Following my earlier article on Industrie 4.0 and the benefits of Simultaneous Engineering, I was interested to see that the print industry has been one of the quickest adopters and one which has taken the concept furthest.
The print industry is under great pressure to provide its customers with short lead times, right first time quality and highly competitive costing. The application of Web to Print software is Simultaneous Engineering taken to a new level.
Web to print provides the customer with a web interface where they can develop their own products on line, load their own graphics files, see how the products will look , receive a quote and order on line. The entire pre-sales process of product definition, commercial negotiation and order has been reduced from weeks to 30 minutes or less.
The key element in web to print software is the inclusion of templates which encourage the customers to adapt their designs to standards which are optimized according to the printers particular process. For example format sizes, adapted to the printers production lines, or choice of paper grades according to those most commonly used.
During the process, help screens and comments can help the customer improve their design, for example by indicating the minimum resolution of graphics files to provide optimum results. Furthermore the fact that the customer can see the results on-line in their browser means that design issues are usually picked up and rectified immediately.
On a commercial level, customers value the transparency and speed of the process, they can be presented with a range of prices different design options and size print runs so that no time wasted in the commercial process.
Greater speed to order
Greater price transparency
Improved design quality owing to instant feedback
Reduced time spent on commercial process
Greater standardization of formats and materials
This does not mean that web to print eliminates the need for human involvement. Many customers will continue to need a greater degree of personalization than web to print can currently offer, or simply appreciate the human contact of the traditional approach. However no company can ignore the great convergence between physical and digital worlds, and in few industries is this more relevant than the print industry.