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By Mark Bohan, Director, Prinect and CtP, Heidelberg USA
The print industry is currently embracing change through the adoption of Industry 4.0, which is all about driving productivity while ensuring and verifying the quality of printed materials. Combining seamless integration with business decision making allows for achieving this kind of smart manufacturing facility. At the heart of this change, we need a business intelligence platform (also known as a fully integrated workflow) that evaluates and analyzes a company’s production as a linked process rather than individual activities.
What we are seeing with the fourth industrial revolution is the use of cyber-physical systems. These systems and processes communicate with each other (both inside and outside company boundaries) to provide a smart production system throughout the entire value chain. This builds on individual systems using the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud to provide connectivity and integration. Big data can be collected, analyzed and acted upon so that systems can utilize simulations and models to adapt, reconfigure and carry out steps in the manufacturing process.
To facilitate this change, a business intelligence platform removes the obstacles by integrating production processes and making them measurable from the initial customer inquiry through to delivery and invoicing. As a job passes through the stages of production, the software knows where it is, who is doing what to it, how close to schedule it is moving along, and what kinds of costs/time it is accumulating as it progresses. Now, your company has a continuous feed of real-time information that it can use to:
- Reduce touchpoints
- Drive productivity and uptime
- Optimize consistency and repeatability
- Reduce waste and inventory
A true business intelligence platform will significantly impact the future strategy and profitability of your company. The discussions and value propositions are now centered on how to rewrite the business operation as a whole rather than focusing on individual manufacturing centers (such as estimating, prepress, press, digital and postpress).
The platform now connects all parts of the manufacturing process. Consider a car manufacturing operation. Changes to the production process are never made based on individual employees. Instead, the impact of each change is analyzed to assure that it will not degrade productivity or lead to costly failures and potential recalls. The same philosophy should apply to print manufacturing environments where the use of materials, software and equipment must be measured throughout the entire production cycle.
Print production is transforming. The smart factories of tomorrow are becoming the reality of today. Systems that leverage Industry 4.0 are available throughout the whole production cycle, offering significant improvements to the manufacturing process. This is redefining the marketplace and cost structure. Exploiting these systems allow reduced manufacturing costs and cycle times while increasing productivity and quality assurance — ultimately driving profitability.