Written by Cheryl Mellin

Design Studio

Most don’t realize that digital print production is in fact custom manufacturing. While custom manufacturing will be the wave of the future with 3D printing, the world of digital printing has been a custom environment for quite some time.

Those on the manufacturing or “production” side of the process are not often thought of as being very creative. They tend to be envisioned as the people who come in wearing the same T-shirt and jeans, who work with the same machines over and over, day in and day out. It’s just the same machines, right? Nothing too special? But no two jobs are the same. Variables include materials, quantities, and deadlines. Typically speaking, those in production can appreciate and admire the artwork, but aren’t interested in the story of where the “creative” (as a noun) comes from. Where creativity comes in on the manufacturing side is in deciding what materials to use based on applications, environments, or deadlines. It’s the creativity in trying to make it all happen to continue the work flow.

Customers are generally kept from the day to day of the plant operations. They don’t get emails or phone calls with all that happens behind the scenes to make the order happen. Their email isn’t spammed with a play-by-play which could possibly look like this:

“We quoted it with the five different combinations of paper, size and ink and tried to think of the best machine to use so this order reaches the deadline. We also called our other location a couple miles away to see if they could get this order in to try and make it go faster. But here is the final result of options that will work best for you.”

“Oh by the way, our Production Manager suddenly realized that there is a backlog in projects due at exactly the same time, manufactured on exactly the same equipment and had to be inventive in scheduling. They also made a startling realization that the order of additional rolls of 3M vinyl did not go out. But don’t worry; we researched and gauged which vendor will give the best deal and timeline in this critical situation.”

“Your order didn’t start right on time because the Account Manager hadn’t given approval quite when we expected. We are now putting an extra person on the job to gather all the necessary information and get this underway.”

There’s no complaint here; it’s all in a day’s work. But these are all real ways the manufacturing of digital products is creative in time management and inventive solution strategy.

All in all, the digital product manufacturing world is fast and furious, and overall requires supreme management of creative mental resources as a scenario can go from simple to drama-driven in no time. Every detail is stored in either mental or written form to help ensure that, if a given situation comes up again, the reaction time will be shortened to create efficient use of precious time.

At closing, it’s time to relax and take a deep breath, because tomorrow is a new day in the life of being creative in the digital product manufacturing world. No two jobs are the same, and we are always kept on our toes. Thank you to our customers for giving us the opportunity to specialize in creative problem solving on a daily basis.

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