Is Shallow Work Crushing Your Margins?

A summary of Keypoint Intelligence’s “Maximum Uplift” article for Tilia Labs



Greg Cholmondeley


There is no doubt that your staff is your most valuable resource. Your staff, their experience, and the way they hustle to do jobs right and on time is what sets you apart. However, how you manage your staff and automation can dramatically impact their performance and your bottom line. In Keypoint Intelligence’s “Maximum Uplift” article, the role of automation in shallow work vs. deep work plays is a valuable one.


What Is Shallow/Deep Work?

Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Shallow work, on the other hand, is defined as “non-cognitive, logistical tasks often performed while distracted.”


Shallow work includes every time a file needs to be manually processed: when a ticket is made for a new job, assigning it, finding the file to add, opening said file. All of this is compounded when the job is passed down the line to the next person, who does all these steps all over again.


And while Professor Newport provides various ways to shift from shallow to deep work with your employees, print service providers (PSPs) and in-plants have a key opportunity in this shift—automating tasks that are otherwise menial and repetitious (i.e., shallow work). He discusses organization, planning, time dedication, social media breaks, and other ideas in his blog; however, PSPs and in-plants have additional opportunities: automation of menial and repetitious work.


Proper Automation Can Boost Profits

The proper integration of automation is needed to boost profits, as it can reduce the need to hire additional staff, provide stability, and (most importantly) maximizes uplift by removing mundane and logic-less tasks from your staff, thereby increasing the space for deep work.


Current automation methods have benefits are not derived from reducing headcount:

  • Automation can reduce the need to hire additional staff
  • It can reduce overtime costs in short-staffed operations
  • It can provide stability by never getting sick, quitting, or demanding a salary increase
  • It enables staff to spend more time performing deep work with less of the distracting interruptions of shallow work, which improves employee morale and increases productivity
  • It lets you maximize the uplift of your most valuable resource (your staff) by taking over menial and redundant tasks and allowing people to add actual value


Finding Maximum Uplift with Intelligent Planning

Intelligent planning and imposition are critical for getting out of the small-job slowdown and reaching maximum velocity in your printing operations. For example, Tilia Labs’ intelligent planning software helps optimize production through better management of smaller jobs. Mitigating the influx of shallow work ensures you are getting the best use of your equipment, substrates, and labor costs—whether you offer commercial, label, folding carton, or wide format printing.


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