One Road to Automation
When Wallace, the $1.5 billion printing giant that built its empire in forms and labels, absorbed Graphic Industries two years ago, it positioned itself as a true commercial printing force. Once Graphic Industries joined Wallace, however, one fact became clear: Wallace needed to bring its expanding commercial printing group's management information system up to speed with the first-rate proprietary computer management system employed in its forms and labels empire. What to do?
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
WALLACE, a sophisticated commercial printing giant pumping out nearly $1.5 billion in sales, had a very, very big challenge. After all, how does a printing empire, built on labels, forms and office products successfully grow a suddenly expanded commercial printing group via acquisition and NOT suffer a few high-level consequences?
Once upon a time, in November 1997 to be exact, news broke that Lisle, IL-based Wallace was planning to pay approximately $437 million for Graphic Industries of Atlanta, GA—a move that would most certainly position Wallace as a formidable commercial printing contender.
At the time, Bob Cronin, Wallace's president and CEO, told industry reporters that commercial printing was "an important component of Wallace's strategy to become a fully integrated, total print manager" and that Wallace was committed to becoming as formidable a name in the commercial printing sector as it was in the labels and forms market.
Fast forward to January 1998.
With the Graphic Industries purchase complete, and several similarly successful acquisitions of commercial printing operations in the United States finalized, Wallace's top executives knew there existed the need for an advanced automated information system, capable of digitizing Wallace's administrative and print production endeavors in its newly acquired commercial printing empire.
Wallace, since 1985, had experienced great success with its home-grown computer management system—Wallace Customer Servicing System (WCSS), a proprietary mainframe information system capable of tracking every order, past, present and future, tucked in an enormous database of all of Wallace's forms and labels customers.
Wallace's big decision: Should it simply incorporate the Graphic Industries effort into WCSS? Or was it more prudent to shop for a third-party software system to deliver a computer management system tailored specifically for the commercial printing environment? Offering direction, top executives at Graphic Industries, now carrying a voice within the Wallace fortress, turned Wallace's attention to the Hagen computerized management system already in place at several of its 20 locations.
Wallace's David Rousseau, vice president of information services, acting on the advisement of the Graphic Industries team, contacted Hagen and got a first-hand look at Hagen OA, the open architecture management solution for the graphic arts industry from Hagen Systems. Hagen OA provides a full suite of modules from estimating to scheduling and job management to financial reporting. The system also combines the electronic production ticket with shop floor data collection, scheduling and alteration information.
Rousseau took notice, and a decision was made. In Rousseau's eyes, Hagen OA—with its open architecture selling point—would be the computer management system to bring Wallace's newly expanded commercial printing effort under complete automated control, working in conjunction with WCSS.
Rather than starting from square one and building its own proprietary computer management system tailored to commercial printing, Hagen OA offered Wallace a jump-start on getting organized.
"We selected Hagen OA because of Hagen's reputation and, most significantly from a technology standpoint, Hagen OA's open architecture," Wallace's Rousseau reports. "Wallace wanted a system that could be easily integrated with its existing enterprise-wide approach to information—Hagen met the commercial printing operation's unique requirements, as well as the ability for Wallace to integrate Hagen OA with its existing corporate-wide systems."
Implementing the Decision
By December 1998, Wallace signed a deal for Hagen OA—giving Hagen a challenge, as well as a customer. Wallace was a much larger project than the typical Hagen client. As such, Hagen's technologists thought that, because of Wallace's size, many special needs would be suggested.
Wallace's integration of the Hagen open architecture computer management system, from that point, took on the following timeline—still in process.
* In January 1999, the first step for Wallace and the Hagen team—with Hagen's Lisa Dillon supervising implementation—was to immediately implement Hagen OA into the five Graphic Industries commercial printing sites that were not Year 2000 compliant. These sites were operating with a home-developed management system that was not capable of upgrade in time to exterminate the Y2K bug.
* Effective March 1999, Wallace and Hagen turn their teamed attention to aggressively moving forward with integrating Hagen OA into the remaining printing sites in the Graphic Industries 20-location family.
Within a few months, all of the Graphic Industries printing sites will be operating on one standard platform—Hagen OA—as well as an enterprise-wide data warehouse created by Wallace, the Wallace Information Network, or WIN.
"Hagen's open architecture feature was clearly the differentiator for us. It provided us with the ability to build interfaces into our existing systems," Rousseau states. "Today, we process literally tens of thousands of customers and a half a million SKUs in our infrastructure. We want that information to go as fast as possible, riding on a single, common platform for all of our commercial printing customers."
Hagen did considerable training and planning with Wallace personnel, walking them down the effective path for implementation of a computerized business management system.
The full details of Wallace's learning curve—and advice from Hagen's Dillon on implementing a management solution into a commercial printing operation—is provided in the "Top 10 Tips" sidebar.
These words of wisdom were instrumental for Wallace and may ring true for commercial printers debating taking the automated journey.
Inside Hagen OA:
A quick visit to Hagen Systems on the Internet at www.hagenoa.com will allow a close look at the Hagen open architecture (OA). Featured on the site is OA Scheduling.
OA Scheduling recreates the manual scheduling wall on the desktop, providing a comfortable, familiar interface with the power of a computerized tag. OA Scheduling uses computerized tags that look like manual tags—each tag includes vital job details and can be color-coded to represent a special production condition or status. But, unlike the manual tag, the OA tag is integrated into the scheduling system with direct links to a job and shop floor data. Tags are updated in real time, indicating when work started and when an operation has been completed.
The visual impact of the scheduling wall is created by using integrated monitors that provide the user with a large, connected workspace. The user can click and drag tags across two or three monitors. The system automatically front-loads or back-loads your new jobs into the schedule, giving you immediate feedback on the job's impact to your current production load. Once on the schedule, changes can be made by simply dragging the tag to a new work center or a different date.
Because OA Scheduling is completely integrated into the Hagen OA management toolkit, scheduling information is available to anyone with access authorization. Data-recap screens and reports provide real-time info to CSRs, salespeople, managers and shop floor personnel, who can review the info without making a special trip to the scheduling wall.
Top 10 Tips For Taking the Automated Journey
Editor's Note: The following information was provided by Lisa Dillon, customer advocate at Hagen Systems.
1) Communicate the importance and potential impact of the new system to the entire company, and demonstrate the commitment of management to make it work.
2) Identify a project manager and select a training team. Committed volunteers will move the project along at a faster rate with a much higher degree of success.
3) Train the team. Your project managers and training team will become your system experts. Utilize your vendor's resources to train and support your team's efforts.
4) Identify your timeline and present an overview to your users. The overview is an opportunity for users to ask questions and learn how their expertise fits into the entire system implementation.
5) Develop and publish a training schedule that provides an adequate amount of time for each group to cover the information on their part of the system. Be sure those being trained know how long they have to practice and when the company will go live on the system.
6) Conduct training sessions in small groups of two or three people. This creates a comfortable training environment with opportunity for lots of interchange between trainers/users.
7) In each training session, include an opportunity for the users to be at the keyboard. Provide step-by-step instruction for the equipment and software they'll be using in their jobs.
8) Provide access to the software immediately after training. Practice makes perfect or at least improves the retention of what has been learned. Be sure training personnel are available to answer questions during the practice period.
9) Encourage feedback on the training sessions from the users and incorporate their suggestions into future training sessions.
10) When going live on schedule, be sure that training personnel are available to answer questions. Delays or a tendency to run "parallel" systems for an extended period of time can raise questions of commitment.