Would Gutenberg feel at home at the Graph Expo, held in Chicago, IL from September 28 through October 1, 2003? He would have appreciated the equipment being demonstrated by giants like Heidelberg, MAN Roland, Kodak, and Xerox. And he would have recognized the benefits of CIM (computer integrated manufacturing). But as an innovator and inventor, he might have wondered why many companies in the printing industry haven’t leveraged technology to its – and their customers – fullest advantage.
In fact, in the “must see ‘ems and worth-a-look” column of the Expo’s official guide, no business management software was mentioned in the list of exhibits, technologies, and products. However, there is a small, but growing, presence of solution vendors, such as DiMS!, EFI, Printcafé Software – and SAP, with mySAP All-in-One, and its partner Syskoplan Consulting Inc. offering PRINT.IT, a specialized vertical solution developed for the printing and packaging industries.
Trends in the industry
Success in the print industry is no longer just about cutting costs and increasing revenues. It’s about providing additional value to customers through a distinct offering – whether that’s a customer-facing portal to support e-commerce, self-service capabilities, digital variable printing (DVP) for personalization, or cross-media marketing services that bridge traditional print services with direct marketing.
And the supplier can’t be left out either. Complete automation of the print process extends beyond the print operation itself, and includes both ends of the supply chain: the supplier as well as the customer. Benefits from systems integration with suppliers include physical inventory management, JIT purchasing, and reduced inventory costs. Integration with customers and suppliers is becoming the new standard.
Small and midsize companies in the printing industry have to ask themselves if they’re prepared for trends such as:
- Comprehensive printing management solutions that fully automate a printer’s business services and communications
- Cross-media publishing, which can deliver powerful, integrated, and one-to-one marketing programs via digital content libraries and multiple media outlets
- Handheld and wireless technologies, which require a change in the format of the content
- Cable and DSL services, which support graphically rich content
- Standards-based workflow, which keeps processes moving faster with fewer people and links databases, design, printing, and customer service
These trends will change the way you create, store, manage, publish, and deliver content. With two-way integration, your Web interface gives customers and suppliers 24X7 access to services and applications. And because it’s two-way, you can link to the Web sites of your customers and your suppliers – and become part of their delivery ecosystem.
Automate and innovate…or else
Before you can take advantage of customer and supplier integration, you have to have the backbone in your own company. And in an industry where a good solution is hard to find, the experience of two printing companies may provide insight to where the visionaries in this business are headed.
We had the opportunity to speak with the CFOs of two midsize printing companies that have recently selected Syskoplan’s PRINT.IT solution, a qualified mySAP All-in-One preconfigured solution for print manufacturers. Richard Butterworth, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at IPC Communications in St. Joseph, MI (www.ipcprintservices.com), and David L. Spinelli, Chief Financial Officer at ANRO Printing/Direct Mail (www.ANRO.com) met with Patricia E. Nagle, President of North American Operations for Syskoplan Consulting Incorporated (www.syskoplan.us) to discuss the business management trends in the printing industry and their recent decision to implement PRINT.IT.
Syskoplan has twenty years’ experience with SAP as an ISV, VAR, and product developer. They have been in the U.S. since 1996, supporting SAP clients with consulting services. Their recent decision to formally enter into the printing and packing markets with a comprehensive solution was based on many years of servicing these industries and witnessing the production and operational challenges that are not easily solved with off-the-shelf software. According to Ms. Nagel, “We have the advantage of knowing the SAP software platform, and we have the industry experience to know what clients in these industries require to run their operations. We combine the leading ERP software, mySAP All-in-One, with our knowledge of how to address the specific operational challenges of this business. And we availed our clients of all of the other benefits that mySAP Business Suite can provide, such as customer relationship management, portal-based customer and supplier collaboration, human resource management, product life-cycle management – and much more. Today, there does not exist a more comprehensive solution tailored to this industry than Syskoplan’s Print.IT.”
