3 Ways to Improve Your Short-Run ROI

Think back over the jobs your print shop turned out last week. How many were “short-run” jobs? In many shops, the majority of output is no longer a few high-volume jobs. Instead it's an ever-increasing assortment of smaller jobs that keep the production workflow constantly changing.

If you are using a legacy workflow based on the first-in, first-out method, it is likely difficult to meet service level agreements and maximize printer capacity. While manual processes for short-run jobs—such as setting up presses and changing paper types—take the same amount of time as high-volume jobs, that labor time is more costly as it is spread over a lower output volume.

These manual, repetitive tasks on small runs bite into print shops’ productivity and profit margins—a challenge industrywide. Here are three ways to improve your short-run ROI and increase customer satisfaction. 

  1. Keep Printers Running to Maximize Throughput

Print shops must accommodate customer expectations for high-quality, low-cost, short-run jobs. This requires operating at peak print utilization; idle printers are missed revenue opportunities.

To maximize your productivity, visibility and automation across your operation are key. They help you optimize your production throughput, inform capacity planning, recognize bottlenecks and identify when to shift jobs from one device to another.

You may have already automated some processes; however, it’s essential to evaluate your workflow periodically to identify and eliminate as many manual processes as possible.

Understanding your printer utilization and how workflow automation keeps your printers running is essential to maximizing your ROI. Here’s how visibility helps: by centralizing both job and device monitoring in a single software solution, you can quickly see the status and location of every job in production. It’s important that this solution be vendor-agnostic so it can draw information from all your hardware and software solutions, regardless of manufacturer. Over time, this level of visibility into the process will help you recognize inefficiencies and bottlenecks. 

  1. Reduce Manual Touchpoints

Extra time and touches that reduce the ROI on short-run jobs don’t only occur on the print floor. Manual job submission and prepress processes can slow job progress, especially if every job is subject to manual checking or preflighting despite entering the system print-ready.

Integrating disparate onboarding systems, including public-facing and customer-specific web-to-print portals and traditional ordering through customer service representatives, can reduce manual transfers of information. In addition to integrating onboarding systems, you can implement preflight automation, which seamlessly directs print-ready files to the best device for the job. This automation is based on preset rules and batching for optimum imposition and throughput to further reduce touchpoints.

If you aren’t sure whether your prepress workflow needs a tune-up or additional automation, start with workflow mapping to identify and remove as many manual touch points as possible. 

Cost efficiency is crucial because customers expect lower price points on short-run jobs. You are losing money due to unnecessary manual touchpoints, so it’s important to identify where you can eliminate them from your workflow—starting with job submission—to improve your ROI.

Eliminating manual processing of print-ready files is one of the top five ways you can improve your prepress workflow. Download our e-book Preventing the 5 Most Common Prepress Workflow Problems to find information on the other four potential landmines at the beginning of your print workflow.

  1. Integrate Disparate Systems to Improve Job Accuracy and Visibility

When you integrate disparate production software solutions with your hardware—from cut-sheet to continuous feed, and even large format and finishing equipment—you save steps in the production process. Sometimes, those “steps” are literal: when every job is visible in a common dashboard, customer service reps no longer have to walk the production floor to find a job when the customer has a question or change.

Automation also ensures accurate and complete information flows into your print MIS or billing software, including job changes and job completion reports. When operators are required to manually enter job data, they have a hard time keeping up with production demands and sometimes skip the important step of entering job data. This is problematic because without data, it’s difficult to keep track of the status and location of each job. When operators do manually enter job data, the potential for human error exists. This is why automation is key.

Automated workflows and production dashboards enable other departments to locate jobs  in production and prepare for job changes. 

Short-Run Automation in Action

Case in point: Let’s look at the story of Yurchak Printing, an American book printer with aging hardware that was consistently creating overruns to verify job accuracy on their existing equipment. The company needed an automated solution with the flexibility to accommodate short runs, including book-of-one jobs with a just-in-time distribution model.

Yurchak Printing decided to update its hardware to include both continuous feed and cut-sheet devices, and install RICOH TotalFlow BatchBuilder™ with Ultimate Impostrip®. 

This software integration allowed Yurchak Printing to automatically move all incoming files to the press, without any user intervention. It also enabled the book printer to improve PDF automation for more consistent results and maximum throughput.

The new hardware helped expand Yurchak Printing’s offerings, and the software solutions automated the many steps of short-run production to deliver the flexibility, control and visibility the book printer needed.

The results? Yurchak Printing increased production to more than 600,000 impressions per day. The book printer also expanded its print-on-demand offerings, reduced errors and waste, and shortened turnaround times.

Why You Need to Transform Your Short-Run Print Job Workflow

Short-run printing is here to stay. Customers want greater flexibility, increased personalization and just-in-time fulfillment and order delivery. Are you prepared? 

Your current print workflow isn’t optimized for short-run print jobs if there are manual touch points, software solutions and devices that can’t “talk” to one another, or barriers to collecting job data and locating jobs in production. Now is the time to automate your workflow for future profitability.

Learn more about how workflow automation can enable improved efficiency and visibility, more competitive job pricing, and increased production throughput. This e-book Preventing the 5 Most Common Prepress Workflow Problems is a useful resource for identifying ways to streamline your workflow. Download it here. 

Your Ricoh team is ready to help you find opportunities to improve your ROI by addressing inefficiencies in your current processes. Request a workflow assessment to review and discuss how to transform your workflow to achieve your business goals.

Meet the Author

Lisa is a Colorado native who has always had a passion for print. Before beginning in product marketing at Ricoh, she worked in the commercial print segment for more than 20 years. Her experience encompasses all aspects of the print workflow: production management, scheduling, planning and advanced prepress integration from Kodak, Agfa, Screen and many more. Her fluency in offset and digital technologies has served her well in the product marketing landscape where Lisa manages commercial print software solutions. Always a customer advocate, Lisa applies their feedback to help develop better products for their business success.

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