The good news for many Print Service Providers (PSPs) is that brand owners continue to expand their offerings with a wider selection SKUs. On the other hand, the not so good news for many PSPs is that brand owners continue to expand their offerings with a wider selection of SKUs. While an ongoing source for added print and packaging revenue, SKU proliferation also brings with it some very complex challenges – especially related to delivery expectations and of course quality.

For PSPs who continue to rely on manually intensive processes, optimized layout creation could add a significant amount of time and cost associated with file handling and idle presses. Similarly, physically manipulating these files is inefficient and introduces a greater possibility for errors. The solution lies in automation.

Condensed Cycle Time

Even though the number of SKUs has increased, the delivery expectations of brand owners remain largely unchanged. Timing is everything with promotional, seasonal, and new product launches making production turn-around time critical.

While expanding shelf variety may help brand owners and retailers catch the eye of more consumers, it also reduces production run length from SKU to SKU. The importance of this is significant. A study conducted by Packaging Impressions and NAPCO Research found that 51% of package printers cited keeping up with decreasing run sizes and SKU proliferation as among their top three production-based business challenges. Printers must therefore improve agility and responsiveness to continuously keep pace with faster presses with highly accurate files.

The answer – and challenge – lies in eliminating order cycle time disruption despite an increase in SKUs. Automation solutions accelerate production with an intuitive yet robust workflow that creates the most accurate and efficient layouts in a matter of minutes. But that’s just the start. To generate maximum results, such a solution must easily integrate with other workflow and business applications to reduce manual tasks through the entire process.

Accurate Files

Handling an increased number of SKUs from order through shipping has become an increasingly complex task for PSPs. Manual prepress touch points tied to data entry and file manipulation create ample opportunities for error.

Utilizing an automated solution allows users to set system parameters based on unique production floor variables such as materials, equipment, customer specifications, due dates, etc. and then confidently turn things over to the software to digitally manage the files. With tight imposition and automated job ganging comes a measurable reduction in materials, time, and productivity both within pre-press operations and on press.

A Competitive Advantage

Best practices such as job ganging, along with technology in the form of automation software and digital printing have allowed the industry to reduce or eliminate many SKU proliferation pain points. As the industry’s most advanced job planning and imposition solution, tilia Phoenix empowers printers to take full advantage of the benefits associated with SKU proliferation and transform this potential liability into a competitive advantage.

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