If you have an interest in annual predictions’, you’ll have noticed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) tops nearly all notable 2018 lists. Amongst all the speculation that claims robots will take jobs away from humans and concerns that AI is spiralling out of control, PwC was able to steady the conversation. In their 2018 AI predictions, they stated that 2018 is the year that “AI will come down to earth – and get to work”.
PwC predict that in 2018 AI will start doing things, but not in the ways that will change the world, which overenthusiastic media headlines have stated.
For AI to work in the printing world it needs to function at its most basic level and this boils down to automating processes – something the print industry has talked about for some time.
Before we look at how the print industry uses AI, let's clarify some terms and concepts. The definition of AI is widely accepted as the ability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. But there are four industry known types of AI.
Reactive machines - The most basic functionality of AI as the machine only reacts to current scenarios, with no ability to use memory and experience to inform decisions.
Limited memory - The machine can make observations about its environment to inform a decision.
Theory of mind - At this point, AI is more futuristic. For this AI must be able to understand thoughts and emotions and react to it.
Self-aware AI - This is the most advanced type of AI and requires the machine to have its own consciousness, this is non-existent in the print industry at the moment.
There is a lot of speculation around the last two, but the reality of AI falls into 'reactive machines' and 'limited memory' which is what the printing industry should be concerned about. AI has the potential to open up lucrative new revenue streams for print businesses by improving the effectiveness of the end-to-end printing process, from print job creation through to continuous production and machine service optimisations.
Printers use AI to automate tasks that were previously bottlenecks in the printing process - increasing the daily output. Alternatively, you may be able to offload more routine work to enable your team to focus on strategic work. Here are five examples:
Smart algorithms - in Xerox FreeFlow software figure out different document layouts, such as optimising imposition to reduce print waste.
Direct mail and Catalogues - as more data about the recipients becomes available, you can use that to create more relevant mailings by automatically customising the job content for the recipient.
Job submission - Xerox FreeFlow smart software can monitor which presses are busy and route jobs to available presses.
Self-monitoring presses, regularly check themselves with numerous sensors. They use this information to make real-time-in-process adjustments for things like paper alignment and image resolution. This automation ensures the best output without human intervention.
Data about the press - can be sent back to Logixal where we use tools and algorithms to analyse it, comparing it to expected performance, and identify adjustments our engineer should make. This is predictive analytics that can determine the need for service before the machine fails.
This means that creating more complex print jobs is becoming more automated, which increases the volume and value of pages.
What AI does for printers today
Printing companies now have the opportunity to take advantage of existing software and equipment to bring AI into their businesses. AI gives print shops the chance to employ online data or create targeted print catalogues or newsletters on which pages the customer views.
So, what's stopping you? Look at the current processes and see where you could use this ground-breaking technology to unlock even greater value.