With a rich history in various print segments, and now as the Global Senior Product Manager, Ricoh Software and Solutions, Lisa has a unique point of view. Hear what she has to say about the industry and what’s next in the Ricoh Industry Speed Round.
Q – Is print dead?
This has been a question asked for many years. Yes things have changed but I believe print will always be around in some form. Almost every label, tag, package, postcard and even apparel has some form of communications on it. Things are always evolving, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but there is nothing like having a printed book in your hands. I think people are becoming more focused on sustainability so we are changing how we use our resources but I also believe we can take print to new levels with new technology.
Q – What are the key challenges with short-run print jobs?
Short-run print jobs are the norm in today’s fast paced world. The challenge is that print shops use their old legacy tools to continue to handle these jobs, never really grasping how much they are losing in revenue. People are creatures of habit so if everything seems to be working it does not necessarily mean you are successful. Knowing the difference between “this is the way we always have done it” vs. “we need to be better” is critical. Technology is key and applying the right amount of automation for this type of work will go a long way towards success and business growth.
Q – Are commercial printers and transactional printers starting to morph into one of the same?
I believe so. We are seeing a fundamental shift in traditional markets where businesses are taking on more types of work to stay relevant and grow. This means that transactional print shops are adding more commercial and commercial shops continue to add more transactional work. Makes software development more challenging because we have to be prepared with tighter integration capabilities, so our customers can be successful.
Q – Is it possible for commercial printers to be competent in packaging print?
Commercial printers have always dabbled in all kinds of applications including packaging. To be successful with this type of work however you need to have people who understand the process and be willing to invest in the right software and hardware. A lot of commercial shops will do some handwork or outsource the finishing because they can’t do it in-house or will not make that investment.
Q – What are the biggest bottlenecks in the prepress part of the workflow? (or production or output)?
Human touches. It is very hard to get customers to provide print-ready files. Everyone thinks they can design but that is rarely the case. Prepress operators deal with fixing files all day long. Some require less attention than others but when print shops are at their peak seasons it is very time consuming to get it all done. Every file needs to be preflighted to check for issues. If a customer sends native files like InDesign then the prepress people have to produce a print ready PDF. Ensuring that basic needs are met like embedded fonts, image resolution, transparencies, bleed and color space are critical. Imposition and variable are also tasks that prepress may handle which depending on the tools available may be automated or very manual. The goal is to automate some of these tasks so prepress can focus on the jobs which require attention and let the rest process and proceed to production.
Q – What’s the deal with analytics?
For a long time, companies have relied on traditional reporting to gauge business performance which is a static summary of past events that have no judgement or insight added. Interpretation is required, and insight is often subjective. With analytics customers can now explore more of their data in order to extract meaningful insights to improve their business. There are many tools available to help with analytics and these tools can provide recommendations based on your data or suggested actions in order to gain the best results.
Q – If you could ask printers to invest in one thing (ex. Automation, data etc) for 2021, what would it be?
Automation for sure but I think in order to know what to automate printers will need to evaluate where they can get the best bang for their buck. They may need to analyze some data, do workflow mapping to find bottlenecks and come up with a 5-year plan for replacing some aging equipment. It is never easy to invest especially with software but doing some simple analysis can go a long ways to ensure you are investing in the right areas.
Q – How important is third-party integration into your workflow?
Printers often have a mix of vendor software and hardware so 3rd party integration is critical. Vendors don’t often play nice together but they do follow certain standards like JDF so most likely you can leverage industry standards and partner relationships to get it done.
Q – Offset or Digital?
I think there will always be hybrid shops out there. Offset and digital can work well together and many shops have proven that to be true.
Q – Can printers really build a homegrown end to end automated workflow? What are the pros and pitfalls?
I think homegrown used to be what everyone wanted. The control over your own world. Some print shops have come to realize that home grown tools shine when it provides a unique opportunity for their company, but it no longer makes sense to build tools that you can get off the shelf. Hybrid seems to be the new norm and as software gets more sophisticated print shops have realized that building their own end to end is no longer needed or sustainable.
Q – How critical is a workflow assessment?
It is super critical. We often purchase software for specific needs and then end up only using a fraction of what the software is capable of providing. It is also common to have areas in our workflow that create bottlenecks and doing a workflow assessment will allow you to see where these issues are and if you may already have some software that can help. Overall you would gain the knowledge of where to apply more training or to invest in new tools.
Q – Lights out workflow – fact or fiction?
I have seen some print companies that have applied this concept but it does leave people with unease because as humans we do love our control. More often we see hybrid workflows where certain tasks have been fully automated and others require human intervention.
Q – One word to describe print in 2021?
Just for fun:
Q – Favourite TV show? Ozark. So fast paced and exciting all the way through.
Q – Mountains or beach? Being a resident of Boulder, Colorado, mountains for sure.
Q – Superpower? Flying!
Be sure to connect and reach out to Lisa if you have any questions.
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