5_tips_to_improve_studio_efficiency

Early mornings and late nights in the office, lunch at the desk, taking work home, coming back to the office during the weekend – sound familiar? Budgets cuts and reduced head counts means we’re working harder to make up for it. When did overworking become a badge of honor, or overtime become a regular expectation? So, what is the answer to getting all the work completed to deadline…

Remember, being overworked can mean less productivity, liable to make mistakes, slower pace of work and easily distracted. Simply put, we need to improve studio efficiency, and start working smarter to achieve more. So, how do we do this? Here are our top 5 tips to improve your studios efficiency.

Tip 1: Repetitive or boring tasks? Automate them!

When it comes to boosting speed and efficiency, every little improvement counts. Let’s start by looking at the day-to-day work of Mac Operators and managers in the studio.

Things like, applying common formatting changes to picture boxes, setting up styles, or preparing standard layouts can require many steps. If these tasks need to be done many times a day, that’s an opportunity to improve productivity by using a automated production system.

Solution – Try using:

  • Publishing software – Such as Adobe InDesign which have automation features like scripting built in. Take the time to learn how to use the feature, and use it to write a script which carries out those common tasks. Assign the script to a hotkey, and sit back as the software automatically and quickly executes all the steps on a single keystroke.
  • InDesign Plugins – Don’t want to learn scripting? Try InDesign plugins like Action Recorder or Repeat After Me which provide an easier way to “record” those steps and “play” them back on demand, without needing to learn how to script.
  • Apple MacOS’s built-in Automator – Automator is pretty easy to program without having to learn scripting, and works with InDesign, but can also be used to automate tasks within the operating system, and in other software titles.
  • Droplets feature of Adobe Acrobat Pro – If you are looking to standardize or preflight many PDF files in a row, look into using the Droplet feature, it creates an icon on the desktop. The operator drags and drops the PDF files onto the icon, and Acrobat automatically preflights and does corrections based on your selected profile

For Windows operating systems, a slew of different task automation solutions are also available.

Tip 2: Use technology to prevent mistakes

Humans are not perfect. Sure, we’re good at certain things like creativity and innovation. But we also get stressed out, distracted, rushed, and that causes us to make mistakes, misread things, and key the wrong information in to systems. These mistakes cost time, and slow us down.

For example, when preparing files for print, the sheer number of things that can possibly go wrong means a lot of opportunity for human error, and checking through them manually can take a lot of time. Fortunately, we now have software and technologies at our disposal that can prevent or catch those mistakes before it’s too late.

Automatic Preflight Checks

Built into publishing software, automated preflight checks can catch any mistakes during the production process – without Mac Operators having to manually go through a long list of checks.

Many ad delivery platforms also include preflight checks as part of the process. These checks are verified against publisher specifications to ensure minimal problems when the ads are printed, and to catch any mistakes that might crop up at the last minute.

By making full use of these technologies, we spend less time worrying about mistakes or on manual checks, and free up precious hours to get more work done.

Tip 3: Get the big picture overview

An informed Mac Operator is an efficient one. A manager with a complete picture of the situation can better ensure print production efficiency, managing what everyone is working on and what needs to be done. But today, last minute client changes are making media schedules outdated even before they make it to the studio. As a result, many Studio Managers or Mac Operators are spending precious time researching ad specifications or chasing up confirmation about ad bookings.

A Workflow Automation Solution

Which creates a bridge between the systems used by Account Services (or the publisher) and the studio, allowing booking information and updates to flow seamlessly between the two.

Client changes are communicated immediately to the studio, without having to deal with dense media schedules and spreadsheets. These systems can also pull in information from other sources, like ad specification databases, automatically filling in missing information like the dimensions and mechanical requirements of booked ads, cutting down research time.

Tip 4: Unite your systems and conquer

Over the years, you might have built up an arsenal of software tools that help you get your job done. One might give you an idea of the progress of an ad being created in the studio. Another might be tied in with Account Services’ records, to track any changes required. But, too many tools can mean switching between many different screens in order to piece together a complete picture of the status of a single job.

Integration

Using fewer tools lets you cut down on the distraction and confusion associated with working across different interfaces. For example, the functionality of Cloud-based ad delivery platforms can be integrated into Adobe InDesign, through the use of a plugin.

Or Managers can use workflow automation software to pull information from their various systems, and present this in a single unified interface. In some cases, this interface can replace the use of the other systems entirely, creating a single point of control over the whole production process.

Tip 5: Stop worrying about technical problems

Things like IT infrastructure downtime and troubleshooting technical issues are distractions and huge time-sinks for the studio.

Until the last few years, it has been difficult to avoid becoming tangled up in the technical side of the business. Since so many of the studio’s systems run on computer hardware and internal networks, IT issues ended up being big sources of delays and distractions.

Cloud-based Technology

Today, Cloud-based tools for the studio have emerged, so a lot of the functionality that the studio needs can be accessed through a simple Internet browser window. You can now manage tasks, schedules, ad bookings, dispatch ads to publishers, look up ad specifications, even preflight files on the Cloud.

These solutions are all set up and maintained by the providers on the Cloud, using high-powered hardware, and dedicated software engineers keep things running smoothly.

All that’s needed on the part of the Mac Operator or Studio Manager is to fire up the browser, navigate to their website, and log in. No more fussing with complicated server and database setups, buggy software, or network issues.

Can we work better in the studio?

Besides effectively using technology to make your work easier, what other tips and tricks do you have for working smarter in the studio?

How else have you coped with the general lack of time and investment in the studio? Or are you of the opinion that overtime really an unavoidable part of our industry today?

To learn about how you can quickly and easily automate parts of your work flow and work smarter, not harder, be sure to check out the FREE ebook below!