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COMPUTER-INTEGRATED MANUFACTURING -- Making Customers' Work Flow

August 2003

Whenever possible, the company looks to put a custom wrapper around existing solutions, but he says it has to do some of its own development work—especially given the number and variety of legacy systems Quebecor World has due to growing by acquisition.

Along with Delano, the tool kit currently includes Dalim's Ficelle and Creo's Synapse InSite workflow products, along with Printcafe and Printable third-party solutions. Jones characterizes the company as being deep into the deployment of "pilot" solutions.

Still on the wish list for development is what he calls "Print Modeling" tools. These would enable customers to run "what if" scenarios to see how changing a job's parameters, stock, production techniques, etc., would impact its cost, delivery date and more. "We are in consideration of how to do it, but haven't implemented anything," Jones says.

While some degree of process intelligence can be built into the tools, greater responsibility for the final results is being shifted to print buyers. They are at the nexus of movements to change how print is procured in the future, Jones says. "Brochures and other printed materials are being added to Ariba (corporate spend management) systems in the same space with general office supplies," he points out.

The ideal response would be for the industry to come together in a open systems environment to establish a common way for all customer orders to be structured, Jones suggests. He says such systems exist in other industries, and points out that the papiNet consortium has been working to develop standard mechanisms for paper ordering and management. "Unfortunately, there is no momentum behind that type of effort for print," he adds.

All new developments follow a common track, Jones asserts. "First, you've got to make it work. We're still in that phase, but we should have a lot of this stuff figured out by the end of this year. Once it works, then you make it work right. We'll be in that phase probably in the first half of '04. Lastly, you make it work fast. I don't think we'll ever get to a lights-out manufacturing environment, but we can get pretty close over the course of the next three years," he concludes.

Brown Printing sees implementation of CIM as critical to remaining a leader in the industry, says Scott Borhauer, central imaging manager for the Waseca, MN-based printing organization. To support that effort, the company continues to be a member of CIP4 (as is Quebecor World), he notes.

Internet Involvement

The printer's plan for extending CIM to the customer is still a work in progress at this point, but JDF (in combination with other relevant standards) is at the core of its efforts, Borhauer reports. "Leveraging the Internet will allow for us to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace," he says. "Currently, we are focusing on enabling our customer base to collaborate electronically and make choices in the overall production of their product."

Brown has been working with a demo version of Ficelle, which is an Internet-based publication production management system that implements JDF. "We're looking to bring all the stakeholders together from the world of disconnect we have in a manual, or non-CIM, production environment," he says. "We want to allow for real-time, 24/7 access. We don't want clients just submitting jobs to a black hole any more."

The first CIM interface is to prepress, but the company plans to extend JDF-enabled connections out to the pressroom, through the bindery and on to logistics, the department manager reports. "We want to enhance information access and utilization, streamline production processes and integrate systems, resulting in increased automation," he says.

While production information primarily will be used internally, customers will be given some level access, too, Borhauer notes. "We are being forced to do it, whether we want to or not. If one printer does it, its competitors will have to follow suit. Some of our competitors are already letting clients see densitometry readings, press dates and where a job is at in the binder," he reports.

Borhauer envisions Ficelle providing customers a "job container" they can pump information into, should they choose to use the system. Brown also can push information out to the container and pre-populate certain data. "Then, when a client's live data hits that job container, the workflow transactions start happening," he says.

This isn't the only CIM-related development effort ongoing at the company. Other departments have their own projects, and Borhauer himself also is working with Printcafe to see which customer interface has greater longevity. "It would be beautiful if we could tie everything together under one umbrella, but we all live in the real world," he observes.

Curt Olson, Brown's business system manager, has been charged with implementing the papiNet standard for connecting with paper suppliers and customers who typically purchase their own stock. Implementing standards is key to interfacing with multiple parties, Olson asserts.

Since papiNet involves servers talking to servers, in this case the burden for establishing and maintaining connectivity is shared. Each link in the chain is responsible for having systems that can consume and/or generate certain of the XML-based messages.

