How automation can save waste and missed deadlines

Apr 05, 2024 at 09:52 am by admin

Automation can be the lubricant that eases points of friction caused by people and materials.

That’s the advice of McGrewGroup managing director Pat McGrew in the latest of DRUPA’s ‘Essentials of Print’ series.

And while the piece is focussed on commercial print production, some of the advice will have value for newspaper production… in print, and maybe further upstream.

“Automating workflows is the core of the future of all manufacturing, but the results can be dramatic for print manufacturing,” she says.

Top of a list of ten steps to plan for automation, she advocates making a list of your production workflows and the workflows that touch them., ontinuing with identifying who is responsible for the architecture of each workflow, who solves the bottlenecks, and where they intersect, and how change requests are managed.

Urging automation to eliminate friction, she points to “three fundamental reasons to spend the time and money to implement and tune automation”, reducing time to onboard work, make a job ready, and reduce production time. The recipe for production has time elements, but also people and tasks – count the manual steps and the loops in those tasks that extend the time to completion, and the tools in use officially and covertly, she urges.

“These three reductions open the door to less waste, fewer missed deadlines, more efficient production, and higher profit margins.”

She warns that people are inconsistent and cause friction. “They may be wonderful teammates and enthusiastic workers, but that is not the same as repeating the same tasks daily with reliable precision. They are not robots, but that is what you need – software robots that execute repeatable and auditable tasks in a manner that is predictable and auditable,” she says.

McGrew (pictured) urges using data to understand where staff members spend their time, how long tasks take, and how many loops they make. “Most shops don’t track their teams by the minute, so consider a quick survey to see what they think takes the most time in their day and the sources of frustration,” she says.

Paper and consumables also cause friction, and she urges taking stock of everything you keep in inventory and your replenishment rates.

More from McGrew:

Deploy automation as the lubricant – Preparing for the future demand’s efficiency and optimisation of every process. Islands of automation linked by manual processes is not a best practice. End-to-end workflow automation is the path to follow. Follow the Crawl-Walk-Run rule!

If you have islands of automation, begin by reviewing those automation tools and the manual processes that link them. Review your installed software solutions.

McGrew says automation is not magic, but takes a well-defined plan that is transparent. “It takes executive sponsorship and team leadership. It is part art and part science.

“Automation requires calming the fears of employees that their jobs may be eliminated. It requires a different type of conversation with the current array of software vendors. But if you do your assessment and have those conversations, the waste reduction, production efficiencies, and customer satisfaction that result can change the trajectory of the company,” she says.

• See the complete article here.


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