Automation, Jobs And The Future of Print

While past technological innovations have boosted job creation to offset disruption, the impact of automation remains a source of anxiety across sectors – and digital print is no exception...
McKinsey’s report ‘Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transition in a time of automation’ suggests that while past technological innovations have boosted job creation to offset disruption, the impact of automation remains a source of anxiety across sectors – and digital print is no exception.

Studies have shown that automation could raise annual productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 per cent. But despite widespread optimism, there is still a deeply ingrained fear of technology displacing the human workforce.

The truth is, however, that as technology advances, so too does the nature of work. So, far from signalling mass unemployment, entrusting in machines and algorithms – where the business case is a strong one – could elevate job roles to focus on innovation and enhanced customer service.

Automation has an important role to play in addressing some of the biggest challenges in wide-format print workflows such as pre-press bottlenecks, wastage and inconsistency of output. While digital print technology has moved on significantly and the latest software supporting ambitions of fully automated workflows with it, mindsets invariably have not.

As McKinsey’s report states: “Firms only adopt automation when doing so enables them to produce more or higher-quality output with the same or fewer inputs (including material, energy, and labour inputs).” By this measure, automation makes a lot of sense for most businesses – and certainly the wider print sector.

Forward-thinking software firms have long been finding ways to make wide-format print more profitable, and the emergence of cloud-based technologies have taken the potential productivity gains to unprecedented levels.

According to InfoTrends’ 2018 European Software Investment Outlook, 41.9% of printers who increased their revenue in the last five years attribute the gain to investment in automation software. However, although the figures are promising there’s still some way to go.

Outdated ways of working are costing wide-format printers thousands in missed revenue opportunities. As the market moves more aggressively into new media applications, those hampered by inadequate or poorly managed workflows will start to count the hidden costs even more.

We are already at a point where technology can enable LFP businesses to run a total lights-out operation, 24/7. As a data-driven activity, print is prime for automation, and in reality the step into industry 4.0 is a very easy one –  the industry just needs to seize the opportunity.

To discover more about the revenue boosting potential of cloud-based automation, click here to download our free industry report: ‘Redefining wide-format workflows to realize revenue at every opportunity.’