The print industry is constantly changing
Print is a vibrant and constantly evolving sector. Over the past years we have seen a number of new trends in our industry. Two of the most interesting have been workflow and 3D printing.
Workflow used to be thought of as a way to run printing and finishing efficiently. Now things have changed and the emphasis has moved to integrating customer communications and pre-production into an automated workflow. The aim is to make low cost small print jobs profitable to produce.
3D printing has also come of age. From being a niche market technology it is now a firmly established production process. The challenge is for printing companies to make this into an accepted offering alongside more traditional print products.
So what’s next?
We have gazed into our crystal ball. We have talked to the development teams at a number of our suppliers. Here are three technologies that we think might have a significant impact on the printing industry over the coming years.
We have seen one of these starting to progress already. We would be surprised if we did not see signs of one of the others very soon. And the last one is something that we think has interesting potential, although we haven’t heard of any development work on it – yet… We will leave you to work out which description you think should apply to each technology!
The first new technology takes us back to workflow. We believe that there is a new level of workflow to come.
Intelligent workflow scheduling and client reminders
We see two developments at the front end of workflow technology. Firstly, we believe that workflow will become more intelligent. It will start to work out the most efficient way of production for printing companies. So it will create a job schedule that takes into account:
- job delivery
- efficient use of finishing equipment
- minimum manual interventions on machines such as ink and paper changes
For instance, we think systems will work out that there are a significant amount of A5 brochures to be delivered in three days’ time. It will hold the production of jobs where pdfs are ready until all the relevant jobs are in. This means that there will only be one set-up on the booklet maker. It will also make manual packing more efficient.
This sounds great in theory, but customers have a habit of breaking schedules! That’s where we see the next development in workflow. Workflows will start to communicate with customers directly and reschedule live as they receive more up to date information. Naturally, a production team will also be able to update jobs. However, we think that the task of manually scheduling may quickly disappear. This may also be aided by the second new technology that we see coming.
We see voice technology coming to print production before too long. This can apply to customers and production teams at printing companies. For both customer and supplier voice technology has the ability to significantly speed up the ordering process. Keyboard entry is slow and has the ability for errors. Voice technology is now becoming very accurate and intelligent, as well as being a speedy way to communicate data.
Voice recognition also has the ability to limit instructions to recognised voices. It adds an extra level of security to the ordering process.
In time we may also use voice technology at press level. An operator will simply instruct a machine to change inks or prepare parts for replacement. The control panel element of tasks like these will become obsolete. These sorts of tasks may also be made more efficient by the next technology that we see being introduced.
Robotics is not as new a technology as you might think. Some offset web plants were using robotic pallet packing and robotic transportation systems around twenty years ago! However, there are definitely more opportunities for the printing industry now that robots have become so much smaller.
We definitely see opportunities in loading flatbed presses. We also see potential to automate the packing process, especially where significant manual handling is involved at the moment. Many printing industry suppliers offer some sort of fulfilment. The pick and pack area is ripe for automation through robotics.
Finally, we see the use of robotics by presses. This might include paper handling as well as changing ink cartridges and service interventions.
So when will these developments happen?
The honest answer is we don’t know! These developments are our best guess at what might happen in our industry over the coming years. Our predictions may come true. Or these ideas may be overtaken by new developments and technologies. We are certainly looking forward to seeing what we may be able to offer our clients in the future.
What developments and changes do you see coming to the printing industry?
We would love to hear your thoughts and predictions. Please share them in the comments section below.