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Walsworth Publishing : Integrating the Enterprise

August 4, 2009
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WHEN WALSWORTH Publishing set out to find software that would modernize its system and increase the consistency of its printing processes—without eating into its bottom line—little did it know that it was in line for a bonus. 

Not only did the system the company choose achieve efficiencies throughout its commercial printing runs, from sheetfed to webfed to digital, it was also the basis for integrating and updating the entire enterprise.

Walsworth, well-known for its school yearbooks, is also a printer of catalogs, textbooks, magazines and other specialty publications. It was founded in 1937 in Marceline, MO, and still operates there today with 1,250 employees worldwide and more than 650 employees who qualify as Master Printers. 

It has an extensive array of state-of-the-art color web and sheetfed presses, bindery, prepress and mailing equipment. The company’s Commercial Book Div. specializes in high-quality, four-color books, as well as trade books, military publications, and city and county histories.

In 2006, Grant Fritch, Walsworth’s prepress technology manager, was charged with leading the company’s enterprise-wide technology initiative aimed at achieving advances in customer communications, internal workflow and systems integration.

“Integration was high on our list of criteria,” he says. “We wanted the ability to communicate via JDF and XML—something with a standard plug. The capability of integration with our existing and future ERP was really important to us.”

Integrating Operations

When Fritch started doing his research, however, he realized that MIS at Walsworth had been created largely in-house. The result was that every department upgraded (or not), depending on its own needs as opposed to company-wide standards.

As in many businesses, each individual department—and function—had its own priorities, producing gaps in MIS applications that frustrated “big picture” solutions to technology issues. From sales to accounting to production, there had been no fully integrated approach.

So Fritch and his colleagues set out to find a way to apply the “single keystroke” principle that had eluded them thus far: one button that would connect key processes and one button that would also connect key company functions.

They studied systems designed for the printing industry—and even some that weren’t. The challenge? To acquire technology that would work seamlessly as a unit over four locations, 20 presses and 1,200 people, and make the $10 million investment they had made in hardware work even harder. 

“I knew that we would need something that could be configured rather than customized, satisfying our need, not only for modernization, but to accommodate individual customers and new products and processes coming down the pike,” adds Fritch. “We also wanted to achieve significant reductions in makeready waste.”

So, they selected PRISM’s QTMS iQ intelligent network production management system (SFDC) to supply company-wide, real-time data. PRISM introduces specifications for managing, aggregating, post-processing, multi-purposing and aggregating magazine, news, catalog, book and mainstream journal content. The system was installed on all of Walsworth’s presses and bindery equipment for data collection within all of the company’s production locations by the end of 2006. 

“We benchmarked our pressroom during the month of April 2007 vs. April 2008, and measured our average makeready waste on-press. Since the QTMS implementation, we have reduced waste an average of 60 percent per press run. With 10,000+ jobs per year, this has resulted in a significant savings for us,” he reveals.

However, the lean manufacturing goals Walsworth had set for itself went beyond waste reduction. They wanted to acquire technology that could achieve more consistency and control across departments. In the end, Walsworth opted for PRISM-WIN. Now fully integrated, the WIN and QTMS iQ systems have begun to deliver important gains, impacting the entire spectrum of Walsworth’s administrative and production workflow, from estimating, order processing and manufacturing to distribution. 

In 2008, Walsworth celebrated its 70th anniversary. Grant Fritch’s two-year effort to modernize its systems is just one of the ways the company is ensuring that it and its customers continue to thrive well into the 21st century. PI


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