Sign & Digital Graphics

December '14

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6 • December 2014 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Chasing the Elusive Boleneck D o you ever feel like you're dashing from one raging fire to the next trying to keep things running smoothly in your shop? If so, you most likely have one or more bottlenecks in your processes. Bottlenecks. To some degree there's (at least) one dogging every shop. But the problem with bottlenecks is that once you've figured out the bit that's holding up production, another one becomes appar- ent. And then, when you go after the new one, yet another one pops up. In the end it's like playing Whac-A-Mole with your business. In the early days of wide-format digital printing one of the core bottlenecks that everyone seemed to experience was that computer processors couldn't RIP files fast enough. Jobs would stack up in the print queue while those older computer proces- sors struggled to crunch the massive amounts of data contained in gigantic graphic files into something the printer could understand and reproduce as an image on media. And then, when processors improved and the speed at which computers could convert RGB data into CMYK data was not as much of an issue, the hang-up became the speed of the printers. The problem with bottlenecks is that they represent a constantly moving target. No matter how efficient you become, there will always be something that's keeping you from becoming even more efficient. Today's processors are amazingly powerful, and printer technology has improved to the point where print speeds are approaching and often surpassing those of tradi- tional analog technology. Automation has eliminated many of the bottlenecks of the past, yet shops still complain about bottlenecks. At a recent trade show I listened in on a discussion between shop owners who are running some of the most powerful state-of-the art, super-fast, totally auto- mated wide-format printing equipment on the planet. When asked what their bottleneck was, the response was "finishing." Though you will never eliminate bottlenecks entirely, there are ways to arm yourself so you can quickly identify just what the hang-up is and respond. The simplest and most effective way is to chart out all the steps in your workflow pro- cess—from order taking to design to production to shipping. If you find yourself delivering an order later than your customer wanted, you can usually identify the bottleneck by stepping the order through your workflow chart. Often, with a few simple adjustments to the workflow process, you can usually correct the problem and avoid it in the future. Some general questions to consider include: Is your system too complex? Are there areas where you can automate? Are there multiple steps that can be combined at a single workstation? Will more staff solve the issue, or faster, more versatile equipment? Of course every shop is different, and the answers will be discovered individually. But remember—like death and taxes—there will always be bottlenecks somewhere in the system. You just need to decide if you can live with them. Okay, back to work. __________________________________________ Publisher James "Ruggs" Kochevar – Executive Editor Ken Mergentime – Managing Editor Matt Dixon – Online Editor Tony Kindelspire – __________________________________________ Art Director Linda Cranston Graphic Artist Dayne Pillow Digital Versions Coordinator Andrew Bennett __________________________________________ Advertising Account Executives Kendall Buckley – Dan Peckham – Diane Gilbert – Advertising Production Coordinator Sara Siauw – __________________________________________ Contributors in this Issue: Paula Aven Gladych; John Baylis; Julian "Mr.J" Braet; Vince DiCecco; Regan Dickinson; Duane Fast; Scott Franko; Thomas J. Hill; Charity Jackson; Ed McCarron; Stephen Romaniello; Bill Schiffner; Steven Vigeant; Rick Williams; Don Woodard; Ray Work, Ph.D. ___________________________________________ Vice President/Events Sue Hueg CEM, CMP – Show Sales Damon Cincotta – Exhibitor Services Julie Brignon – ____________________________________________ National Business Media, Inc. President & CEO Robert H. Wieber Jr. Vice President/Integrated Media John Bennett Vice President/Finance Kori Gonzales, CPA Vice President/Publishing and Markets Dave Pomeroy Director of IT Wolf Butler Director of Audience Lori Farstad B y K E N M E R G E N T I M E e Long View Got something to say? Join the S&DG Discussion Group at:

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