"A customer isn't going to log onto a Brown Printing Website and look at a papiNet message," Olson points out. "Its purpose is to eliminate human effort."

The printer has had parts of papiNet implemented since December of 2002, including use of electronic manifests. "The next step will be to transmit usage data to a couple of key customers. This tie-in to customers' internal purchasing and materials management systems will give them better inventory control for the paper they purchase and have delivered to us," he says.

Olson expects to have the usage piece in place by the end of this year, but that development timetable is also dependent on the speed of the company's partners.

For his part, Borhauer anticipates having a Ficelle-based workflow model in place by the end of this year, as well. A huge marketing campaign is planned for the launch, he notes.

Christopher Wells, president and CEO of LaVigne Inc., in Worcester, MA, likes Mark Jones' PortalÆ HubÆPlant model for a CIM printing workflow. It just has to be turned on its ear a little to fit his multi-process, one-plant operation.

"We're developing multiple portals that funnel jobs to one hub to get crunched into a common set of data to then go through different workflows in our plant," Wells explains. The company has moved aggressively into print-on-demand digital services, including versioning and target marketing, but also has offset printing capabilities.

The goal the shop is working toward is having jobs enter its production workflow as PDF files with an accompanying JDF job ticket. Its implementations of that vision have reached different stages depending on the process, application and customer. At present, Wells sees a need for six customer engagement systems: collateral, stationery, general print, inventory, print-on-demand and marketing campaign.

LaVigne's most automated workflow is its e-commerce based, "true" print-on-demand services. Close behind is the e-commerce-based offset printing workflow. Then there's the traditional workflow with on-disk or FTP job submissions, usually as QuarkXPress files.

"What we are calling 'true' on-demand services is a completely automated workflow right up to the press," Wells explains. "You can't charge enough to interrupt the workflow without blowing the cost per unit out of whack."

According to the company president, the system uses Printable Technologies' ASP model for print ordering and management to feed HP Indigo's Production Flow system for digital print production. Both components are designed to work with JDF and PDF data.

For offset e-procurement, customers can use Group Logic's MassTransit software to FTP files and submit job ticket information, Wells reveals. PostScript files get RIPed into PDFs when they first hit LaVigne's internal workflow, and a member of its staff wrote a small program that translates the e-mail generated by MassTransit into a JDF-compliant job ticket.

"We normally only use that approach with agencies that really understand the process. We have a specific understanding with users that there will be no proofing or additional file processing. The job goes right to the press," Wells explains. "The advantage of MassTransit, for now, is the ability to do projects on-the-fly."

Creative Constraints

The biggest obstacle the printer has faced in implementing these solutions has been that creative people don't want to work within the confines of a defined workflow. The Printable workflow, in particular, is very rules based and template driven, he notes.

"All the rules of engagement are set up from the get-go. You can't order an item unless you are sure it is going to come across properly imposed. All of the stock and finishing parameters are defined upfront. The pricing is set, too," Wells says.

The current limits of the technology dictate that the workflow be template based for now, but he expects things to change. "What I'm hopeful can happen is that intelligent tools and standards will remove any barriers to creativity, yet generate an imposed PDF file with a JDF ticket ready for print production," he explains.

In trying to roll out CIM solutions, Wells says the biggest frustration has been having manufacturers push migration to new systems rather than working with the solutions the shop currently is using. He has been willing to live with some manual JDF processing today in order to get a leg up on the future.

The chief exec doubts whether LaVigne will ever be in a position to have all work come through a single interface. That's okay, because customer system setup and maintenance has proven to be a new revenue source, albeit a modest one, he points out.

Wells doesn't expect it to be a long-term opportunity, though. "Customers are going to start developing their own buying systems," he concludes.


Acronyms:

CIM: Computer-integrated manufacturing

JDF: Job Definition Format

JMF: Job Messaging Format

XML: Extensible Markup Language

CIP4: The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress
 

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