Now that the busy season is over, it’s the perfect time to analyze the results to make improvements for the next year. Looking back on the busy season, problems always cropped up, one or two customers didn’t get the best service and everyone worked extra hours to get everything out the door. Use this time after the rush to gather data for budgeting, hiring and upgrading for the new year.
1. Get feedback from your entire workforce. This is the first step, and it is important to ask direct questions. Not all employees will volunteer information or be critical, but taking the time to talk directly to everyone will be worthwhile. You will get information that you can use to improve the entire workflow end to end. Knowing what works and what requires workarounds is key to developing improvements.
2. Peak season highlights the capacity of people and equipment. Look at peak speeds for data transmission, processing, ripping, printing and handling. If you didn’t use automation to keep equipment running off hours, look into it for next year. Use the data collected to plan balancing strategies, automation strategies and budget for faster equipment or upgrades.
3. Pinpoint trouble spots that occurred and develop a way to catch known problems before they happen. Analyze rework to determine any recurring issues that happen at peak speed. Concentrate on eliminating the one recurring issue by implementing a workflow strategy. Also, add elements to preflighting software and update your customer service representative’s ability to catch known problems ahead of time.
4. Make sure customers are aware of upgrades put in place especially if they were among those whose service was affected during the peak period. Emphasizing that you are putting time and effort into improvements and that you recognize their service suffered may help with your relationship with them. If problems were the result of customer files, invest in a PDF creation program for them and install it with your own setup. You can also configure a preflight server with a special hot folder for their work to be checked for specific problems.
5. Upgrade automation software including scripts and flows. Use the data collected from the steps outlined to improve automated workflows by incorporating load balancing, upgraded plug in software and new preflight steps. It is not uncommon to look at your workflow a year later and decide it will be much more efficient to approach the workflow in a different way. Moving the platform to a faster server may be desired as well.
Using the time after the peak season to analyze your methods, equipment and software is key. Don’t forget to illicit as many opinions from those involved in production to get the complete picture. This input will give you insight to improve your workflow so it is more efficient and more profitable for the next round. Upgrade during the period after the rush; this way you can find how to use new features to improve your workflow and be prepared for the next rush.