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Top 10 Ways to Better Your Workflow

(February 2007) posted on Mon Feb 05, 2007

Throughput: the key to increasing shop profitability in 2007.

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By Stephen Beals

Controlling the work as it flows through the print operation is really how print providers make money these days. Yes, you can still charge a small premium for producing top-quality work, but a lot of shops can produce excellent quality and most can deliver a product that meets the customer’s quality concerns. Although it hasn’t gone away totally, few print shops can make a living simply by having a reputation for producing good work. You need to produce good work efficiently, and you need to do so within a turnaround time that gets shorter and shorter with every project.

Workflow is the key. You must have control not only of quality, but also of the entire production process-from the moment the files come in until the time the job is delivered. And these days, you need to have control even before and after those points in the process timeline if you want to hang onto your customers.

But how do you go about taking control of your shop’s workflow? To some degree, this will vary with your specific operation and personnel. A small operation’s workflow will likely differ from that of a larger shop. A shop utilizing multiple technologies-such as digital rollfed, digital flatbed, and screen-will need a different workflow than will a shop that focuses on a single technology. The workflow of a shop that specializes in output only and outsources finishing and installation will be drastically different from that of one that has brought all the tasks in-house.

Some workflow factors, however, are universal, no matter what size shop you have, no matter what technologies you put to use, no matter how specialized your clientele. Here, I’ll provide my 10 top tips for the "care and feeding" of your shop’s workflow. All are designed not to complicate your workflow, but rather to pare it down and simplify it. Adding technology and equipment may be a solution depending upon your situation, but you’ll see that I have intentionally not overly focused on new technology solutions. Instead, the tips have at their heart the idea that the key to a better workflow is better management of the workflow you already have.