The printing industry is in the middle of a transformation. Just a few years ago, printers were thought of as single-function machines that churned out high volumes of printed output and did little else. The rich data generated by printers — everything from ink use to processing time and resource consumption — were unavailable to most print service providers.
The smart sensor revolution — also known as the internet of things — changed all this. Innovations in technology and analytics meant it was easier to collect information from sensors embedded in printers, identify patterns and exhume actionable data. For print service providers (PSPs), this was transformative — they could now, for the first time, rely on detailed data and projections instead of estimating or guessing.
Sensors and the resulting advancements in data science are major differences between much of the traditional analog equipment previously used by the printing industry and the new wave of digital equipment that is increasingly becoming the industry standard. Digital workflows give printers the opportunity to access real-time data from their equipment and apply it to building their businesses and engaging with customers. This is how data becomes a competitive advantage.
Investing in ROI-inducing technology
Modern printers and presses can perform functions like tracking color accuracy and consistency, and different APIs allow printers to integrate with all kinds of software applications. They’re truly amazing devices, which is one reason why customers invest hundreds of millions of dollars in capital equipment for printing. When investing so much money and staking one’s business on the success of that capital equipment, it is extremely important to make sure that the output is generating maximum value to the end user. If not, return on investment is unlikely to follow.
Investing in internet-connected printers also helps facilitate communication between PSPs and their customers. Brands can gain insight into how the work is being conducted in real time, even if the printing is happening many cities away. Instead of making endless phone calls, customers can simply open an application and track printing progress. By equipping printers and vendors with the infrastructure they need, unlocking this data suddenly becomes much easier. It eases communication and makes the process more beneficial for all parties involved.
Becoming more data fluent with smart software
It’s one thing to collect tons of data, it’s another to know what to do with it. Fully utilizing printing equipment requires making sense of massive amounts of data in an actionable and digestible way. However, many PSPs still don’t know how to use this data to its full potential and convert it into actionable insights that drive growth.
Connected systems can quickly help PSPs become more data-fluent. When a printer becomes connected, it can begin transmitting data and collecting extremely detailed logs of how the device is functioning. These logs can be mined for all sorts of insights. Software handles the leg work of finding patterns in the data and transmitting that information back to the PSP. They can suddenly have insight into how many impressions they make across printers and presses, how many liters of ink they use and how that aligns with their production goals in real time. Having insights into the technology and how it works allows PSPs to focus on the human factor of printing — training employees and driving forward key business goals.
Deriving business value out of print data
By using these insights garnered from big data, PSPs can then make smarter business decisions. Should they redirect jobs to another press? Should they outsource? Should they work an additional evening shift to complete a project? By finding patterns in the data, PSPs and others can quickly see both inefficiencies and organizational high points.
This also means big changes for the day-to-day operations of an organization. Users can get insights triggering predictive alerts that will enable them to resolve issues affecting their printing performance and provide a predefined resolution path. For instance, users might find that their jam rate is much higher when using specific kinds of paper when the facility has a certain temperature or humidity rate. They can then change the storage conditions of the paper so the printing can happen more efficiently.
In an age when printers have more jobs to print then ever — and the sources of print jobs are increasingly coming from digital files — connected and smart devices also make a difference. In recent years, there has been a shift from turning an InDesign or PDF file into 100,000 printed copies of a magazine to printing a greater range of short print jobs from diverse sources. This can impact everything from the lifespan of a print device to how long it will take to fulfill complicated orders. Data gives organizations the edge for understanding their hardware and workload — and it makes all the difference in the long run.
Once unlocked, data changes everything for PSPs. Parsed through analytics platforms, data helps customers and vendors to cut their implementation times and increase the effectiveness of their equipment. At the end of the day, customers can print more, serve new market segments and grow their businesses.
With data, operational excellence and amazing creations are right around the corner for PSPs.
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