Feb. 2005, Digial Queue Newsletter—In the life of every print shop, there comes a time when either hardware or software systems must be upgraded. They become obsolete, you need more capacity - whatever the reason, the question isn't whether or not to upgrade, it is how to make the transition as painless as possible.
Once you know which systems you are switching to, ask the manufacturer a few key questions:
- What, if any, are the electrical requirements?
- What are the network requirements?
- If it is a hardware system, what are the dimensions?
- Will any special equipment be needed (forklift, pallet jack) and what clearance will be needed to get the equipment in place?
According to Amy Wilson, technical systems specialist, Creo, have the answers to these questions and all the prep work done before installation day arrives. You don't want people standing around waiting while you figure out where to move the equipment that is being replaced, or while you have a new electrical or network jack installed.
Wilson had a few tips for printers to keep the transition moving smoothly:
- Plan for it to occur during a slow period. The worst time to transition is during the holidays.
- Have a system for getting live jobs completed and out the door in place before the transition begins.
Since this is probably the only time you will have someone out from the vendor, you will have everything installed at once. At a minimum, you should have one person fully trained on the new systems per shift; ideally there will be more than one.
When it comes to training, Wilson stresses that a formal training program isn't as important as simply setting aside dedicated training time. If your employees are constantly being interrupted, it will be much harder and take much longer for them to be fully up to speed. Decide on a training schedule in advance that includes enough people on each shift to continue getting live jobs out the door while others are learning.
All in all, communication is probably your best tool in a transition process. Make sure everyone knows ahead of time what is coming in, what it will replace, what the schedules will look like, and how they will be involved. This way you will minimize downtime and ensure a smooth transition.
Made it Happen
National Digital Graphics (NDG), of Miami, FL, transitioned from offset to digital in early January 2005. According to Gerry Lopez of NDG, they opened the digital division of their company due to their customer's needs. "Clients were requesting smaller jobs. They needed digital and the market became open, so we made the switch."
To start, NDG purchased the five-color NexPress 2100, and they are taking off fast, converting clients from offset to digital. Applications include variable data post cards, short turn color, and proofing for offset. NexPress fingerprinted their press by creating ICC profiles that render images that look like their offset presses would print.
Gerry Lopez and NDG fully prepared themselves for the transition, and as they expected, everything went smoothly. Although some suggest that the holiday season is a rough time to put your company through a large change, they knew their electrical and network requirements before any adjustments were made, and had a plan for workflow during the following few weeks. "There were no major problems during the transition", says Lopez, "the startup of a transition of that size is bound to be difficult and cause delays. We are back on track now, only a month and a half later, with our live jobs." The turnaround of a job for NDG is normally less than 24 hours. During the transition, their customers were waiting a bit longer for their results, but were happy to hear of their digital make-over.
As recommended, NDG had one person fully trained by one of Kodak's formal training programs. That employee learned everything possible to get the company up and running on their new equipment and system, and passed the information on to co-workers. Now, in February of 2005, another employee is about to undergo the same formal training. "As our clients discover our new services, our company is growing, and there is a need for another employee to be trained", says Lopez.
Taking the Leap
Hopefully these tips for a hassle-free and profitable transition will help inspire your company. National Digital Graphics' story can stand as an example of how smooth a transition can be, if the right preparations are made. Remember, the question isn't whether or not to upgrade, it is how to make the transition as painless as possible for both your staff and your clients.