Automation

Automation and AI

by Paul Sherfield | 26/02/2024
Automation and AI

Paul Sherfield discusses the relationship between automation and artificial intelligence. The level of automation is dependent on the size of the businesses, the market and the technologies used.

When asked to write this article on automation two things immediately came to mind.
 
  • Automation cannot be discussed without referencing AI and its impact on this area
  • The level of automation will dependent upon the size of PSP, the markets and productions they address, and the technology currently used
Any project to automate some or all areas of production and administration will be increasingly impacted by some form of AI.

The main areas of automation, the printing sector and their clients, that seem to be impacted by AI are content creation, both text and images and coding, for creation and correction. Content creation using such as ChatGPT for writing has had impact on the many writing areas (not this one).

Others such as Adobe Express, Google ImageFX, Midjourney and OpenAI’s DALL-E3 are automating the image creation and retouching spheres These AI based functions are being introduced into other image and content creation systems. An interesting one is Perplexity which is a cross between an AI driven search engine and content creator.

These systems are only as good as the ‘Prompting’, the text-based instructions they need. These can be seen as briefing the AI. The same rule applies as before to any data driven application, ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’.

Before moving away from AL, it’s influence can ready be felt in our sector on functions such as MIS systems, pre-press, digital fronts ends and imposition and ganging software’s.

This brings us nicely into the main topic of the article, automation.

Automation and its many benefits will vary from business to business based on client need, size of company and processes and product. It can speed up the back-office administration and product processes, deal with the increasing shortage of trained staff and reduce costs.

The main areas to consider are:
 
  1. Sale, accounts and administration
  2. MIS/CRM systems
  3. Web to prints solutions
  4. Pre-press systems
  5. Presses and post press equipment
  6. Materials handling
Let’s consider two extremes of automation, a totally ‘lights out’ automated print factory from order intake to delivery, producing a range of more standardised producing and a smaller company producing a more bespoke range of products.

The level of automation will be different as these differing markets and products have totally differing interaction with their clients.

The first will have connected all software systems, often using bespoke applications using XML/JDF or similar from its own development team or a third-party contractor.

Orders will only be accepted via a web to print portal, then processed automatically to pre-flight, pre-press and to press, now often using AI to gang and impose differing jobs and the decision on choice of press and/or process.

The presses used with have the latest technology to speed up areas such as make readies, creating new ICC device profiles, material handling etc.

The invoicing and delivery will also be automated from within this integrated solution.

There may also be in very large companies, robotic materials handling using AGVs, automated guided vehicles, to get substrates to presses and then on to finishing, so joining up the areas itemised above.

There will be little or no personal communication between the client and the supplier, other than the client uploading a file into the web to print portal and notification by email of any issues, soft proofs to approve online and the delivery date and time.

At the other end of the scale the company producing a large range of products on a large number of substrates will have many face-to-face interactions with its clients.

The product brief from the client to obtain costs and estimates may be at a meeting with the supplier imputing ideas and changes that may help the client.

The files may be submitted via a wed-based portal, however there may be extensive pre-press work needed, including physical proofs. So, another face-to-face meeting.

There may even be the need for a press pass by the client.

So, how can this printer benefit from automation? The back office areas such as MIS systems, production control, pre-press can be linked and made paperless using digital works instructions, using systems such as Enfocus Switch and Ricoh Process Director. New cloud based software from Four Pees called Atomyx also promises to provide the next level of connection and automation of disparate systems and software’s.

Many of the MIS softwears and the workflows solutions already have API’s (Application Programming Interface) which enable then to communicate with other systems.

Using presses and other equipment that can communicate with your software solutions will add to automation and therefor cost savings and efficiency,

As can be seen there is no one solution re automation. It depends on the client, product and equipment within the printing company, and of course the skills and knowledge of the staff. But the tools are there that should suit all sizes and product types.

The need for automation needs to be analysed based of the systems and production currently employed and the number of human touch points that could be automated.

To conclude, FESPA will undoubtably return to this area over the next months and years, both on this web site and within their exhibitions.

Discover the latest innovations in automation at FESPA Global Print Expo 2024 Europe’s leading print and signage exhibition. Taking place from 19th – 22nd March 2024 at RAI Amsterdam, Netherlands. Register here to visit and use code FESJ405.
 
by Paul Sherfield Back to News

Topics

Interested in joining our community?

Enquire today about joining your local FESPA Association or FESPA Direct

Enquire Today

Recent news

What does Artificial Intelligence mean for the Design and Print Industry
AI

What does Artificial Intelligence mean for the Design and Print Industry

Today, Artificial intelligence is already built into many products even though at times it is not noticeable. Looking towards the future, the growing presence of AI will change the design and printing industry forever. Sonja Angerer shares how you can successfully future-proof your business.

15-04-2024
How to minimise water usage in textile printing with the Mimaki TRAPIS
Textile Printing
3:26

How to minimise water usage in textile printing with the Mimaki TRAPIS

We speak to Arjen Evertse, General Sales Manager EMEA and Marc Verbeem, Supervisor Product Management from Mimaki Europe about the Mimaki TRAPIS, an environmentally friendly, two-step, waterless textile transfer printing solution.

15-04-2024
How to minimise water usage in textile printing with the Mimaki TRAPIS
How to decorate hats with anything, anywhere including 3D embellishments
Sportswear
1:24

How to decorate hats with anything, anywhere including 3D embellishments

We speak to Andy Rogers, Marketing Director at Stahls' UK & Europe about decorating hats and specifically the 360 IQ hat press at FESPA Global Print Expo 2024 at the RAI in the Netherlands.

12-04-2024
How to decorate hats with anything, anywhere including 3D embellishments
How to increase heat transfer efficiency with consistently accurate positioning
Sportswear
1:39

How to increase heat transfer efficiency with consistently accurate positioning

We speak to Andy Rogers, Marketing Director at Stahls' UK & Europe about the Pro Place IQ and the technology behind it. Andy shares how the Pro Place IQ projects the image on the screen, down onto the platen.

11-04-2024
How to increase heat transfer efficiency with consistently accurate positioning