Thursday, 13 Jul 2017 14:04 GMT

Workflow Software

Want a better idea of the going’s on in your business? Jo Golding finds out how workflow software is the key to cutting costs and building a reliable print company

Go with the flow

Workflow software is important for many reasons. It can prevent production errors, provide that all-important automation, and give the user more control over the entire process. If you are part of a printing company that does not currently use workflow software, you may wonder what the benefits are and if it is worth the investment. That is why I have asked the experts who their software is ideal for.

JDF and MIS prepress integration technician of Agfa Graphics, Russell Sheff, explains which print companies its solution Apogee is suitable for: “Our software is ideal for all printing companies wishing to keep at the forefront of an ever fast-paced and quality driven market.

Agfa Graphics’ Asanti workflow software is an automated sign and display production hub

“The software can be tailored to suit each individual company. One look at the Apogee workflow and companies will soon be able to see the benefits it would bring to their business, from keeping an overview of their pdf files using Apogee Preflight to calculating the ideal imposition with Apogee Impose, not to mention saving on ink costs and expensive press time using Apogee Ink Save, the benefits are there for all to see.

“Agfa’s Apogee software saves both time and money by automating various processes throughout the workflow, freeing up time and capacity and making the process seem effortless to your clients.”

Sheff explains the key features of Agfa’s prepress software Apogee: “Apogee Impose is a rules-based system for creating imposed jobs quickly and efficiently. The parts and pages are assembled automatically based on a number of rules that are specific to the production environment. Alternatively, you can create or edit impositions manually giving you ultimate flexibility.

“Another key feature is Apogee’s Web Approval. This expands the Apogee prepress workflow with a web portal for online collaboration, it enables both clients and team members to access jobs from their desktop computer or mobile device. Files can be uploaded, reviewed and approved or rejected at the click of a button. Clients get 24/7 access to their jobs, which not only improves customer satisfaction, but also helps to avoid mistakes and costly reprints.

“Finally, Apogee Automate is another great feature that enables MIS systems to talk directly to Apogee using JDF. Prepress tasks are defined and jobs are automatically processed. The tracking of job progress and related costs is communicated using JMF back into the MIS system reporting, for instance, the number of page revisions, proofs or plates that have been made at any time.

“Apogee Integrate adapts easily and economically to match any of your functionality throughput needs. It can be scaled to a multi-platform workhorse, even above four platforms. For maximum efficiency, reliability and availability, Apogee Integrate supports VMWare virtualisation software.”

He goes on to highlight flexibility, reliability, and automation as the biggest advantages printing companies will experience when using Apogee. He adds: “Flexible in that we can adapt our software to meet your needs as a business and of that of your clients, having systems that are robust and reliable gives you the user and the client the confidence to build your system the way you want it to suit the needs of every job you create.”

In terms of automation, the system can automatically create jobs and proof the pages to the client even to mobiles, making it easy to approve on the go. Sheff believes, without this software, it is difficult to achieve consistent results and allow your business to grow.

He concludes: “Technology is changing all the time to the needs and benefits of the client to achieve better and faster results. Technology also allows you, the printer, to keep ahead of your competition and provide support to your clients’ ever-changing needs. With speed to market and quality being at the forefront of most business modules, having a workflow that allows you, the printer, to achieve this is essential for growth and increased profit margins plus customer satisfaction, which remains key to any business.

“Without a software solution, mistakes can be time consuming and costly. An Apogee workflow for instance can be easily implemented to your business needs and with automation and a system you can rely on, Agfa would be able to support any business every step of the way.”

Without a software solution, mistakes can be time consuming and costly

Celebrating software

Demonstrating the longevity of software solutions, SA International (SAi) is celebrating an exciting milestone this year. Marc Hermans, director of sales, EMEA at SAi, explains: “We offer a complete solution for sign and print providers, for sign-specific design tools, RIP and print, print-and-cut, and direct vinyl cutting. We are celebrating 25 years of our flagship product, Flexi, this year, which is quite a milestone for us.”

SAi celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Flexi software at FESPA this year

The company’s software is ideal for small- to medium-sized companies with two or three printers, one or two cutters, and perhaps a router too. However, Hermans does add that some customers run around ten printers.

He comments on the benefits of using Flexi software: “With a lot of devices, software comes bundled in the box.

