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JohnsByrne Co. -- Finding an Edge

April 2003
By Erik Cagle

We're looking for ways to cut costs out of our business," states Jack Gustafson, COO for Niles, IL-based JohnsByrne Co., "because we can't afford to take any more profit out of our business."

It is the 21st century rally cry of the commercial printer. With most hardware options throughout the printing workflow already exhausting comprehensive automation avenues, offering the most competitive prices to print buyers has become the business-to-business equivalent of shaving time off the best 100-meter dash standard.

But JohnsByrne—a $20 million per year printer that produces brochures, annual reports, direct mail pieces, catalogs, POP materials and specialty printing—had other ideas. Long a proponent of keeping its MIS on an extremely short leash, the idea of buying into a computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) workflow seemed an attractive proposition. Thus, when the manufacturing collective of Komori, Creo and Printcafe provided JohnsByrne the opportunity to work side-by-side to make the "Smart Factory" solution a reality, the printer was happy to oblige.

"CIM brings (MIS) a level deeper; it makes your environment more efficient because you're taking information and populating it across multiple platforms," states Dean Fairley, vice president of manufacturing for JohnsByrne.

"The targets, to the manufacturing folks, are laid out in front of them so they don't have to go get it. It has added enhancements around the pressroom—ink fountain settings on the presses, monitoring the equipment versus having the operator punch in the information. It's more interactive, making data collection through cost accounting that much more accurate."

Talking Solutions

The CIM solution, which was fully installed at JohnsByrne last September, incorporates virtually every step of the production process. Among the highlights:

** Content preparation. Creo's Networked Graphic Production facilitates the creative desktop process with PDF-creation tools, among them Pagelet and the PDF Seps2Comp software. The solutions aid both the designer and print staff in creating PDF files. Creo Synapse Prepare software defines directives or job production specifications to ensure that client design files match printing requirements. JohnsByrne clients utilize the directives to automate their PDF file preflighting, which helps to eliminate file error delays in prepress.

** Print management. JohnsByrne utilizes the Printcafe Hagen Open Architecture system, which boasts applications for estimating, job creation and management, accounting, purchasing, inventory, receiving and fulfillment. The Printcafe PrintFlow scheduling application optimizes the use of personnel and equipment, while minimizing makeready time between jobs, thus improving throughput and plant capacity.

The print management aspect is perfect almost to a fault, according to Gustafson. "The information that we're getting back is so accurate right now versus before when employees were inputting information," he says. "We're trying to de-bug it right now; we're having a problem with an employee's lunch time being posted to the job. That's how microscopic we're getting. In the old days, an employee could mispunch five hours on something. Now, we have to figure out how we can work the bugs out of having lunch costed against an actual job."

** Prepress workflow integration. Designers submit content files electronically to JohnsByrne production using the Creo Synapse InSite Internet portal into prepress, allowing for remote job submission, proofing, collaboration and tracking. The JDF-based integration modules, such as Creo Synapse Link software and the Printcafe Prepress Connector, allow for full integration with the Hagen PMS.

** Pressroom and finishing. Prepress data is sent automatically to calibrate the press ink-key settings courtesy of CIP3/PPF by using Creo PrintLink. JohnsByrne can transfer job ticket information to the pressroom with the Hagen OA system, via the Komori K-Station through a CIP4 JDF interface. Through a bi-directional interface, information from prepress and the Hagen system is sent directly to the Komori press. Job production data from the press and finishing systems is exported through the K-Station back to the Hagen OA system.

Gustafson points out that JohnsByrne was one of the early adopters of computer-to-plate (CTP) technology, when it subscribed to a Creo solution. He feels that, as in the case with CTP, the migration—Gustafson refers to it as "jumping in with both feet"—toward CIM will enable JohnsByrne to get a technological jump start that will give it an edge over his contemporaries.

According to Fairley, the adjustments and learning curves are no less dramatic than any transformation from one platform to another. And, while the company is perhaps six months away from reaching a comfort zone with its CIM, the benefits have been readily apparent.

Clearly, working with the manufacturers on the system before it is shrink-wrapped and sold to the general populace had its advantages. "I look at it from the perspective that we're 80 percent better than we were yesterday, and it's good to get in on the ground floor—to get a better understanding of the system and its capabilities," Fairley says. "By being an alpha site, you're also much more involved in the enhancements of the product. We're able to give more input to the manufacturers as to what we would like to see added to improve the product. Those efficiencies have all been acknowledged by them.

"There are some shortcomings in the system that are natural nuances of a new product. But it's fun working with the manufacturers as they collaborate to make the system better and improve it, and they're really doing it with our input. It's great; you become part of the product development team any time you're one of the first users."

As for the areas where the greatest efficiencies have been, Fairley sees improvements across the board. "The job ticket is being populated by the estimate," he notes. "The information for actual job initiation on the server is being created by Hagen, onto server and prepress, so we're seeing prepress efficiencies from that perspective. And the fountains being set by Blade Setter through the Komori link with Creo has been an extremely efficient process from that end."

Gaining Speed

"Each department has seen some level of efficiencies. What we're seeing are some slight nuances, some slight disconnects, upon which Creo, Printcafe and Komori continue to address. But we've gained lot of automation."

Finding those extra efficiencies and being able to cut costs are pivotal areas for JohnsByrne to remain viable, according to Gustafson. "If we can cut our costs, we pass it along to the customer, and that makes us a lot more competitive."

Both Gustafson and Fairley caution that the decision to make the CIM leap is not to be taken lightly. "It's not an evolution, it's a revolution when you look at it internally," Fairley states. "Look at the vendor pool. In almost any instance, you're talking about an implementation across several platforms. How you work and collaborate with the vendors are critical. And their commitment to that collaboration and an open architecture is key.

"This is almost as big of a revolution, from my perspective, as CTP was," he adds. "Some folks think computer-integrated manufacturing will never be here. But you need to be approach this new technology with an open mind."

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