Staying on Track

By Dawn Lospaluto
In February 10, 2011

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once,” said Albert Einstein. Like time, printing is essentially a linear experience, a process that cannot happen all at once, but must be broken down into a series of discrete steps, each occurring only after the one before has been completed.

An order comes in, a file is received, proofs are prepared, a job is printed, folded, trimmed, bound, and delivered or mailed. When the order for the next job comes in, the process begins again. Because most steps in the process pass through different hands (or devices), we use another process—paper forms, software programs, white boards, etc.—to track each step and ensure that nothing is overlooked or mishandled.

But what happens when the linear process is disrupted? When a client who has approved a “final” proof, for example, makes a panic “stop the presses” call to add new changes? When steps that were supposed to be in the past pop up again in the present? Suddenly, tracking the work may become an added process layer that gets in the way of actually getting the work done. And that’s where the human element may be critical.

Keeping a handle on a complicated workflow is essential, but taking precious time to conform the task and employees to a complicated tracking process can be counter-productive, especially during a time of bare-bones staffs and demanding clients. And trying to impose a static process on non-linear work, fitting client needs and demands that come in from all sides at any moment into an inflexible model, may be like trying to squeeze a square peg in a round hole.

If you find that some of your forms and formulas are getting in the way of your productivity, maybe it’s time to review how you handle various parts of your operational processes. Being able to depend on a trusted employee to cross every “t” and dot every “i”—even, or especially, when things get a little sticky—may ultimately be the most effective tracking process of all.

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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