Why Assess Your Print Shop?
Guest Post: Pat McGrew, McGrewGroup, Inc. and The Print University
The print industry is filled to the brim with subject matter experts who know the intricacies of the hardware and software used to turn ideas into print products. These people are essential to taking creative designs through the processes needed to deliver the signs, banners, brochures, books, marketing mail, and regulated mail to the markets they serve. In a typical print shop, these experts keep an eye on processes and adjust to ensure that jobs continue to flow as new hardware and software are brought to the production floor, but over time those adjustments may stop serving their intended purpose.
There are practical business implications when processes lose their effectiveness. You lose the ability to process work promptly to maximize your machine capacity. You begin to lose track of chargeable change requests. Tasks take longer to perform because the tools in use are no longer in sync with the work in process. New bottlenecks emerge that result in more mistakes, job rework, and waste. Every process inefficiency directly impacts the profit on every job. Eventually, the estimates and quotes lose accuracy, putting the business at risk.
How to rationalize an assessment project
The idea of an assessment can be daunting. Staff worry that fingers will be pointed in their direction. Will their jobs disappear? Will they be asked to do more? There are so many questions! So, before putting the idea of an assessment on the table with the team, look at the business to build the case for why knowing more about the business will benefit everyone.
Start with the business basics!
Management usually has a gut feeling about where the problems exist. Back those assumptions up by pulling data and reports from your inventory management, ERP, print MIS, or back office accounting software. Look for reports that show print revenues by job type, current machine operating costs, software license costs, building operations, labor costs, waste volumes, averages for missed deadlines, discounts not accounted for in estimates, and refunds. You aren’t looking for a deep dive but a few points that reinforce the need for an assessment.
If your business lacks that degree of integration, you can still look for data to help you. Start with your business systems, like your accounting package, for the hard costs attributable to your machines, licenses, rent and utilities, taxes, and insurance. You may be able to pull out inventory and consumable costs, labor costs, discounts, and commission costs. Your production environment, even if you do not have a print MIS, may contain clues to missed deadlines, rework, and waste.
You are looking for trends. If possible, pull data by quarter for the last year. With this data in hand, look for the things that seem odd. Does your waste look out of sync with production volumes? Do discount rates seem too high? Are there products that are sold at a loss? Is there evidence that there is a difference between estimates and actuals that warrant further investigation?
If you answer affirmatively to any of these questions, you can make a case to your staff that an assessment of the current processes, tasks, labor divisions, machines, and software will benefit them and the future success of the operation.
Building the Case
It may seem odd to expose the business processes to the production staff, but in most cases, they already have a sense of how well the business is doing or when there are challenges. To create an atmosphere for a successful assessment, share the learnings from the quick review of your data. Create an executive mandate that describes the value of looking inward:
- Identifying areas where costs can be reduced.
- Identifying areas where waste can be reduced.
- Improving efficiency and productivity by rightsizing and fully utilizing hardware and software.
- Identifying work that has left the business and gaps in capabilities.
- Identifying automation opportunities to speed production and increase capacity in the current footprint.
- Staying competitive!
That last point is crucial to convey. The health of the business is tied to its ability to produce the work clients want to buy. In today’s market, that is a moving target. The companies that survive are those that can be flexible to changing demands while delivering to ever tighter deadlines. For most print shops, that means finding a path to automating as many of the processes as possible, creating opportunities for customers to self-service requests, and offering value-add services on the path to nurturing clients.
Before the end of this quarter, lay the groundwork for an assessment. It will lead to a deeper understanding of your options and prepare you for the future.
Pat McGrew helps companies perform better. As Managing Director for McGrewGroup, Inc., she promotes Best Practices for your Business using her 30+ years of experience as a software company owner, marketer, analyst, industry evangelist, and consultant to enable business growth. She assesses workflow and bizflow effectiveness, and develops strategies and triage engagements for products, services, and businesses. Pat covers print and customer communication channels for data-driven and static marketing, transaction, packaging, label, and commercial print with experience in offset, inkjet, and toner. An experienced professional speaker and facilitator, she is the author of 8 books, the editor of the Xplor EDBOK, a regular industry content contributor, host of #PrintSampleTV, and co-host of #ThePrintReport. She is co-proprietor of ThePrintUniversity.com, a new education initiative. Pat is certified as a Lifetime Master Electronic Document Professional by Xplor, as a Print Buyer for Variable Print by PCPI, and as a Color Management Professional (CMP), CMP Digital, and BrandQ Professional by IDEAlliance. Find Pat on Twitter as @PatMcGrew and on LinkedIn.
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