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MIS--Automation Preparation

September 1998
BY JERRY JANDA


Phil Ruggles, a Cal Poly State University professor and consultant specializing in management information systems, estimates that this year there are approximately 70 vendors selling computer management systems to the graphic arts industry.

As of yet, no vendors sell software that makes selecting, and integrating, a computer management system any easier.

Ruggles notes that there is no easy way to determine which computer management system is best for a given company—there are simply too many variables to allow for a quick choice. Research and study by the printer are essential. And at the end of the research process, it is unlikely that any system will be ideal or perfect to address every need the printer has.

It's also unlikely that the installation process will be finished quickly. "It's not going to be done overnight," says Mary Ann Osting, systems administrator for Derby City Litho, a Louisville, KY-based printer that uses a computer management system from Programmed Solutions. "We have put in a full 18 months of intense work to get the system where it is today."

This time frame can vary, depending on the type of system you select. Ruggles, author of "Computer Dividends: Management Information Systems for the Graphic Arts" and "Printing Estimating: Costing Methods for Digital and Traditional Graphic Imaging," points out that printing companies can choose from four options.

The first is to buy a simple package solution that does one job, such as estimating. The second method is to install a full-blown system, purchasing hardware and software that automates everything. The third way is to buy the software only and run it on your own hardware; in this scenario, the printing company can secure the rights to open architecture software and modify it. The final choice is for printers to build their own systems using their own employees or hiring outside experts to do the work.

Ruggles points out that homegrown systems bypass the proprietary problems associated with mixing and matching computer management packages from various vendors, and allow printers to tailor systems precisely to their needs. However, homegrown systems take time to develop, and they don't come with documentation.

Perry Judd's, based in Waterloo, WI, once relied on a homegrown system for scheduling. Mark W. Karaffa, manufacturing systems manager for Perry Judd's, describes it as a haphazard creation. Since the system couldn't calculate in factors such as press speed based on type of work, the program showed every job on every press running at the same speed. This made long-term scheduling hard to judge accurately.
 

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