Automation is all around


Discussing the future of printing and packaging production with Significans Automation Inc. President Marc Raad

This interview series is a collaboration between Ultimate TechnoGraphics and its Canadian partner / software integrator Significans Automation Inc.  It will focus on the critical role automation plays in the world of print and packaging production.

Significans Automation Inc. President Marc Raad provides his unique perspective on the trends and technologies that have shaped the North American print industry, and how integration and automation are critical to future growth and profitability.

Download the pdf infographic Automation is all around – What about your print business?

In the past you’ve referred to not one, but multiple “digital revolutions” that have significantly impacted the printing and packaging industry. What are these defining milestones, and can you elaborate on the impact each one has had?

MR: “In the commercial printing world, the first digital transformation was the introduction of the digital color output in the 1980’s and the first Indigo in 1993. The first digital web presses for packaging and labels were introduced in 1995, enabling smaller more customized runs for the industry.  Notably, when the first digital presses were released, I witnessed first-hand how Ultimate TechnoGraphics promptly shifted their software development of Ultimate Impostrip® to accommodate the future with digital print.  Hence, even back in 1994, Ultimate TechnoGraphics embraced their current theme of ‘future-proofing’.

The next revolution was all about data. Y2K concerns caused businesses to scrutinize their data more than ever, resulting in major developments in data warehousing and data cleansing. Combined with the power and versatility of digital presses, this enabled individualization and personalization that spoke to the end user on a massive scale.  Such a trend predicated the Internet of Things to build-up its necessity in the latter half of the 2000s, combining electronic communications with highly customizable print components to create truly hybrid offerings.

On the packaging side, the 4th industrial revolution in 2009 saw the Internet of Things catapulting companies to the point where more automation was not only possible, it was crucial. This period also saw many software OEMs in our space starting to create more conditions around automating the environment. Although there was a huge proliferation of data, electronics, and software, these systems still were not being utilized to their full potential. In fact, addressing this need was the reason Significans Automation was formed.”

“Today, especially in the global printing and packaging industry, this integration is starting to extend all the way to the newest revolutionary technology: robotics. Because the heartbeat of any organization is the ERP / MIS system, coding will end up driving robotics, as the transformation of the business will go more to humanless opportunities, including Artificial Intelligence (AI).”

How has the pandemic affected the adoption of automation and robotics in our industry?

MR: “While the pandemic has forced everyone into isolation, the adoption and customization of automation has been stimulated because customers need to produce more with less and at the same time, be as cost-effective as possible. Bearing in mind, some staff have admired their government paycheck more than their employer’s, so they have stayed home. That has forced businesses to reconsider less the necessity of staff, but the necessity of the tasks that were being asked of their staff. To that end, it’s the removal of mundane tasks from people’s lives that is really at the crux of a post-pandemic new normal.”

“The pandemic has really brought an awareness that people are vital resources to companies; yet it is the allocation of human resources that need to be more effectively managed and prioritized.”

What lasting effects, if any, do you expect to see after the pandemic is eradicated, or at least neutralized?

MR: “As was the case with the big financial scares of 2001 and 2009, the pandemic has caused many to put a freeze on spending and on investment, which is never good for the long-term health of the economy. Yet, with change comes opportunity. It’s my profound belief that after the pandemic, the industry will witness its most incredible transformation yet. With everyone working progressively/effectively from home, the need to automatically go back to a bricks-and-mortar environment has been diminished, and that’s why remote production is a natural next trend. The pandemic has actually created a new economy for people. We are hearing more companies saying: “let’s be more digital, let’s be more inclined to use data more, or to start using robotics.”  It is likely that many printing companies won’t survive the long-term effects of the pandemic, but those who embrace the coming changes will flourish.”

“Companies who are investing their future will essentially lay the foundation so they’re ready for the next economic and/ or social crisis. And make no mistake about it, there may be other pandemics, global threats, and social disruptions in the future.”

In addition to the effects of the pandemic what will the most dominant trends that will shape the North American industry in 2021 and 2022?

MR: “The trend is very simple: there will be an increased adoption of robotics industry-wide, as well as an increase in demand for solutions and suppliers that will enable and facilitate this automation.  Business leaders will be studying their companies more closely, creating more concrete business plans around their future so that they’ll be ready for not only a potential economic depression, but also for another pandemic. This means that certain parts of their businesses will unfortunately need to be run without people, or with fewer people. The trend we are seeing with remote working will continue, and the future of cities and downtown cores will also change. With fewer employees also comes less movement, less risk, less liability, and fewer injuries. Potentially, we’ll see businesses actually become more profitable as they adopt robotics and robotic processes.”

What else can printers do today to future-proof their business?

MR: “Companies should focus on investing in best-in-class software that fits their environment.  Once the most relevant and best applications are in place, integrate that software investment to offer a better customer experience.

Most software that is being manufactured today comes with an application programming interface (API) which is a set of functions and procedures that allow for the creation of applications to access data, operating systems, and a whole bunch of other services.”

“I’m a proponent in buying best-in-class components and by all means, get an integrator, to make sure there is a bridge between all your software solutions; and you’ll get further ahead this way.”

Any final words or advice you can offer?  

MR: “You must trust automation. You have automation all around you – your car your home, your business – it’s everywhere. Now is the time to use data to trigger automation.  And trust it, it’s yours! And it has all built on a spec – that’s dictated by you. My company was founded on the basis that it is all about tailoring automation to fit the environment. So customized automation becomes the intellectual property of the business that adopts it. No two companies have the same data, same process nuances, or culture, and there are so many different dynamics of each business. We’ve seen a lot of businesses and have gained a vast amount of professional experience, to be of great help with your transformation.

Finally, don’t be concerned to invest in software that does not have an ecosystem.  Companies like Ultimate TechnoGraphics offer a solid imposition solution with Impostrip® and Ultimate Bindery® is distinctly useful for most printing businesses today.”

For more information on implementing integration and automation into your workflow, please contact Significans Automation Inc.And contact Ultimate TechnoGraphics to learn about their portfolio of award-winning software solutions that can help “future proof” your business.

Download the pdf infographic Automation is all around – What about your print business?

Automation Infographic

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