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The biggest hurdles to digitization are in the mind

The most trendy term in business at present is "digital transformation". Driven by the ongoing digitalization, companies are rethinking their business and production processes, "transforming" them into the digital age.

Established procedures are streamlined or sometimes even thrown overboard. Processes are standardized to a large extent – the basis for the automation made possible by digitization.

On the way from craftsmanship to industry, also printing companies must deal with these issues – there is simply no way out.

But nevertheless it is often a long way until the efforts bear fruit. What is the reason for this? People are simply creatures of habit – they try to categorize all the things that rush at them in everyday life and then react to them in a well trained way. This is efficient, saves energy. Innovations that do not correspond to a familiar pattern are disruptive factors that should be avoided or at least faded out.

That's why a digitization initiative is not just about software or hardware – it's first of all about tearing down these barriers in people's minds. This applies not only to the employees in order taking or production, but often also to the management team. 

Accept the change, realize chances

To ensure that a digitization initiative is not doomed to failure, a "digital mentality" should therefore first be established – a kind of thinking characterized by openness to this new world. The term "mindset" is often used in this context.

In our conversations with printing houses, we repeatedly hear what misconceptions – or rather "excuses" – are preventing them from going digital. Here is an overview of the five most common prejudices:

No time to rethink processes

Of course, it takes time to think about the possibilities of digitization for your own company, to define a procedure and then implement it. But on the one hand it is inevitable, and on the other hand you benefit from streamlined and efficient processes afterwards.

Print businesses often pretend that they simply don't have the time for this alongside their day-to-day business. Markus Müller, Managing Director of drucken123 in Aschaffenburg (Germany): “I thought about this for a long time and lost a lot of money as a result. If only we had tackled the issue earlier. We had to invest time and rethink processes, but in the end it was more than worth it.”

The team will not follow through

Especially in traditional industries such as printing, there are fears of contact with digitization. One of these prejudices: People should be replaced by technology. But the idea is to relieve people of repetitive tasks so that they can use their professional expertise for things that computer systems simply cannot do – customer service as an example. This also helps to master the challenge of the growing shortage of qualified personnel.

One of the most important tasks is therefore to win the employees´ support of the initiative. Andreas Gögele of Druckwerkstatt Medus in Meran (South Tyrol) knows this only too well: “It's a great challenge that the team goes along with it. There was skepticism and misgivings about digitization via Keyline in our company too, but as soon as people realize that it makes their work easier, it almost becomes a no-brainer. But you have to get the team on board and motivate them continuously.”

Markus Müller agrees: “This is definitely an important point. But the initial concerns have now been dispelled, and now the benefits are being seen. It was understood that it was simply time to cut off old braids and go new ways.”

Alexandra Hernegger from Hernegger Druck in Innsbruck (Austria) recalls her own fears: “I was worried that I would personally initiate digitization and then be even more involved. Fortunately, this has not been the case. My strategy of simply starting, not planning everything in advance or even over-planning has worked.” With regard to the team, Hernegger feels that the employees now feel that they are better informed and therefore feel more integrated.

We prefer to invest in production technology...

... the order management is running. Markus Müller can't understand this argument: “They brag about the best and most beautiful machines, but the majority of customers aren't interested at all.” 

Alexandra Hernegger sees a significant improvement in service quality through digitization: “In the past, information about jobs and therefore the overview was often lost, which led to an unprofessional attitude towards customers. Today, I always have a real-time overview of which job is at which stage.”

We have the costs under control

Printers have enormous knowledge and expertise. All too often, calculations are also based on this. Prices are calculated on a gut feeling basis, a precise determination of manufacturing costs as the basis of a sales price is often not done – not to mention cost controlling and target/actual comparisons. This is also difficult when working with first generation systems or even with Excel tables or paper-based systems. Markus Müller has experienced this: “We also thought we had the costs under control. Keyline has opened our eyes quite a bit”.

How should that work without a job bag?

The good old job bag – the backbone of print houses' production processes. For many print businesses, it is still hard to imagine how they would manage their daily work without it. Yet this relic from the days of paper-based processes can simply no longer keep up with today's printing requirements. Markus Müller is excited: “It is simply too good to see that this paper-based stuff no longer exists”.

Andreas Gögele describes the problem: “The job bag wanders through the company with the job. If you have to run through production with a pen to make changes, it simply takes time. And in the end, it's not sure whether the employee has noticed the change”.

Hernegger sees the significantly higher flexibility as a huge advantage: “In the past, we had a work split – one person made the offer, another created the jobs, and yet another person wrote invoices. Today, everyone can do everything independently, we work more holistically”. She also says she no longer knows about every mini job: “They just run through”.

So these are the most common prejudices against digitization that we hear in our conversations with print businesses. But all the experiences of our customers show that it is worthwhile to rethink familiar, often entrenched and rarely questioned processes with an open mind and to use digital means and methods to rethink them.

Digitization safeguards the future

Printing houses that are still shying away from the digital transformation of their business can take courage from the saying "tradition is passing on the fire, not adoring the ashes". The values of craftsmanship, such as competence and quality, are not being lost as a result of the digitalization of processes – on the contrary, print businesses have more time again to position them towards their customers.

Andreas Gögele puts it in a nutshell: “If a print shop with analog processes competes with a process-optimized, digitized print business, it can only lose”.

In our next blog post, we will deal with the burden of specifications – the job bag of digitization, so to speak.

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