More control thanks to process visualization: camera monitoring in the online print industry

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Production chain interfaces and transitions/crossovers lead to familiar problems, particularly in the systems- and labor-intensive printing industry. That was reason enough for me to check out Geutebrück’s dedicated process visualization solution in detail and I have to say, I am really impressed.

Another feature of the online print sector is that demand for really short delivery lead times and just-in-time production causes additional production errors. The consequences are spoilage and possibly complaints, which can turn out to be expensive, depending on the number of production steps, and therefore reduce profits, although average lost profits due to errors is difficult to quantify, since the level of vertical integration and the processes usually differ significantly.

This family-run international business, based in Windhagen in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, already provides security and in-process solutions for other industries, such as the hospitality and the food industries. And of course the company has also gained a foothold in the printing and media industry, having kitted out Axel Springer Verlag’s offset printing facility with specially developed process visualization video technology.

Now you may wonder what process visualization is all about and to what extent print providers can benefit from it. Process visualization is simply production chain surveillance or monitoring. The main objective here is to utilize optimization potential within in-house process chains by identifying weaknesses and irregularities in work processes and transit routes. These controls enable future remedial inputs to be minimized, which in turn can save time for several of the larger online printing companies that are characterized by accelerating production rates and therefore higher production quantities.

Process visualization is used in the Logistics function at redcoon. Source: Geutebrück

How do they achieve that? The external service provider visualizes the flow of products/goods through the facility by recording video footage of what happens between departmental interfaces and at incoming and outgoing goods areas. Thus, for example, video images taken from 4K recordings can be linked to barcodes or RFIDs. For this purpose so-called events are linked to the video image files. Events are, for example, manually triggered contact with/read operations of codes or RFID transponders or process modifications, which are to be recorded in accordance with presettings. The databases are then synchronized with image and event data using a time key, which facilitates rapid identification of searched-for data. Geutebrück has also given thought to data volumes – event-driven activation of the camera(s) enables the video material storage requirement to be substantially reduced, because this makes continuous surveillance unnecessary. After all valuable evidence is generated that help convey a positive public image to suppliers and customers. Print providers can then communicate product quality and delivery reliability as part of their marketing campaigns.

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“Process visualization is designed to help identify weaknesses and errors in work processes and transit routes. This enables optimization potential to be exploited.” – Bernd Zipper

Filming the flow of goods/products and linking it all with process data – but what about the personal rights of those being filmed? Here the technology company states that video security and data privacy can virtually be guaranteed simultaneously. The personal rights of employees are also a matter for works councils and staff associations; there is the option of pixelizing specific sections of images, but the employment law situation needs to be clarified on a case-by-case basis.

Below I have provided an image example of how an order-picking workstation is visualized. On the left we see a deliberately out-of-focus image, in which the employee‘s personal rights are maintained. Next to that is the same order-picking station, but this time not deliberately blurred and incorporating additional visualized areas of the factory. The image was released in accordance with the so-called dual control principle. Here we can see that a working environment can be filmed in a fair amount of detail, depending on camera position and resolution..

Quelle: Geutebrück
Source: Geutebrück

Now what would an actual print/online print scenario, in which process visualization provides benefits, look like? There are already examples of print production monitoring – the reel-to-sheet feeders in Ahrensburg (Axel Springer Verlag). Empirically vital on-feeder processes are recorded there and sent by link to the control room where they are visualized. If an error occurs during ongoing operations, e.g. job/roll change, the causes (of either a technical or human nature) can be accurately traced.

Visualization can be applied to the online print process as follows. Personalized print products are filmed after certain process steps and the images are then scanned, categorized by product and stored in the database. At the later order-picking stage (as pictured above) a picture is taken of the open box, in which the print product is clearly recognizable. Another image showing the sealed and ready-to-ship shipping carton completes a picture service that can be incorporated into a shipping confirmation e-mail together with a shipment tracking number. This enables the customer to visualize certain steps of their product being made, thus substantially increasing the orderer’s level of involvement – invaluable for communicating a sense of security and emotional attachment to the product and therefore to the print provider!

My take: Those print providers wanting to optimize their production and/or delivery standards would do well to adopt process visualization – a tool that makes business sense and is set to get established as an industry standard in the future. That because “basically any process can be visually monitored,” says the technology company. If the whole show is then automated as much as possible at the corresponding places and points where risk is transferred, that provides an opportunity to gain process advantages over competitors. It is then not beyond the realms of possibility for print companies to obtain process reliability and quality standards certification. However the costs of installation and inputs/savings potential comparisons still need to be clarified. Any company that wants to compete in the future has to go with the times, i.e. take more control and target logistics benefits. That will also apply to online print providers, because many logistics businesses have already opted for process visualization and as a result have more effective control over their SCM.

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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