Curves Ahead: Managing Speed to Market

Contributed by Terry Gill

As a kid, I was fascinated with cars.  I can remember sitting in the back seat of my fathers Chevy studying each passing car, memorizing its name, shape and sound.  I’d then test myself on long rides to guess the make and model of on-coming traffic.

Like most boys, I was interested in how fast each car could go and looked to the speedometer as an indicator for performance.  It was years before my Dad explained that top speed was just one aspect of a cars total performance.  Going fast in a straight line is great as long as you never encountered a curve.

This is a great metaphor for how we consider the speed to market advantages digital print advertises.  It’s not a straight line – curves are inevitable.

A critical part of the overall speed equation is the output device or print engine, but it’s not the only thing to consider.   The content management framework is ultimately the best indicator of overall speed.

If you can’t effectively manage the creation, editing and archiving of your marketing assets, how fast it gets printed is the least of your concerns.  There is little doubt that the sheer complexity of this part of the solution is tougher to solve for than a fast print engine.

Of the several pre-packaged content management solutions on the market, many of them feature robust digital asset management features and some provide trafficking and proofing options.  Unfortunately, few contemplate the need to tie all of these functions together.  Like curves in the road, changes inevitably affect the path of any document.  The real power lies of any content management system lies in providing the user the ability to customize the workflow for their business needs.  This kind of flexibility allows companies to remain competitive and adaptive.

In SKU or document intensive marketing environments, advanced search and editing is the most critical feature set to consider.   After all, I can’t print it until I can find and update every version that contains a particular word phrase or graphic.

If you’re seriously considering a digital workflow for its potential speed to market advantages, be sure to think through the entire solution, curves and all.  Let’s face it – if the markets that are most ideally suited to leverage the advantages of digital print were all straight lines things would be much simpler, and ultimately, less profitable.

How have you prepared for the curves ahead?

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It’s About Time

Contributed by Ted Hagler

It’s 5am and the alarm goes off.  Today is the big day!  Not the day we put our “large  sheet” digital press on the floor, no, today is the day we take one of our “large 40 inch security blankets” off the floor.  Today a crew is coming to Fetter to remove a litho press we bought over twenty years ago.

Why the change?  It’s about time.

In this new world of complexity, high quality and mass customization, this well-built, carefully engineered, lithographic press has become obsolete due to time; the time it takes to set up one job.

In this world, job quantities are reducing and job diversity is proliferating.  Fetter recognizes the need to change jobs quickly and often.    In the time it takes to set up a job on the old 40 inch litho press, we could have the job complete on the new digital press.  Because time is typically money in the press room, the time we save with digital translates into lower waste and increased yield.

Arrival time.

For Fetter this transition process started over two years ago with an exploratory investigation into the needs of our label customers, moved into the building of one of the most comprehensive cost-analyzing databases and culminated into the testing of four very different digital presses and three of the latest sheet-fed  lithographic presses.  It involved labor changes, space consideration, process change and customer cooperation.

Time for change.

From a business operations standpoint we were able to quickly adapt many of the same quality requirements, productivity goals and job specifications from our current system.  This was a plus considering the additional time and cost it could have taken to change numerous practices and measurements at the same time we were asking so many employees to learn a new technology.  Another benefit was our ability to support this digital press with all the same finishing equipment we already had – and that our customers were comfortable with this tactic.  The finishing connection is significant because some digital presses force you to have different finishing equipment and processes, when coupled with the change in printing, creates additional stress in the plant and with our customers.

Remember, it’s all about time!

We are in the beginning of our second month of experiencing the dynamic capabilities of our new NexPress and the positive impact it is having on our plant.  Time will tell, but all indications point to exceeding our time efficiency expectations while delivering the product our customers need to succeed.

How is digital print changing the delivery of your products?

The Demand for On Demand

Contributed by Terry Gill

Output agnostic. That’s where I’d like to start this conversation. It’s a concept we’ve been knocking around for several years as we’ve watched the incredible pace of change inside the marketing communications and business solutions marketplace.

As a company, we want to establish mindset where the output is whatever it needs to be. It can be determined by economics, risk factors, consumer preference or some other determinant, but we are to have zero bias. It may need to deliver from a very large piece of iron, the latest digital press or it may simply remain in its digital state as PDF.

Our role is to ensure the output choice isn’t influencing how we chose to manage the content. Think of it as the antithesis of the well-worn “Begin with the end in mind” approach. It’s beginning without worrying about what comes at the end. It’s really a freeing and powerful concept, but requires a different philosophy.

To really embrace and live out this concept you have to choose a different path. Its one where the value proposition isn’t defined by size, number or speed of our output devices; those are things that are easy to understand and exploit. They are linear and scalable. They plug in.

Marrying smartly designed and functional web facing content management tools with an output agnostic business model creates a new kind of value. And for those souls who live inside business climates that are heavily regulated, this new way can be more than just a means of surviving. Will this become a real competitive advantage or at least a fair fight?