Islands of automation
Until recently, printing companies focused their technology investment on the printing process. Mr. Spinelli from ANRO states, “We’re OK with production. But I have to admit that with administration and financials, we were a bit reactionary. We brought technology into the production side, but in other areas, such as finances, HR, marketing, and CRM, we were lacking. We had to be extremely flexible in production, so that’s where we invested – in the machines that would give us the flexibility that customers demand for their printing jobs. But now we need to invest in customer support, for example, with systems for our administrative staff and customer service representatives. It’s time to invest in our customers, and support them with more intelligent information and value-added services, since they really are our most important asset.”
Both Spinelli and Butterworth note that “times have certainly changed.” Spinelli states, “If we had gone to the Graph Expo exhibit floor two years ago, we would not have seen one print management system. As a result, companies are running their businesses with antiquated or homegrown software, if any, because nothing was available. In the past two years, we’ve seen the emergence of tools and solutions to assist print companies with project quotes and costing, but no comprehensive, fully integrated offerings that address cross-organizational business processes.”
The lack of solutions and innovations led to “islands of automation” in the printing industry: a production system, an order management system, an accounting package, and a payroll system. Spinelli notes that his company built separate applications to address individual customer requirements, which the customers really liked. But they weren’t attached to the back-end systems, which the administrative staff didn’t like.
Butterworth reports that IPC had been looking for an integrated business management system for three years, but they didn’t find what they wanted. Before implementing their current technology approach, IPC talked with Syskoplan. “Learning that Syskoplan is an SAP partner and that Syskoplan’s solution is based on the SAP architecture – plus their industry knowledge – gave us a lot of comfort.”
Unlike IPC, ANRO wasn’t looking for a completely integrated system, just a replacement of existing systems. “But what we saw from SAP and Syskoplan was immediately eye-opening, especially for our size of company. We’ve been talking about this kind of system for a decade. But we didn’t think it would be a reality.”
Benefits today – investments in the future
Butterworth expects real benefits from day one. “Reducing the lead time in the order cycle by even one day may not sound like much to someone outside the industry, but for us, it’s a big improvement.” He’s also looking forward to integrated reporting functions, which will enable him and his management team to generate reports that pull together information from all over the company. In addition to the tangible improvements, Butterworth notes another plus. “Our customers see us investing in our future – which is their future too. Customers want to see that we’re in the 21st century. Not only for our printing processes – they expect that – but for all our business processes, too, like quotations, order management, and billing.”
Spinelli anticipates that his new system will help his customers do more – and help him keep them as customers. “If we’re more efficient, then they can be more efficient too.” And like Butterworth, he realizes that there are intangible benefits. “I feel good when I’ve got a customer on the phone who’s asking about a job and I can say to her, ‘It shipped this morning’ or ‘It’s being printed right now and will ship tomorrow at 9:00 AM.’ That’s a great feeling.”
In the future, Butterworth and Spinelli want to provide self-services for customers that will include quotations, collaborative design, and digital asset management. Spinelli plans to open up the order process, for example, so a customer can go to a Web site at anytime and get the job status. He will support his sales force with mobile applications when they’re out in the field, and he’s looking for ways to improve his marketing campaigns.
Match demands with services
Nagle notes that both ANRO and IPC want what’s best for their business – and for their customers. Customers want their print providers to reduce or automate non-value-added activities. They want online, integrated pricing schemas and electronic RFPs. They are demanding portals that are more sophisticated and above all, integration.
Nagle recommends that print companies talk to their customers and find out what issues they are facing. Do they want you to decrease turnaround, reduce errors, increase quality, or provide up-to-the minute status reports? If it’s a problem, it generally means that they do not have a ready solution. Imagine what would happen if you could solve the problem for them with a new self-service or a new portal or an integrated process. What if you could improve customer satisfaction while reducing inventory and waste? Or more accurately predict what’s needed when?
It’s time to stop imagining and start planning. Don’t wait until next year’s Graph Expo before you start thinking about solving your problems – and those of your customers – with an integrated solution that provides:
- Sales, estimating, and customer relationship management
- Project management and scheduling
- Manufacturing and shop floor data
- Accounting, costing, and reporting
- Total integration with mySAP Business Suite
Take that first step. Contact Syskoplan or SAP.