Business Management - Productivity/Process Improvement

Dickeson--Give Poor Roger's OLAP a Look
February 1, 2000

Most of us in printing use relational database technology for accounting and production files. Job-cost and general-ledger files we keep in relational tables; transaction processing is what we do. That's cool, but industry is zipping by us, leveraging data to make critical decisions. Printers are living in the days of OLTP: Online Transaction Processing. But the world around us is moving into variants of OLAP: Online Analytical Processing technology. Let me use a personal example to illustrate. I've maintained a database of web printers for nine years. It's a "relational" database consisting of four tables or files. Table One is for companies. Each company

Dickeson--Buying Decisions? It's In Your Own Numbers
January 1, 2000

I had a call from an investment banker wanting information about the printing industry. In effect, he said: "We understand that the printing industry has a problem of chronic overcapacity, which drives down prices and makes printing companies less than attractive investments. Is this true? If so, why? Is this changing? Where is the data of printing industry capacity to be found?" What shall we say to the banker? For as long as I've been around, the buzz has been exactly as the banker put it: Excess capacity drives down price margins. Agree? William Davis, president of R.R. Donnelley & Sons, put it this

Dickeson--Understanding Knowledge Workers
November 1, 1999

Both Peter Drucker, in his new book "Management Challenges for the 21st Century," and Jeff Papows, in "Enterprise.com," speak of "knowledge workers" as replacing blue- and white-collar workers of the past. Knowledge workers are the people in companies who make decisions. They have the "know how" and "know why" of the business acquired through training, or experience, or both. Their decisions translate to actions that establish the policy and competence of the operation. Knowledge workers receive information, assimilate it, decide what to do and execute decisions. Who Are They? Trouble is we're not accustomed to the concept of knowledge workers as a special classification

Computer Management--Proactive Management
November 1, 1999

Implementing computer management systems arm commercial printers with a key to unlocking print production bottlenecks—on and off the Internet. BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO Any printer will report that a breakdown in the communication process in any phase of the print production cycle can be debilitating. Printers, quite simply, do not have the luxury of easily absorbing workflow bottlenecks—from the moment a purchase order comes in, through the prepress and printing processes, to the second the product is lifted off the finishing room floor for shipment and the customer, promptly, is billed for services rendered. Good news: There are a host of fine technology

Dickeson--Wanted - A New Kind of Software Company
October 1, 1999

We're aware that general ledger data and reports are not intended, nor useful for, operating decisions. The premise of the general ledger is identification of asset ownership. We also know that our job-cost accounting has an overlay of assumptions of capacity and utilization that impair its usefulness for operating conclusions. Our pricing is essentially marking up estimates of those questionable job costs. The statistical systems we've been using are not adequate tools for print operations managers. So let's concentrate on the kind and quality of information we need to operate a printing business in the 21st century. Just what is the information we really need

Dickeson--Don't Be Stupid About Paper
September 1, 1999

"It's the economy, stupid" is the now oft-quoted statement coined by political consultant James Carville during Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign for the presidency. It simplified issues of the Clinton campaign against an incumbent president basking in high opinion poll ratings. The phrase focused that presidential campaign on the concern of a majority of the voters of the country at that time. What Carville did was modify the old KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Focus was needed for the campaign, and he supplied it. Simplicity, for Carville, was the economy. "It's the Paper, Stupid!" Now it's our—the printing industry's—time to focus, to simplify. "It's the

Dickeson--Throw Away the Crystal Ball
August 1, 1999

Budgeting. Scheduling. Loading. Financial reporting. Estimating. Production standards. Capacity utilization. We're talking about the heart and soul of printing administration. They all rely on a common function: forecasting. We spend gobs of valuable time and energy predicting the future for those systems. Then we try to operate the business using assumptions we develop from those forecasts. Want to know a sickening truth? As prognosticators, we're lousy. We're all plain stupid when it comes to making good guesses about what's going to happen. So why do we waste so much time with crystal balls? You tell me. Am I saying we're all a bunch of crummy

Dickeson--Create Brand Recognition For Your Print Operation
June 1, 1999

"I don't know your company. I don't know your product. I don't know you. Now what was it you wanted to see me about?" That's my best recollection of the caption on a cartoon published by McGraw-Hill many years ago showing a crusty purchasing agent addressing a perspiring young salesman. I've never forgotten it. I can't think of a better illustration of the value of a brand. These days we hear a lot about "branding," the value of a "brand." In the world of sports, for example, we recognize personalities such as Michael Jordan or John Madden as "brands." I glanced at the title of a

Dickeson--Becoming a Model Student
May 1, 1999

Lotta talk these days about the business "model." Entire industries and individual enterprises are being driven to reconsider their operations and to make major changes in their functions and methods. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with those businesses directly confronting the Internet phenomenon, such as booksellers, travel agencies, auto dealers, stock brokerages and so on. And now printing companies, also, should review their long-standing business model. Already, supply-chain linkage—where demands of the publisher pass to paper and ink suppliers, to printer, to color separation and to distribution list maintainers—is now under study by a few printers. Demand/supply shortening via the Internet will alter the

Dickeson--Join the Information Age
April 1, 1999

We're shaking our heads. We just cannot believe that the U.S. economy continues to flourish month after month, year after year. Low unemployment rates, negligible inflation, low interest costs, soaring productivity, a surplus in place of a deficit, all of this and more, while Russia, Japan, Southeast Asia, Brazil and other countries are sinking in recession. There are as many explanations for this economic phenomenon as there are economists! There are a number of factors operating and interacting. But I'm most impressed with this suggested reason: the impact that IT—Information Technology—is now having on the economy; IT has replaced manufacturing as the driving force