The world of print operations is changing, and it’s shaking up the traditional challenges print shops used to face.

But many print shops may not understand how the shift to Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions will impact their environment. In this article, based on a recent interview with Begum Walji, Product Marketing Manager at Global Software at Ricoh, we uncover a new era of opportunity as cloud-based systems help you overhaul print job management, automating tasks that were once time-consuming and prone to error.

From malware checks to file conversions and preflight operations, now everything happens at lightning speed, ensuring files are in suitable shape before the printing process begins.

But what makes these SaaS solutions truly transformative for your print shop is their vendor-agnostic nature.

The Limitations of Using Non-Agnostic Technologies

The transition to SaaS solutions from traditional non-agnostic solutions is driven by the limitations of the past.

Traditional print job management solutions often struggle when it comes to handling print jobs from various sources. They all require specific skills and usually aren’t known for being very user-friendly. But in the age of evolving technology, software-as-a-service solutions have become a good way to overcome these challenges.

Actually, they have completely changed the game by simplifying the process. They’re designed to be user-friendly and don’t demand the kind of specialized knowledge needed for more complex softwares like Illustrator or InDesign, their accessibility means that virtually anyone, even those familiar with basic Microsoft applications, can effectively use them.

Another essential in the world of print operations, where web-to-print solutions and management information system tools are common, is having smooth integration. SaaS solutions understand this need and offer an API integration to make sure you can easily receive print jobs from different sources, whether it’s various web-to-print tools or MIS systems.

But the most innovative characteristic of a SaaS, such as RICOH TotalFlow Producer™,  is actually offering a vendor-agnostic solution. This means that it operates independently of specific software, vendor engines, or technologies commonly associated with print shops. This is a big advantage, as it liberates print shop owners from being tethered to particular software applications or hardware vendors.

SaaS is a subscription based software and it offers quite a bit of flexibility with terms Print shop owners can select a plan, try it out for a period of time, and eject if it doesn’t work out. This means you don’t risk a huge capital investment to streamline your operations.

According to Begum, “A lot of the times when you speak with the owners of the shop the initial investment is always a concern. But SaaS is a subscription-based software so there is no initial investment required other than that one subscription.”

The process is simplified through services that handle the initial setup and training to help users become familiar with the system.

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How Vendor-Agnostic SaaS Solutions Solve Traditional Challenges Faced By Print Shops

During COVID, print shops realized they needed to find solutions that could manage operations from anywhere in the world—not just from the PC in the office.

But the thought of moving an entire print operation, complete with heavy hardware and complex setups, was a nightmare.

And on top of that, print shops also were experiencing a decline in tech-savvy experts who could fill in the gaps that exist in a print management process. Not every shop owner has an employee who can jump into Adobe Illustrator and adjust file settings before a job starts.

Cloud-based print management solutions provide simplicity and flexibility, regardless of the vendors you use

Cloud-based solutions provide a more simple and flexible environment for your print shop. A solution like RICOH TotalFlow Producer™ is comparable to using any website, with a simple user interface suitable for professionals without heavy knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite.

But they’re not all about simplicity and flexibility. In fact, RICOH TotalFlow Producer™ is completely vendor-agnostic, providing your print shop a solution that works with any vendor solution you have in place.

Things like checking for malware, converting files, and preflight operations were often manual chores that relied on specific experts, but now, automation takes care of the first malware check, ensuring files are safe and converted to the right format, saving time and preventing conversion issues.

Preflight operations, which used to be slow and manual, are now lightning-fast and automatic. You can check for missing fonts, low-quality images, color space issues, and other challenges in a matter of seconds.

All this reduces the risk of messing up the on-site system, keeping the whole print operation running smoothly.

So, as the print industry keeps changing, cloud-based, vendor-agnostic solutions are becoming more important to your print operations because they offer the flexibility and adaptability from any location.

How to Choose the Right SaaS Approach

Selecting the right solution is no small task. Traditional methods often tied themselves to specific on-site technologies, limiting their flexibility and efficiency. But even some of the more technologically advanced options still remain heavily reliant on specific technologies employed in the print production flow.

And many of them are labeled as SaaS as well, but other than offering cloud-based features, their workflows often necessitate on-site applications, which can lead to disjointed processes and hinder the realization of a true SaaS experience.

As we’ve already mentioned, there are many advantages of a vendor-agnostic SaaS approach in the print industry – but mainly the ability to operate from any location, with nothing more than an internet connection is enough to revolutionize the way print shops function.

The traditional hassle of moving heavy PCs and setting up complex networks is replaced with a seamless, accessible cloud-based experience.

Moreover, being vendor-agnostic means you’re not locked into specific technologies. This adaptability allows for effortless automation, preflight checks, and secure file conversions. These essential features become instantly available, bridging the gaps that are often present in other solutions.

All these elements combined ensure that the print shop of the future is efficient, adaptable, and geared for success, free from the constraints of specific technologies and ground-level workflows.

Begum mentions, ”We’ve made RICOH TotalFlow Producer™ completely vendor agnostic, where we’re not having to rely on engines or technology on the ground.”

The Profound Impact of SaaS Solutions and the Future of In-Plant and Commercial Printing

There is no doubt SaaS solutions are fundamentally changing the landscape of print shops. By automating crucial tasks, they alleviate the burden on print shop personnel, enabling them to streamline their operations and reallocate their time to other important tasks.

This boost in efficiency allows print shops to shift their focus towards other things like marketing their services, thereby attracting more business and expanding their customer base.

Automating a lot of these tasks helps the print shop eliminate the need for manual intervention and let a cloud-based systems take on the role of a silent assistant, per se. This not only saves time but also minimizes costly mistakes that often result in wasted resources.

Looking ahead, the future of in-plant and commercial printing is closely tied to the evolution of SaaS solutions. The customer needs will continue to evolve and so will these solutions that are so committed to staying agile and responsive.

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Begum Walji

Meet the Author

Begum Walji

Begum’s 30+ years in the graphics/prepress/print industry has crafted her well-rounded expertise in a multitude of segments with an emphasis on technology, marketing and multimedia including video/audio production. Starting out in the graphics world in 1985 with the very first Apple computer, her career broadened to positions at Pixar Studios, Adobe, Kimoto Technologies, Silicon Graphics and CGS Publishing in Germany, (makers of Oris software for color management) and Xerox Canada prior to joining Ricoh Canada. After operating her own industry consulting firm for 15+ years, Begum now serves as a Global Software Product Manager for the Ricoh Graphic Communications division of Ricoh.

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