Zero Downtime: Building Towards the Dream
It’s either a pipe dream or the Holy Grail of printing.
Some say it’s impossible. Others, that it’s just elusive. Whatever the reality, zero downtime would be a dream come true for just about any printer. No one wants to see idle machines haunting their plant floor. Especially today.
With cost pressures squeezing cents and dollars from margins, the print technology you invest in needs to work harder than ever to pull its weight. The price of an hour’s downtime is greater than ever.
So how do you push productivity to the extreme? Here are some tips for those trying to achieve the dream of zero downtime.
Apply Your Tech to the Right Jobs
Maximizing uptime is all about automating the friction out of workflows. But boosting productivity comes with its caveats. Bill Gates famously mapped out the two ways automation can go for your business:
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
So what does that mean for you? You need to evaluate your equipment and play to its strengths. Scale up your most efficient, lucrative activities and try to wean yourself off the rest. If you spot gaps in your infrastructure that are holding you back, invest in the technology that will open up that opportunity—if the returns will justify the investment. Innovation is no good if the result is clunky processes and half-speed workflows.
Work the Flow
When printing doesn’t flow, it fails. And as you push towards capacity, the process pitfalls that lie just beneath the surface get bigger and bigger. To stop cracks from appearing in your workflows, you need to do two things well: automate and simplify.
Use web-to-print portals so customers can easily order prints to their preferred specifications again and again. Remove touches from your prepress processes wherever you can. Automate decision-making using smart workflows and conditional logic. And look at processes end-to-end instead of in a series of segments. Super-slick silos are still silos, and stitching processes together leaves gaps at the seams.
Since reliability is paramount, you’ll also want to work redundancy into your flow so important jobs can be moved to a backup printer if needed. This may seem like a downtime catch-22—where working to capacity requires spare capacity—but no one said dreams were easy to nail down.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
You can’t fill the gaps in your workflows if you don’t know they exist. Visibility is everything. So make sure you keep your team in the loop and that everyone who needs it has access to reporting dashboards and other relevant metrics. Set up automatic alerts that immediately notify the right people when something goes wrong, not further down the line when it causes a bottleneck.
Customers need clear visibility of their order too. So keep them up to date with email notifications as part of your web-to-print service. They’ll be happier, and your staff won’t be bogged down on the phones answering customer queries.
Don’t Just Focus on Filling Your Order Book
Before you try to supercharge your operation, take the time to see where the efficiencies and inefficiencies lie. Find your sweet spot—whether it’s a job type such as custom variable or wide format, or a customer type such as small companies in specific verticals.
If you’re on the journey from print service provider to marketing services provider then look for opportunities to process more value-add jobs and cross-media services. This will help to solidify your status as a strategic partner for the long term.
Holy Grail or pipe dream, zero downtime represents a very real ambition to get the most out of your production printing equipment.
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