Time to automate? The toughest questions . . .

Need an automatic? There’s much to think about.

An article in a recent Images magazine addressed the question of whether or not to automate. The author, Dave Roper, must be credited for offering some good information to assist in the decision. However, there was one glaring omission that may be the most important consideration, but more of that later. First, the good stuff.

To start with, Roper listed 6 questions that might suggest that the time was right for switching from a manual press to an automatic:

  1. Is manual printing fatiguing you?
  2. Are you letting customers down on delivery times?
  3. Has your customer base grown?
  4. Do you have a need for quicker turnaround?
  5. Do you want more output for less input?
  6. Do you need more consistent prints?

The article then offers a monetary comparison between printing manually and automatically. it shows that with the added speed and capacity of  an automatic, the shop’s earnings can go from about £300,000 to just over £1,100,000.

And before discussing the various types of automatics you might consider, 6 final considerations are offered:

  1. Do you have enough space for an automatic?
  2. How big is your exposure unit — can it handle two screens at the same time?
  3. What is your power source?
  4. Do you need a compressor?
  5. Will you need a larger dryer?
  6. Can your screen room handle larger screens?

All of this is good advice and the monetary comparison is appealing. But there is something else that needs much more consideration than it gets from the brief question: “Has your customer base grown?” There are some big questions to be answered. Even if your customer base has grown, does your market have enough capacity to grow your customer base to where the expenditure on increased capacity can be justified? Or will another manual and an operator take care of the increased growth more economically? And where will the additional growth come from — new business or from your competitors? Do you have the will, the means, and the marketing program to rope in that additional business?

These are not easy questions and the answers will need some work. But it’s worth the effort because if your market doesn’t have the growth capacity, all the other reasons for switching from a manual to an automatic become redundant and you could end up with an expensive white elephant.