How Important is Print Shop Visibility for 2020 and Beyond?

Visibility Eye

One of the pain points we hear a lot and see a lot out in the print and digital communications production and delivery market centers around visibility. And no, we aren’t talking about the fog that regularly rolls into southern California. Visibility, as in the ability to know the process that your jobs are taking through your organization, to know where they are at any time throughout that process and the ability to see those status updates from anywhere inside or outside of your facility.

We talk to organizations about this all the time, both clients and prospective ones; we also chat with our partners about this as they are selling new print technology like high-speed roll-fed or cutsheet inkjet presses or perhaps the latest in label or digital print enhancement technology. We then consider the merger and acquisition activities in the printer company landscape and the desire that many printers have to expand their business into new markets, to serve customers they haven’t previously served with products like labels, carton converting and flexo packaging, wide format and more.

It begs the question though, how important is this print shop visibility going into 2020 and looking beyond?

In all reality, if you don’t have visibility or have limited visibility you are still winning business, producing work and delivering it to your customers. Are you paying huge fees for being late because that just isn’t sustainable? Visibility is the root of the problem and how you can identify how important this is for 2020 and beyond. Consider if you do these things regularly in your production operation:

  • Walk to the print or finishing operator to get a job status.
  • Have to go to a computer on the production floor to find a job status.
  • Have a whiteboard that is manually updated for where a job is in your process.
  • Have spreadsheets that manage SLA timing, job scheduling, reprint and ad hoc work production.
  • Walk the floor to get updates from shift supervisors.
  • Discover there is a problem on the production line only after you return from lunch or a meeting.
  • Get a call with a status request on a particular piece in a job and have to call the person back so you can go find it.
  • Wonder if all the damaged pieces really got reprinted and back out into the delivery stream.
  • Call back to the production floor regularly or don’t go home when an important job is being run and needs to go out on time.
  • Need hours to prepare for monthly or quarterly status meetings so you can get the information and data to report to management and executives. Or it could be just for your own use as an owner.

With visibility, we find it isn’t necessarily about the hard costs and managing them like the cost of paper, ink and toner, hardware or software. It is those variable costs of employee labor, production downtimes, reproduction costs and the person hours to track things down on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. Especially, when something goes wrong, the amount of time it takes to understand what happened, come up with a solution, report on it and deliver the fix can mean serious money if not handled efficiently.

We believe this is where an out-of-the-box visibility solution that is responsive, modular and customizable is important. Some people talk about dashboards, but that is just one component of making sure you have the visibility over your print and digital production and delivery. There are several components that can reduce manual touches, employee effort and ultimately make shops run smoother, but you do have to invest in the technology and the process to get them in place. Some of the benefits of a good visibility solution like SOLitrack and SOLitrack Mobile from Solimar Systems include:

  • Tracking of jobs from when they are on-boarded throughout each process in your production line.
  • Tracking not just printers of all types, but also of finishing equipment and other processes that you want to watch, perhaps even input from a print MIS system or web-to-print storefront.
  • An available dashboard that can be used on a large screen, at employee desktops and via a mobile view.
  • Alerts for production issues, non-receipt of jobs, status updates and completion.
  • The ability to find and report on a single piece even when part of a larger or comingled job.
  • Option to let your customers have gated, secured and controlled access so they can view their jobs and their status.

For many, these capabilities, or at least some of them might be in a home-grown solution. Something that has been developed and maintained in-house. As technology and organizations continue to evolve, we find organizations and their people within are looking for solutions that are being continuously developed, maintained and supported without the risk of succession planning and the overhead of internal programming. It allows a group to focus on delivering the best print and digital communications products by using outside expertise, instead of trying to keep up with the latest visibility requirements of the business and the technology required to make it happen.

We invite you to learn more about SOLitrack and how it could change the processes within your organization. The best part is, your print technology provider may also be integrated already with our strong hardware technology partnerships. If you have questions we will illuminate the answers…and we look forward to hearing from you.


Jonathan Malone McGrew

Jonathan Malone-McGrew

Senior Director, Engagement – Solimar Systems

About the Author
With family roots in the print and digital communications space, Jonathan brings an understanding of client and partner environments, technologies and the resulting challenges. Responsible for partner and client engagement, he is always willing to lend his expertise.

For more information, call the Solimar Sales Team at +1.619.849.2800.