Three Questions to Explore to Build a Data-Driven In-plant in 2020

  • Ryan McAbee
  • |
  • August 31, 2020

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Three Questions to Explore to Build a Data-Driven In-plant in 2020

The last quarter of 2019 is a busy one! There are deadlines, holidays, and a general push to close out activities before the end of the year. This quarter is also a perfect time to begin planning your 2020 initiatives.

This quarter I offer three questions about data to explore for your in-plant to plan for 2020. We'll visit each of these in-depth throughout the year to help keep you on track.

Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends sees data as a critical part of the printing industry's future, so here are three questions to contemplate now before we dig into the specifics of our "Data-driven In-plant" tips series for 2020.

Questions about Your Data to Explore for 2020

  1. What information is critical to the success of your in-plant?
    There are hundreds of decisions made in an in-plant on any given day. Many of those decisions, such as ordering paper, are effortless because an established procedure is being followed. Other decisions, such as adding new equipment, require more examination and diligence. Then there are critical business decisions to support customers and enable growth, such as evaluating new services to add. All these decisions can and should be influenced and based on factual information – data.
  1. Broadly speaking, there are two major types of data in any print shop: financial and operational data. To use a car analogy, the financial data is equivalent to having the resources to put gas in the car, whereas the operational data allows us to control the speed and direction of where the car is headed.

    Each in-plant will have different organizational goals to meet which will influence what financial and operational data are important to collect, measure, and evaluate. Whether the in-plant is set up for profit, cost recovery, or chargebacks to the organization will also influence what key performance indicators (KPIs) are relevant. For instance, profitability would be an important financial measure in for-profit in-plants but of little interest to those set up for only cost recovery. Similarly, an operational measure of administrative costs per order may not be the most important KPI to an in-plant based on cost recovery.

    Take Action: Make a list of financial and operational KPIs used and verify their usefulness for your in-plant today.

  2. How are you collecting critical business information?
    There is a well-established mantra in business circles stating, "you cannot manage what you cannot measure." In fact, without any data collection (the measuring) there are no key performance indicators to guide business decisions. It is important to remember that the type of data to collect is determined by the financial or operational metric that is important to the business. Data collection without a purpose is just time-consuming busy work.

    The frequency, or how often someone needs to review the data, is another critical consideration. Financial information is typically viewed historically or after-the-fact on a monthly or quarterly basis. However, operational information may need to be viewed in real-time so quick adjustments can be made in production.

    Data can be collected manually or automatically depending upon your software, equipment, and staffing mix. Increasingly, data is being provided by Internet-connected equipment via the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) which takes the burden off the operator and also increases the level of accuracy.

  3. Are you able to access and understand critical business information to take action?
    Just as collecting the wrong data is a waste of time, so too is collecting the right data but not being able to put it into action. As the accessibility and volume of data increases, the challenge is shifting toward identifying the important versus unnecessary information and presenting it in a digestible manner based on each user's needs.

About the Author

Ryan McAbee

Ryan McAbee is the Director for Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends' Production Workflow Consulting Service, which helps vendors define their future through consulting, market analysis, research and forecasting. He also works directly with print service providers to improve their operations through workflow audits, based on Workflow Journey Mapping and the Digital Transformation Model of Print Workflows.

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