|Printing Industry Articles:
Road to Automation - Is 0-100 the Only Way?
|A Better Way
Moving to an automated production environment can and
often should be a long-term plan. The methodical approach is to follow
some simple rules and the 6 steps outlined below:
A thorough analysis determines the benefit of spending the time,
effort and money to transform your shop.
What typically goes wrong
in my shop and why?
How much does it cost when
things go wrong?
Is there any way to keep
things from going wrong?
Creating models that visualize the flow of work throughout your
production capabilities helps identify dependencies and possible
bottlenecks. Use these models to make good decisions and
To start, simply identify the key processes in your environment and
document them. Then map them to a floor plan of your production
environment. Is the flow straight forward or does it look more like a
plate of spaghetti? Are steps repeated? Are there too many staging
areas? How many times is material moved during the production process?
How many people are involved in the process? There are many more
questions to ask and you'd be surprised how "lean" your
production can become even without heavy use of technology.
the solution to your employees
New solutions mean change. Communicate early and often about the
new directions and make sure employees understand the impact.
Ask for their participation in decisions and implementations where
possible. Without involvement, employees can and will subvert
the new directions. Give your employees the feeling of ownership in
the solution by asking for their views and their input but don't let
them direct the activities. You set the goals and they help you get
Not everything has to or can be computerized immediately. Starting
with the Management layer may be more beneficial than initially
investing in equipment integration tools. Slowly grow the skill set
needed to operate the new environment. An IT
budget helps you plan when to install or replace a piece of hardware
and/or software and spread the investment over multiple years. Remember,
IT components become production equipment and will be critical to the
function of your operation. Don't underestimate the importance of a
stable and scalable computer infrastructure (Refer to
"Information Technology Digest" for more information)
Develop and implement data collection methods. Use the data to
adjust your investment strategy as you go. Not only production data of
daily output is important. Try to establish as complete a picture as
possible. Your intension for every step of the deployment of any new
piece of process or technology must be to set expectation and be able
to verify that the solutions meets (or exceeds) these expectations.
Apply the principal "You can't manage what you can't
measure". Be aware of the benefit of your decisions and
investments and how they impact the day-to-day activities and
Once you have “islands” of computerized solutions working reliably
and productively, integrate them into an end-to-end solution.
This is where JDF as a data exchange standard brings real value
because it normalizes the communication between the devices to a
Copyright (c) 2008 by In Scope-Solutions,