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This quarter, Keypoint Intelligence - InfoTrends' Ryan McAbee, Director, Production Workflow offers three tips for workflow resolutions to make in 2019. We'll visit each of these in-depth throughout the year to help keep you on track.
Start this new year off right with an efficient workflow!
Three Workflow Resolutions for 2019
- Automate three tasks. It's not hard to find opportunities to automate your workflow. Finding bottlenecks is as simple as asking your staff what currently takes too much time and effort or to identify areas that they know need improving. Just be prepared for a long list to quickly come back.
Prioritize and rank the list of challenges by the following criteria:
- Expected benefit (good, better, best)
- Resources required to fix (light, medium, heavy)
- Time needed to implement (quick, near-term, long-term)
Automation requires a change in mindset and attitude. You need a "quick win" to psychologically boost the enthusiasm and bring others onboard to continue the automation path, so start with the item that is quickest to implement. Remember that automation does not have to be elaborate or difficult. For example, using hotfolders (a folder that kicks off additional processing when a file is received) is often overlooked as the starting point to automate in your prepress workflow or at the DFE.
Still unsure where to start? Job submission, file preparation, and proofing are some of the most common bottlenecks found in research by Keypoint Intelligence - InfoTrends. Are there better ways to capture the customer's request? Is there a streamlined method to receive customer files? Are you checking files manually or using preflighting software? Can you send electronic proofs for customers to review and approve? These are areas ripe for further automation.
- Remove the process loops. What happens when you are late to an appointment and hit road construction that forces a detour on your drive? You probably get frustrated and it always takes more time than the original route. Those same things happen in process loops. Process loops are manual tasks added to existing workflows due to bad processes, lack of training, poor tools, and sometimes a lack of oversight. Just like road detours, process loops are usually created out of frustration and add more time, and labor hours. Unlike bottlenecks, process loops are often hiding in the shadows and require some investigative detective work to flush out. Here are a few examples:
- Sales reps that create their own "customer friendly" quote instead of using the one generated by your software system.
- Customer service representatives that track customer inquiries in their personal spreadsheets instead of using a CRM.
- Estimators changing costs on every job instead of updating the cost structure in underlying software configuration.
Employees often create their own process loops with the best intentions, so they can "get the work done." Often these are built using general purpose tools like Microsoft Office, which takes us to our third tip.
- Eliminate general purpose software for critical tasks (or at least move them to the cloud). General purpose tools are a bit like a Swiss Army knife – it might have a saw, but would you really use it to cut down a tree? Probably not. The same is true for general purpose software like Microsoft Office. A software program like Excel is generally easy to use and allows you to build a generic tool to suit your needs, which is why it is often used as a crutch to prop up larger issues. Spreadsheets are commonly used for to-do lists, to track job status, schedule work, and create estimates.
These generic tools are landmines lying in wait to blow up your workflow. Why? Typically, the person who created the tools is the only one who can update or even use it. The tool resides in one location and can only be used by one person at a time, so there is no collaboration or simultaneous updating. There is no lasting record or reliable revision history, so users can make mistakes that are not obvious at first. These types of tools often lack standard ways to integrate with other software which creates an information silo.
If you have purpose-built tools, such as a Web to print for job submission and instant estimates, then use them! If you do not have a purpose-built tool, then find one that suits your needs. At minimum, put your spreadsheets and critical information in a cloud solution like Dropbox where there is a minimum level of backup, collaboration, and revision history.
These are three tips for resolutions that will get you off to a productive start in 2019! Just remember that making your workflow work is an iterative process that requires consistent adjustments. Once you build momentum and the willingness to change permeates your shop, the more opportunities you'll find and the easier the process for improvement becomes.
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For additional tips or to discuss how you can implement and benefit from these three tips.