As President of Ironsides Technology, one of the best parts of my job is the face-to-face interactions with our clients and prospects. Meeting directly with customers is the best way to understand their daily production schedules, challenges, and needs.
Conference calls, dinners, and trade shows are great to meet customers but nothing compares to a site visit to truly understand a customer’s unique production requirements. Onsite visits allow me to walk through the production facility, experience what a typical shift looks like and experience their true production process.
When I’m on site, there are four questions that I ask to better understand a customer’s production process.
- Where and why are there bottlenecks?
- What is the downstream impact of upstream problems?
- What is the impact of a potential bottleneck for the operations team; for management and CSR teams; for the end customer?
- For customers using our automated print production tracking software, how is our Nor’Star or APT systems helping to resolve these real problems and have we properly trained operations to leverage our system’s full capabilities to resolve their specific problems?
Understanding Bottlenecks and Their Impact
The first three questions focus on understanding a customer’s bottlenecks. Often times, companies contact us looking for a complete end-to-end document tracking/auditing solution or a way to monitor their production process in real-time. But when I visit a site and see a shift in action, I might realize that there are bottlenecks in prepress, or with a specific production device (inkjet, offset), inserter, or with finishing equipment. It’s not unusual to uncover systems that are still very siloed and require a lot of manual tracking.
By digging a little deeper into the production flow, we are able to better understand and identify how these bottlenecks lead to downstream problems. For example, a company looking for a document integrity solution may actually need to address issues associated with hand fulfillment or another aspect of production. It could be this step that is affecting their compliance. For production tracking, the bottleneck could be your home-grown system that isn’t able to truly integrate with all your systems to collect and report all your production data.
The fourth question is specific to our Ironsides customers. As founder, I want to understand how a customer’s investment in Ironsides has helped address their challenges. Have we provided the necessary training and support to ensure our customers can maximize their investment? And, what else can we do to help our customers to be more successful? I strive for all our customers to be more successful and am always looking for ways we can assist.
Whether you are a print owner or operations manager, keep these four questions in mind the next time you are walking the production floor. Take the time to speak with the press operators and the production team on the floor to understand where there are potential bottlenecks and how they impact your productivity, costs, transparency and more. If you have recently implemented process changes or new hardware/software, take time to understand what the impact has been on the company. Is your staff using the new tools? Why or why not? Do they need more training?
How Ironsides Helps
At Ironsides, we are passionate about helping our customers improve their production print environments. With increased short runs and even shorter lead times, print managers have lost the ability to plan each job for maximum efficiency and profitability. And any bottleneck in your process will slow you down or worse – put you out of compliance on your SLAs.
The Ironsides team puts our customers first and works in partnership with you to understand your unique production process, challenges and needs. We ensure that your investment in business planning and production monitoring software is successful. With modules for automated production tracking, order management or cost analytics, we help you identify and eliminate bottlenecks, maximize efficiencies, drive profitability and expand business opportunities.
Contact us today. I look forward to visiting your production facility in the near future! Stay tuned for my future blog series “On the Road with Bill” where I share my experiences visiting customers.
Bill Riley is the founder and President of Ironsides Technology. You'll hear Bill speaking at industry events across the globe.