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Can AI Really Help Your Printing Process?

Real artificial intelligence (AI) — the kind of thinking machine found in science fiction movies — does not yet exist. But you might be surprised to know how many elements of AI are found in some of the computer functions you use every day. From your Facebook feed to a common Google search, and the responsive conversations you have with your Alexa, you’re engaging with AI all the time. How are AI algorithms moving into your professional life?

An AI primer

If you look behind the curtain of AI, you’ll find computer algorithms. While there is media hype about AI taking your job, or taking over the planet, AI is really just math. Unless you’re plagued with arithmophobia, you should be able to work with these tools.

To understand the implications of AI for the print industry, it helps to start with a common vocabulary. AI typically refers to the ability of a machine to mimic human behavior, but this is a broad definition for a range of tools and technology. In high-tech industry, AI is divided into the following four general categories:

  1. Reactive machines. This is the most basic AI functionality, in which the software can only react to current scenarios, with no ability to use prior experiences to inform decision-making.
  2. Limited memory. The software can make environmental observations to inform a decision (e.g., the technology behind self-driving cars).
  3. Theory of mind. At this point, AI becomes more futuristic. To fall into this category, AI must have the ability to understand thoughts and emotions and use this to react to the world around it.
  4. Self-aware AI. This is the most advanced type of AI, and it requires a machine to have its own consciousness — something that does not yet exist — although there is some debate.

How will these AI subsets affect your work now and in the future?

How does the printing industry use AI today?

The advantage of using AI software in the printing industry is the same as it is in other fields: AI automation helps you work smarter.

AI can eliminate some printing process bottlenecks to increase your output. This automation frees up team members to work on more strategic projects. Today’s AI can help with suggestions for everything from document layouts to flagging customer data for mail recipients to personalize their experience. AI software can also help with the flow of job submissions to the production team. Behind the scenes, AI software can make real-time minute printing adjustments to improve image quality and paper alignment. All this information can flow back to the printing manufacturer, where they can analyze performance data and adjust the software to improve it.

AI software benefits include faster production, higher volume, and potentially, more available resources and time to enable you to build your business. AI has tremendous potential for use in the printing industry, and it’s just getting started.

What’s next for AI in printing?

AI and the algorithms behind it are only going to improve. We already see machine learning, which is a subset of AI, working in many of the everyday tasks you may take for granted, from searching on Google to placing an Amazon order. Some of the AI software standards in the printing field today and in the coming years include:

  • Virtual assistants and chatbots that will help your customers with self-service and on-demand printing needs
  • Greater automation of line printing processes on the production floor
  • More personalization for customers, which will be used to increase subscriptions for your clients and upsell additional products for you
  • Higher production volumes and faster, cleaner print runs

Far from being an enemy, AI software is designed to help, not harm, the printing field. Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.

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