based senior director of product management for EFI. “Everyone needs more efficiencies,” he says. “Competition is greater, and there’s greater cost to hire. Everything is more expensive, from good people to running your business to renting a place. The cost of business is going up because of regulations, raw materials, energy prices, and more. But there are few areas in printing where the prices you get are high and going higher.”
The only response for a responsible business owner or manager is to reduce costs. Costs can be trimmed in conventional ways, like reducing labor or salaries, Arieli says. A better way to cut costs is to grow efficiency and reduce touch points, which can be done with the right workflow software, he adds.
Different providers of workflow software offer very different estimates of the time it takes to get a workflow system up and running.
In the case of EFI, if the company is working with a client that already has much of the company’s software, but little integration of those systems, it wouldn’t take longer than two to three months to integrate the new workflow software system, Arieli says. A different company that would have to go out and buy many of the processes may require six months or a year to have a workflow system, he adds. Fujifilm workflow systems are sold with four days of on-site installation and training, Hughes says. “The goal of our services group is to work with your files in your environment, and set up the software so you can be running jobs when we leave,” he reports. “We’ll follow up with good phone and Web support, and with on-site support as required. It’s very customized to your situation.”