By Glyn Williams, Professional Print Channel Manager - Public and Private, at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd
If you asked someone outside the print industry what they think of when you mention ‘Professional Print’, I suspect they would envisage flashy graphic design, perhaps large posters or striking signage that catches the public eye. Naturally, anyone working in print knows that it is a lot more complicated and diverse than that narrow view of commercial print, and I would go as far as to say corporate and public sector print are the unsung heroes of professional printing.
I am privileged to work with these industry stalwarts in my role at Konica Minolta, not only assisting with their technology needs but also having a window into their professional lives and the state of play in the market. Despite the challenges we have all faced recently (COVID, Brexit, and the ongoing cost-of-living issues) and their effects on the print industry, I can see that, on balance, the role of in-plant printing and the CRD (Central Reprographic Department) within many organisations has strengthened rather than decreased.
The lockdown restrictions were undoubtedly a strange time for in-house printing, just as much as everyone else. On the one hand businesses were having to close their facilities and have their employees work from home (and of course many were furloughed with government assistance), but at the same time for some businesses this meant that centralised print facilities were inundated with jobs from remote workers – something which has seen many of these thrive in the age of hybrid working too.
Following furlough (and sometimes unfortunately redundancies), some professional print workers have chosen to retire early or to move to other sectors/jobs. Combined with the consequences of Brexit movement restrictions and a lack in the numbers of trained professionals coming up from education or apprenticeships, I am often hearing about a noticeable shortfall of UK print professionals to support the needs of the industry.
The upshot is that the CRD/print departments in many organisations are having to do more with less people resources as businesses return to pre-pandemic work levels. The conclusion many businesses are coming to is that automation is the way forward and speaking as a technology specialist in this area, I would wholeheartedly agree. This is an area of expertise that Konica Minolta specialises in, and we have a comprehensive range of solutions that address this need to do more with less.
We offer all manner of tools to help in-house print teams to better utilise their time and energy, including automated in-line finishing (for example booklet makers), the Konica Minolta TU Trimmer Units (which cut the job to size automatically following the print process) and our industry-leading IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Care Unit, which automates the quality management with smart, powerful and automated adjustments for image position, registration and 100% accurate colour control. These solutions all help to lessen the manual activities involved with print, enabling the team to concentrate on delivering more high-quality jobs.
Along with hardware solutions, naturally software and workflow are the other half of the equation. The Konica Minolta AccurioPro Flux software for example is designed to help print providers to optimise output by automating recurring tasks and centralising the control of all the production machines for better efficiency. It saves time and automates error-prone repetitive tasks, such as arranging several pages on a sheet. Operators only need to set up templates once and can reuse the prepress work again and again. You can organise your print production in the most efficient and least costly way and always using the best-suited output device for the production of each job. Late job editing allows you to make last-minute changes to the settings moments before the job goes to production, and thanks to real-time preview, you'll immediately see any changes made. Imagine what manual print specialists of only a few years ago would make of those benefits!
These automated solutions love repetitive tasks and don’t need a holiday or fall ill, so a small team of expert print operators can perform a multitude of tasks with minimal fuss and a high degree of reliability. It’s no wonder that these solutions are proving to be so popular – personally myself and the team at Konica Minolta have seen a big increase in interest as businesses find their feet in the post-pandemic world. Many of the in-plant print team customers that we work with are making the business case of automation to their stakeholders, highlighting the tangible benefits on offer.
With the resurgence of printed materials production (including booklets, leaflets, agendas, and team reports, not to mention education sector materials such as exam papers and healthcare sector forms and brochures), it makes sense in terms of cost and practicality for in-house printing to be centralised rather than being produced across the organisation. This of course makes functions such as web to print particularly important as organisations and their teams look to organise their requirement. It is also vital for the likes of hybrid mail, where it is usual for the person(s) creating the mailer to be different and separate from the person(s) printing and posting it. This centralised approach automates the process, making it faster and more accurate, as well as making it easier to print a Mailmark to avoid manual franking, reduce postal costs and deliver an audit trail for GDPR and compliance.
This is where the likes of the AccurioPro Flux software really come into their own. Systems that organise and automate these potentially complex tasks and save a human being time are perfect for the needs or organisations that use in-house printing. Another benefit is the ability to correlate and organise print jobs from more than one division, or even more than one organisation. For example, many district councils, emergency services organisations, and NHS trusts are looking at the potential for shared services which reduce costs. This requires meticulous organisation to deal with the complex mechanisms required to deliver everything correctly.
Despite the uncertainty of the world right now, there is undoubtedly a lot of positivity from in-house print operators as they look to consolidate their systems and to ensure they are fit for purpose moving forwards. With demand for these specific skills seeing a real resurgence it is vital that the channel supports this optimism with the right products and operational support to ensure that even the most modest in-house print team can meet demands.
The team and I at Konica Minolta are passionate about helping our partners and customers to see the potential of print, to embrace the latest technology and to understand the benefits of digital transformation within businesses, which ensures that print is an integral part of the broader evolution in the way we all work. There are exciting times ahead, but it is vital that you understand the opportunities available and have the right partner to help you drive change and to enjoy the ROI – something which the Konica Minolta team are more than happy to help you achieve.
Professional Print Channel Manager
Public and Private at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd
London, UK |
24 November 2023
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