The importance of digitalisation in the printing industry

The importance of digitalisation in the printing industry
Digitalisation is not only a necessity for the printing industry, but also opens up new and highly efficient possibilities for work organisation that can hardly be underestimated (Source: Obility Print Automation)

Digitalisation has made our lives much easier in many situations. If I like the wine in a restaurant, I have all the information in seconds, including the price and the source of supply. If I’m new in town, I can immediately check all the means of transport that will take me to the desired address. And after closing time, I can have a nicely packaged birthday present delivered the next day.

Work equipment from the last millennium

When we get to the workplace, however, it is not uncommon for us to still have to resort to working tools from the last millennium. Customers order by e-mail, telephone and even fax. Quotations are laboriously prepared with word processing programmes, calculations are laboriously planned and calculated manually, delivery notes are printed out in the office and carried to dispatch, orders from suppliers are coordinated by telephone, invoices are sent as letters – these are just a few examples of typical working environments that can be found in companies such as print shops today.


Advantages of digitalised processes in the printing industry

These traditional businesses are now contrasted by innovative companies that have already embraced the new technologies of digitisation, with modern, online-based software solutions. This means that print shop customers can accept quotations, place orders, place repeat orders or call up stock directly in the portals provided by the supplier. Or they can send orders digitally to their supplier directly from their merchandise management system via an interface. In each of these cases, all customer orders end up directly in the print shop’s system without any further work.

If customers place an individual enquiry, the smart MIS independently calculates the best production route, the corresponding cost centres, the required material, the manufacturing costs and the sales price. At the push of a button, the offer is created and sent and after a defined time, the system automatically reminds a follow-up action. The software also automatically determines missing material and triggers order suggestions, suppliers confirm the orders via web or interface, printing presses and employees transmit all current order data, and production planning automatically calculates the allocation of all required cost centres and the deployment of relevant employees.

Networked systems 

Order processing, the prepress system, the printing presses and financial accounting exchange data with each other and communicate simultaneously with external systems such as parcel shippers, online banking, payment services, CO2 calculators, etc. The digitalised processes run without a break across several platforms and integrate the entire supply chain. The digitised processes thus run across several platforms without a break and integrate the complete supply chain.

Valuable, flexible work

Employees are freed from simple tasks by such digital processes. They can focus on valuable customer advice and decision-relevant work. And they are not tied to a workstation in the office, but can pursue their work anywhere in the company but also mobile on the road or in the home office. With these new working environments, methods are also changing.

Agile thinking and acting

The prerequisite for the realisation of digitalised processes is not only the technical solutions, but above all the employees in the company. The more and the faster the processes can be adapted to one’s own and to the customer’s requirements, the more flexibly the employees in the company must be able to react to them. Rigid specifications and instructions are a thing of the past. The company must constantly adapt itself anew. This only works with agile working methods, which must be introduced consistently in a company.

How do web-based solutions support the printing industry?

Such exemplary scenarios are not the result of a short-term implementation, but they emerge in a process of digital transformation made possible by the use of modern technologies. Digitalisation also changes the working environment and flexibility. Digital technologies are distinguished from traditional systems by functions that are made possible in particular by the use of web-based solutions. Browser-based software can be used anytime, anywhere and with any device. Internet-based interfaces can network systems easily and flexibly.

Order processing, the prepress system, the printing presses and financial accounting exchange data with each other and communicate simultaneously with external systems such as parcel shippers, online banking, payment services, CO2 calculators, etc.  Web-based interfaces and functions allow workflows to be customised and automated. Open databases enable access to all required information at any time, create the prerequisite for quick analyses and provide a basis for decisions at short notice. Online-based expert systems replace manual activities with independent actions or automatic calculations based on stored decision rules.

The risk of procrastination

The digital transformation is also unstoppable in the area of business-to-business. However, many company leaders are sticking to the old ways of doing things and business concepts, only investing in new technical solutions when there is an urgent need and only marginally adapting their processes. This works well as long as the customers play along. When customers demand new digital processes, it is usually already too late – the technology is missing, the staff know-how is missing and, of course, any expertise is missing. The rudder can no longer be turned quickly enough. And suddenly the orders are missing.

React in time now

Those who do not want to expose themselves to this risk as a decision-maker should act in time. There are various entry options, e.g. customer interfaces and regular customer portals or investing in a smart MIS and ERP system that optimises internal processes. Talk to us and find out how you can use the solutions of our Obility E-Business Print Platform to take advantage of digitalisation and secure your business profitably in the long term.

The reality of digitalisation – a representative study

But what about the reality of digitalisation? In 2022, a representative study was conducted in the packaging industry in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Specifically, when asked about digitisation measures that have already been implemented, it was found that 46% have networked with suppliers, 36% have introduced data-driven process optimisation and 32% have used digital tools to minimise downtime. However, satisfaction with the respective results varies greatly.

38% of the companies surveyed that have introduced digital tools to minimise downtime are dissatisfied with them. Every fourth company (24%) expresses dissatisfaction with the implementation of data-driven process optimisation (process mining) as well as networking with suppliers, 23% are not satisfied with their digital customer portal. Particularly high levels of satisfaction are recorded for fully automated warehouses (73% “very satisfied”) and 3D printers (69%).