O Factoid: Software solutions provider SAi has a network of resellers around the world with more than 100,000 customers in more than 50 countries. O

Our SAi Flexi Print software is now bundled with the new HP Latex 310 and 330 printers. If you look at the mixed manufacturing environment where a company may have a Roland, Mimaki, and more, you may receive several different software solutions. It makes it much more efficient and productive to look for software that unifies your equipment. With SAi, you can get access to over 1,400 printer drivers, organised by make and model that can be downloaded easily onto your computer.”

Marc Hermans, director of sales, EMEA at SAi says it is more “efficient and productive to look for software that unifies your equipment”

SAi prides itself on its useful payments models, offering a subscription-based model to its customers. Hermans adds: “For £40 a month you can get access to all the features and functions we have, that’s the same amount many would pay for their mobile phones. It is an interesting economical model for our customers.”

In the know

For Imprint-MIS, the question of which printing companies its software is ideal for is simple, according to the company’s sales and marketing director, Wayne Beckett. He says: “Our software is ideal for any businesses that want to better understand what’s going on within their business. If you already know exactly how much you are making on every job and you are 100 percent confident on the efficiencies of the shop floor, from pre-press to despatch, then you don’t need Imprint-MIS, or any other MIS.”

Imprint-MIS’ Wayne Beckett says “today, automation is everything”

Beckett says there are many advantages of using Imprint-MIS, with “total visibility” being one of them. He continues: “Whether it’s a simple case of being able to see all communication with a specific customer or prospect through our CRM system, or being able to see where a specific job is in the production process. This can all be done whilst sitting at your desk or through our online system whilst you are out of the office.

“Today, automation is everything. No re-keying of information. Once the estimate has been raised and the job has been confirmed all the information is on the system—purely by changing job statuses from conversion of estimate right through to the sending of the invoice, provides job tracking with a simple click of a button, touch of a screen or scan of a barcode.”

Beckett also highlights Imprint’s full job costing system as a useful feature, which collects actual job costs through JDF/JMF, its Sentinel Net machine monitoring, and its Shop Floor Data Collection system, then compares them to estimated. This means users do not have to estimate a job and then guesstimate the profit. The accurate job profitability can be reported daily, weekly, or monthly.

He adds: “System integration is also becoming more important—more and more of our customers want Imprint to talk to other systems as well as their presses and finishing equipment. Imprint developers are constantly creating API’s that do exactly that. Free flowing data around the shop floor into Imprint means less time is required by operators to enter data as live data is automatically sent to Imprint—this gives far more accurate costing data and can also supply other important information like Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) reports that can help for better production planning.”

Beckett continues: “Our market is diverse and we appreciate that. This is why Imprint offers dedicated systems. Whether you are a commercial printer, print finisher, packaging company or a direct mail house, one size doesn’t fit all. Over the last 38 years Imprint has developed dedicated systems that meet the needs of the specific market.
Dedicated estimating, job bags and production planning are designed specifically for these markets.”

Beckett says the main goal is always to get your workflow software and MIS to talk, calling total integration “nirvana”. He adds: “We currently have customers at different stages of integration, some have made great advances in the prepress department,  while others have their print engines fully integrated. And in a few customers, we have also integrated with their folders and other finishing equipment. We are working with OEMS to drive this level of integration and are fully involved in CIP4, who are the driving force behind Job Definition Format (JDF) and Job Messaging Format (JMF) integration.”

Business hub

EFI is another major name in software, with its solutions ideal for the print industry, in sectors such as commercial printing, direct mail, digital print, and offset print. Renee Hesseling, product marketing manager, SMB at EFI, explains workflow automation’s ability to reduce touchpoints as key to reducing cost and time of production.

Renee Hesseling from EFI says print software can make what previously took hours, take minutes

Another advantage is mobile access, which gives the ability to access production information from anywhere, as the system is browser-based.

Hesseling describes it as a “central warehouse for all business information”, adding: “Seamless communication with other EFI solutions enables all pieces of software to be talking the same language. This reduces manual data entry errors and allows for automatic data sharing.”

Hesseling gives her own advice to those managing without a workflow software currently about the importance of complementing print equipment with software: “When you have print management software that is designed specifically for your industry you are able to take your production closer to a ‘lights out’ environment.

“Every time a piece is printed, the more a human has to touch the job, the more it costs. Print specific software allows information to flow seamlessly through production, reducing costs, reducing human errors, allowing faster throughput, and ultimately helping achieve a better profit margin. What previously took hours, can be reduced to minutes with the right software workflow.”

So, the benefits are clear to see. Better automation means savings in cost and time, keeping your business ahead of the competition. So, if you want to understand your business better, it is surely worth the investment.

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