Print industry predictions part 3: the death of press operators
The role of the press operator is already marginalised
This is a series of predictions on how the printing industry might look in 10 years time…
Running the press is no longer such a big deal. Whether you like it or not, the days of printing being a craft have long gone. Lead press people are now minders or operators. It is now far easier to operate and achieve good results from a press than a few years ago.
Much of the key skillset of a press person has now been automated. Colour management has taken over from the human eye. Automated job folder queues have taken over from traditional scheduling and job loading.
Humans rarely need to make decisions.
Automation has been here for far longer than many might think
I remember seeing robotic paper systems delivering reels around the factory around twenty years ago. Robotic stacking systems have been around for the same amount of time. Combine this with colour management and automated pre-press, inline finishing and remote press diagnostics and lights out printing is pretty much here.
Already I see one minder looking after two presses at some factories. A major reduction in staffing is clearly possible. These opportunities will only increase over the coming years.
What happened to the craft of printing?
There will be howls of outrage from traditionalists, but how many customers actually care? Today’s buyers want good quality commercial print, and today’s workflows provide that. Most print mistakes are made by humans, not machines.
The only question left is not whether minders will all become redundant, but how many other factory staff will also have the same fate.
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