LFR previews Ricoh’s latest report on the use of automation in print and pulls out some of the key findings, highlighting the potential paths to success for print service providers.
While many of us will already be aware of the potential benefits of automation and how this can help print businesses evolve, there remains uncertainty around implementing such technology and how to best go about adding this to your production setup.
In its new report ‘The Automation Gap’, leading manufacturer Ricoh, which itself has embraced automation, addresses some of the most common issues and concerns with this technology.
Among the core findings in the report is that the majority of the industry is keen to automate. Of the print professionals surveyed, 77% said they want to automate, while more than half said automation could potentially lead to cost savings. However, 64% said they had failed to invest in new automation technology recently.
But, why? Some of the main issues were the cost and time required to put automation technology in place. Professionals also flagged return on investment and how the technology would be implemented as concerns that were holding them back from making the move to automate.
However, according to Ricoh, it is possible to automate quickly and effectively with ease-of-use and the continuance of business-critical processes in mind. By automating piece by piece, printers can ensure longevity, consistency and growth.
“While these hesitations are understandable, businesses can fall into the trap of confusing the goal, the problem, and the solution,” the report states. “Companies can also hesitate to introduce new technologies or processes, but it’s much harder to adapt to a shift in a real-world market than it is to adapt to a new piece of equipment in your business.
“In fact, if companies fail to automate, can they survive in the current and future climate, or will they be left behind?”
Making the right choice
Leading on from this, the report set out the importance of choosing the ideal automation solution for your organisation. This might be business process automation, production workflow automation, or a custom suite of solutions touching upon both.
Of those surveyed, over half were still running on legacy systems, but over 45% agreed that such systems did not provide them with the functional benefits they need to grow. As such, Ricoh said that it will be near impossible for organisations to innovate, retain the best staff and build their client base if they do not take advantage of new technology.
This may even include an element of artificial intelligence, or AI, which is seemingly all the rage at present. AI programming can dramatically simplify the handling large data sets and variables, but it is not a ‘magic solution’ that can solve all business challenges. Instead, it should be regarded as a useful tool that can be combined with the best technology and human expertise.
While it may seem that automation is the best, and perhaps only, way forward for printers, this is certainly not the case. The print industry, by its nature, cannot and should not be fully automated. There will always be roles that require a manual, human touch.
“The real skill is in assessing what those are and addressing each situation with the optimal solution,” Ricoh says, “Partnering correctly and taking a moment to step back gives you a chance to identify these tasks and rotate, move, and upskill your staff, assigning their unique skills and perspectives where they’re most needed and beneficial.”
The report added that the benefit of partnering with Ricoh on automation ventures grants printers the best of both worlds: knowledge of new automation technology and decades of experience in the print industry.
Setting out its position, Ricoh concludes the report with a number of case studies of how it has been able to support customers in automating parts of their print production process and the benefits this has released.
As Ricoh explains: “We have the ability and experience around legacy systems, and our decades in the print industry, combined with our digital integration expertise, can help elevate your business for long-term success and sustainable growth.”
To download the report for free, please click here