MIS to Workflow Integration : Getting Production to FlowApril 2010 By Mark Smith
AT THE dawn of this still relatively new millennium, the printing industry was all abuzz about the concepts of computer-integrated manufacturing, the Digital Smart Factory and lights-out manufacturing. Workflow integration via the job definition format (JDF) became its quest for the Holy Grail.
At the center of this automated processing was to be a management information system (MIS) feeding job data downstream to set up prepress, press and postpress equipment, with instantaneous updates from the shop floor communicated back upstream to the MIS. This revolution has yet to sweep through the printing industry, but that vision is still alive and actively being worked on.
DIMS!, for example, touted the fact earlier this year that it is the first MIS vendor to receive five JDF certifications, including MIS to Web Press ICS and MIS to Finishing ICS. Also, Heidelberg recently announced the first U.S. implementation of a JDF-based, bidirectional exchange between its Prinect system and the EFI Monarch MIS.
There is another pathway for integrating MIS and production, however, that already has been more widely realized—shop floor data collection and direct machine interfaces (DMIs).
For years Lane Press, in South Burlington, VT, has been working on various ways to integrate its front office and production workflows to improve process efficiency and gain business intelligence, thereby enabling it to better serve its customer base—publishers of short- to medium-run magazines. It started by attempting to interface its Hiflex MIS solution and the manroland PECOM control system for its presses using JDF.
About a year ago, it launched a project to replace the Covalent (now EFI) Auto-Count system it had used for decades with Prism's QTMS data collection system. The company currently is sending job and paper roll information from its Hiflex system to the QTMS installation in the pressroom and receiving job activity (press stops, good copies, waste copies, etc.) and rolls used data back.
Capturing and sharing data electronically has a dual benefit, explains Scott Luck, Lane Press' system analyst. It saves press operators from having to input/record data manually, while increasing the timeliness, amount and accuracy of the bidirectional information flow. The system, for example, "gives our pressroom manager a lot of information that he uses to analyze the performance of each job on-press."
Paper waste reduction is the big ROI usually touted by sellers of press management systems like QTMS, Luck continues. "That is something we are definitely going after—reducing the waste stream throughout the entire process."