By Erwin Busselot, Director Business Innovation & Solutions, Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe
Ricoh Europe, London, 30 November 2022 － Today’s automotive industry uses robots extensively to build cars. In fact, half of all robots are used in the automotive industry, with a ratio of roughly one robot to every eight employees.
These robotic systems can do things human labour struggles with. They take instructions well through programming and work at a consistent level of accuracy, repeatability, and throughput. In automobile manufacturing, robots are used in frame construction and welding where repetitive precision is needed. Unlike us, they don’t make mistakes and or get tired.
Robots, like us, do have limitations though. Their knowledge is limited to the task or series of tasks they have been programmed for, lacking the ability to be creative or spontaneous when faced with problems. Their tooling, or physical attachments, are usually designed for a singular purpose like welding or moving objects into place. As a result, most of today’s robots lack the fine motor skills to complete complex tasks. Robots also need administration, maintenance, and special considerations when working near people. For these reasons, automobile manufacturers continue to use human labour for final assembly, where the tasks are varied and require adaptation and fine motor skills.
What does this have to do with your print workflow?
In manufacturing environments, like the printing industry, it is critical to use all types of labour efficiently and effectively. Many printers have fully, or mostly, manual workflow processes that take their jobs from the point of onboarding a new job through to delivery. Many of these tasks are best suited for another type of robot — software robots. Any software solution that uses process automation to perform routine and repeatable tasks is building software robots. Once the processing rules, steps, and tasks are created, the solution can continuously perform the same task over and over again.
The printing industry has used software robots in varying capacities for years, just under different names. Preflighting, workflow management, and batching software are solutions in our industry that use rules to pick up, process, and prepare jobs for printing. The issue is that many printers have yet to adopt these solutions or, if owned, are underusing them. Even a small improvement using software robots quickly magnifies to provide significant benefits.
Consider a Print Service Provider (PSP) producing 1,000 jobs per month whose operators spend an average of five minutes preflighting, requiring nearly 84 hours of labour costs per month. If preflighting software could reduce manual intervention by half and fix the problem in under a minute, the labour costs would fall too. By cutting that manual intervention to one minute per job for half of the jobs (500) the resulting labour costs would be dramatically reduced to just over eight hours per month. Your CSRs and prepress staff could then focus on the hard problems that require human creativity and ingenuity.
Implementing this type of process automation with software robots saves labour costs while reducing the potential for problems further down the manufacturing line. As the labour market continues to shift, one way to future proof your workflow is by effectively using your existing staff on the highest value work.
To learn more, join our free Unravel Your Print Workflow webinar focusing on the crucial first three stages of your production ecosystem: Input, Manage, and Prepare on December 7. Register here www.ricoh-europe.com/unravel.