Automation in Printing: Improving Turnaround Time & Reducing Errors

Most companies strive to work smarter, faster, better. In today’s turbulent economic environment—where labor shortages and supply chain disruption remain the norm—streamlining operations, optimizing production workflows and improving overall productivity have become even larger and more urgent challenges.

So, what’s the most effective way to introduce efficiency? The short answer: intelligent automation.

Automation 101: Wide Format Vs. Offset Printing and Graphics

There are different types of automation, from mechanical to technological. In the printing business, automation can be applied to specific parts of the physical printing process, or it can be used to refer to software- or technology-powered automation.

Does your company’s wide format printer come equipped with a robotic arm to assist with material handling and loading? That’s a prime example of mechanical automation in action. On the software side, there are dozens of prepress wide format applications that come with automated tools built in: nesting software to manage multiple print jobs, for instance, or variable data printing, which allows users to change specific elements or variables for individual print pieces.

In the offset printing and graphics space, automation has been on the rise for the past decade and continues to grow year over year. Everything from automatically cleaning your printing blanket to auto-feeding and auto-discharging materials can be reduced to the click of a button, saving precious time and resources.

How Automation Can Improve Your Business

Whether you’re an enterprise with a large-scale, grand format operation or a small or midsize commercial printing business, time is money. Automation can shave hours off your production timeline, but that’s not the only benefit.

Here’s how automation can improve your operations:

  • Reduce human error: Computers aren’t perfect, but they are far more accurate than human operators. Once certain presets are programmed, you can “set and forget” those print jobs and your equipment will take care of the rest.
  • Improve turnaround time: Thanks to automation, you can produce more printed pieces faster without sacrificing quality. Consumers are increasingly demanding personalization in their printed products, but they don’t want to wait longer for them. Automation takes significant time out of the prepress stage, as well as the finishing process, enabling you to take on more jobs and, ultimately, grow your business.
  • Enhance workplace safety: Offset printing equipment is large, expensive, and oftentimes, dangerous to operate. With tens of thousands of moving parts, they are far safer to operate when certain tasks are handled by robotic technology, helping to enhance workplace safety and reduce damage to your equipment.
  • Alleviate labor issues: After the recession of 2008, scores of commercial printing businesses closed. This created several ripple effects, including a shortage of skilled workers equipped to operate, maintain and train others on the intricacies of offset printing. As historically manual tasks become automated, equipment operators don’t need the technical knowledge that may have precluded them from entering the wide format industry. Businesses are then able to fill positions more quickly.