There is no doubt that 2020 accelerated the need for businesses to adapt and be resilient like never before. And for many, we learned that the ability to quickly respond to unpredictable circumstances is only made possible to the extent that we can use our data to be agile and flexible.  After a year of upheaval and lessons learned, there’s no better time than now to intentionally uncover existing data in every area of your business and use it to drive efficiencies and better margins.

Use the data you already collect

Most industry experts will tell you that in order to stay in business, you need to collect more data. This is true in the sense that we can never stop collecting data – but in most print production environments today, plenty of data already exists. Perhaps it’s the bi-product of the Deming effect or the rise of Microsoft tools from the ‘90s, but today’s average business owner  possesses countless formulas, dashboards and sheets. The key then, isn’t to collect more data ­– but to ensure you are intentionally using the data you already have to drive out inefficiencies in operations, sales, warehousing, and manufacturing. Even at the individual contributor level, you can use data more effectively to highlight success or areas for improvement.

Blend intuition with intention

A good place to start looking for inefficiencies is at the intersection of intuition and intention. At the intuitive level, there’s always a little gut checking involved in running a successful business. In the back of our minds, there’s a sense we can squeak out more productivity from our mother-in-law in bindery or Paul’s cousin on the inkjet press. Maybe we also know that with better workflows, we could reduce the need for an operator’s alternating shift schedule.

The intentional part of the intersection is documenting exactly how data flows through your organization so that you have the information needed to inform the business processes that guide pricing and planning. This enables you to make intellectual decisions to optimize your investments. It also ensures that remote and onsite workers have a clear view of the workflows they manage. When you collect data from the shop floor, as an example, it exposes the current state of production, available capacity, and bottlenecks. Collecting that data consistently at every touchpoint and feeding that data into the workflow results in usable dashboards that keep everyone informed.

In general, using the data you already have is the best way to create optimized workflows, smart processes, and ultimately, better margins on what you print.

Steps to get started

  1. Take note of the areas in your business that you intuitively know are ripe for efficiency improvements.
  2. Conduct a workflow assessment (track a print job’s journey from intake to delivery).
  3. Address the low hanging fruit. Now that you have a workflow assessment, identify the areas within that workflow where you already have data (ie: job tracking off of a finishing device).
  4. Analyze the data with the goal of introducing efficiencies.
  5. Implement process or tool changes slowly and methodically (think linear: one implementation step at a time).
  6. Review the changes monthly against the original assessment to intentionally understand the impact of those changes.
  7. Don’t be afraid to experiment – change (even led by data) takes time to grab hold and doesn’t always yield an instant result.

Intuitively you know that to make 2021 your best year, you need to act intentionally on your data to provide more insight into where to optimize. With what you already collect today, what does your data say about the efficiency of your workflows? Consider how you are using your data and your tools to develop smart automation and optimization. In an upcoming blog, I’ll discuss workflow assessments in greater detail as well as uncover common areas where data is hiding in plain sight.

Want to learn more? Be sure to reach connect and reach out to Roger.

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Barb Willans

Meet the Author

Barb Willans


Business Management
Data-Driven Decision Making
Print Production

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