February 14, 2018

Hidden Document Production Workflows

Leslie Wengenroth | Director of Marketing
PRO Conductor dashboard

Companies sometimes create inefficient document production workflows out of necessity. From a hodgepodge of manual and automated steps, comes a new job or application that somehow becomes the permanent procedure. It is not unusual to see the same jobs, running under the original ad hoc workflows, still processing several years later.

The procedures may work, but they aren’t as efficient as they could be. Often, success depends on the knowledge of key employees who memorized the steps or perform “behind the scenes” manipulation. That’s not good.

Production jobs can get started this way when work suddenly shows up with little advance notice, leaving the document operations crew scrambling to contrive ways to run the jobs and meet deadlines. Customers always seem to delay those initial runs, leaving little time to test processes or thoroughly plan the workflow.

Inadequate Planning Leads to Eventual Failure

Problems pop up years later when something in the production environment changes. New equipment, new software versions, or new employees can disrupt one or more of the job steps. Suddenly, a bright light shines on what was a flawed process from the beginning. What everyone believed was working just fine turns out to be more fragile than anyone knew.

When something like this happens, the worst reaction is to patch things up and make only enough modifications to get the job running again. Though that may be necessary in the short term to meet deadlines once more, doing so puts document operations back in the same situation. Eventually the repair job will fail and they will once again be in crisis mode.

Preventing Disruptive Surprises

A better approach is to assess production jobs in the shop before they fail unexpectedly. Examine all the job steps and automate the processes wherever possible. Ironically, companies that invest in production automation software may never migrate all their jobs into the environment. They install automation capabilities, but never fully implement the system. This condition is common.

The automation software may have come with professional services hours that expired before the vendor converted all the jobs. Sometimes software vendors adapt only a single application as part of the sales agreement. The internal staff must convert the remaining jobs. Perhaps the company chose an ill-suited tool to handle the variety of production jobs running in the shop. Whatever the reason, many shops run workflow automation software in their facilities yet continue to process a number of jobs “the old way”.

Crawford Technologies offers tools that allow document operations to take control of their production workflows, but we recommend auditing all existing jobs before evaluating solutions like PRO Production Manager or PRO Conductor. Review documentation and observe as the production staff processes the work. Employees sometimes make adjustments to the workflow, neglecting to update the documentation.

Choosing the right software for your environment and subsequently implementing an automated production workflow solution will be less stressful and more effective once you evaluate, streamline, and document each production job. Find those hidden workflows and save yourself from unexpected failures that impact your ability to meet customer commitments.

When you are ready for a production workflow automation solution, you will be better prepared to select the right product and reap the benefits of a successful conversion that includes all the jobs in your shop.