Sit down, analyze your shop, and make appropriate modifications.
Also be careful that your operators don't see this as an attempt
by management to play "big brother" and spy on every little thing
they do. One of the challenges with operators not feeling part of
the process is that they may be inclined to cover up problems as
an act of self-preservation. If you want your operators involved in
mapping the workflow, make sure they also are involved in setting
up how the analysis is made. Not only will this make them feel that
they are not under hostile attack, but it will also provide valuable
insight into what really happens on the shop floor.
Finally, don't gloss over the facts. Take everything you learn seriously,
and think of each obstacle you uncover as an opportunity.
Test and re-test
When you sit down and analyze what really happens in your
shop, you are likely to be in for a rude awakening. In fact, the
biggest hazard in going through this process is the tendency to
try knee-jerk fixes and to point fingers at certain operators or
vendors"?as though getting rid of an employee or a non-responsive
vendor will set the world right. Proceed with caution.
Once you determine what really happens to the typical job in
your workflow and where problems crop up, make the appropriate
fixes and see how the new modifications work. There is a
good chance that no matter how painstaking your research is
and how detailed your map is, something will be missed.
Also bear in mind that although you might assume that these
changes will get things back on track permanently, that may not
be the case. Workflow mapping must be an ongoing effort.
Things change rapidly in this industry. Even if you change nothing
in-house, your customers will be changing the way they create
files, the software they use, and the designers themselves.
As a result, just when you have figured out how to get around
one obstacle, another appears. Regular, ongoing analysis and
testing are the way to go.
Putting it to use
This whole process will be rendered useless, if your workflow
roadmap winds up sitting in a file folder or computer file. If you
don't recognize any immediate solutions that need to be implemented,
have your staff or even your vendors take a look at what
you have come up with and see if they have some good suggestions
Most importantly: Keep learning. You may have thought of
your workflow as a static part of your business; in fact, however,
it's typically very fluid and constantly changing.
Stephen Beals (firstname.lastname@example.org), in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.