Improve Your Workflow, Customers Experience, and Value

The value of an in-plant service provider and the sales strategy has changed dramatically. Sales calls used to prominently include equipment lists and descriptions of prepress workflow software. I distinctly remember how salespeople would identify specific prepress systems, presses and finishing equipment as part of the value proposition. Although still used today, the industry leaders recognize that this is less effective marketing to customers who want to know how you provide more value, which is becoming a hot trend called “Improving the customer experience”.

For new and savvy customers, it is more about increasing benefits such as: making it more convenient and faster for them to order, reducing production time and costs, and offering them more shipping options which is often compared to the “Amazon Customer Experience”. In other words, it’s all about your workflow. The question for most printing companies today is “How can we provide more value”, “Improve the Customer Experience” and “Identify, prioritize and cost justify those investments?”. This article is the first in a series that will offer some tips to accomplish those goals.

Lean and Six Sigma

In the simplest terms you start by comparing how things are done currently and how things need to be done in the future how much “bang from the buck” each option will yield. There is a rich history of technologies and jargon that discuss this process in Lean and Six Sigma management strategies. Often this is called value stream mapping to describe the current state and the future state which is based on the idea that you can identify what you do today and remove Muda (Japanese term for waste) in the value stream (workflow).

Like any new technology the terms are more intimidating then the process. In simpler words you simply want to identify each step in the process and how the work flows from one step to the next, which is called your current state. Here is an example of a current state.

Current State



Source: Prisme Technologies

Bottlenecks, Pain Points and Opportunities to Add Value

As you map out the workflow you should think about and look for bottlenecks, pain points and opportunities to add more value. A good workflow reduces bottlenecks, minimizes pain points and helps companies add new products and services that better address their customer’s changing needs.

Print production workflows are linear, meaning that you can’t move to the next step until the previous step is complete. All workflows have bottlenecks, which is where demand exceeds capacity and work piles up (work in process) before that step. As documented in the bestselling book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Goldratt and Cox, production bottlenecks determine overall throughput. Find your largest bottleneck, increase the throughput through that bottleneck, and the productivity for the entire company increases.

Pain points are manual and time-consuming steps. Pain points can be redundant and error prone such as handwriting the same information on several different paper forms or re-inputting specifications for a job into the estimating system as well as a job ticketing system. Last but not least, a good workflow can facilitate the creation of higher value products or services such as design services, large format output, as well as web-based services.

Again, it sounds intimidating but its not. In simpler terms as you map out your workflow look for piles of work because they are bottlenecks. The bigger the pile the bigger the bottleneck. When mistakes are made that creates rework and wasted time and money. You have to identify the root cause. Often the root cause is the result of a pain point. For example, early in the print production process are several pain points. One example is rewriting the same specifications on the estimates, job tickets, and billing forms. A web to print solution can eliminate that problem.

Last but not least as you discover bottlenecks and pain points also keep in mind additional value-added products. In other words when you overcome the bottlenecks and pain points can these same solution support new products and services. For example, can this new system also helps streamline large format work and stationery.



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Howie Fenton is an independent consultant focusing on measuring and bench marking performance. An international presenter and trusted adviser, he helps companies use best practices and workflow strategies to streamline operations. For more information visit

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