Changes in the photo industry have moved printing demand to more complex order compositions, consisting of multiple sizes of final prints. Customers are requiring the variety of multiple “standard” and non-standard sizes within a single order. Current photo printing & processing equipment designs were developed based on a standardization of product (e.g. print sizes) and on the principles of “batch processing”, with multiple production steps. Existing printing equipment does not have the flexibility to intermix a variety of sizes, nor to easily print “non-standard” sizes. “Mixed size” orders require multiple print batch runs, sometimes on different printers. Handling “mixed size” orders is consequently labor intensive, requiring multiple machines, manual sorting, manual collating and sometimes manual cutting. Current workflows and systems evolved from the principles and practices of batch manufacturing, which has been the main stay of manufacturing for the last century. Opportunity exists for to convert the photo printing process from a batch process to a flow process utilizing the principles of “Lean Manufacturing”. The development of a new printer system and workflow is described. The Chromira Pro Lab system was designed to bring Lean Manufacturing processes and principles to professional photo printing. Mixed size order printing is converted from a “batch” process to a “flow” process. Multiple and mixed sized orders are printed and processed concurrently, and in a continuous flow. Previously manual operations required for handling multiple sizes are automated or removed. Reliance on “standard” sizes is completely eliminated. The process is re-designed from the “ground up”, replacing multiple pieces of equipment with one. The result is a system that delivers complete orders consisting of multiple sizes, ready to ship, without manual handling. Complete and automated integration into existing software image workflow systems is achieved without compromising any new workflow efficiency gains. Integration of Lean Manufacturing principles throughout the photo production process generates additional, consequential, related efficiencies.
Zac Bogart, "An Improved Automated Workflow for Digital Photo Print Production" in Proc. Int'l Symp.on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment, 2009, pp 50 - 53, https://doi.org/10.2352/ISSN.2169-4672.2009.2.0.50