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FLEXO Magazine : February 2008
PLANTS & PROCESSES www.flexography.org FEBRUARY 2008 FLEXO 49 ing a solid, two-way communication bridge between management and production. This bridge delivers information to the people who need it when they need it. And, just as important, a good MIS keeps everyone on the same page, headed in the same direction. The management team can't build a good production plan without a solid understanding of the capabilities and constraints that the production team must contend with. Likewise, the pro- duction team must provide accurate information on process ex- ecution to help the management team in the scheduling, costing and billing processes. The old analog method of posting jobs on a whiteboard and writing production information on a job ticket or timecard just can't support the fast-paced, digital world in which you must run your business. A typical job scenario supported by a strong MIS might go something like this: Job specifications are collected by the salesperson and delivered to the printing company via an Internet-based connection. The specification is consumed by the management system, used to create a production plan and a quote based on that plan. The quote is delivered electronically to the salesperson and the client. When the job is won, the same plan (with any changes sub- mitted by sales or the client) is used to generate purchase or- ders, a production schedule, and an electronic job document. The job is delivered to production in an electronic "run list" that takes into account delivery priorities, production re- quirements and workloads. Production information is updated in real-time as work moves forward. Everyone in the company has visibility into the current state- of-the-job, including a real-time snapshot of all work that has been completed and all work in process at this very moment. Production, sales and CSR notes are all entered and stored in a single database, accessible by anyone with an interest in this job. Upon completion of the job, the job history supports costing and billing processes as well as any analysis of the plan, pro- duction or sales team. SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE There's a big difference between a spreadsheet's ability to sum columns and a smart program's ability to analyze a situation, sup- porting your operation with the information you need to make critical decisions. That's why you should always look for signs of intelligence in the software you select to run your business. That's also why standalone solutions just don't make the grade. An estimating system that's not linked to your planning and costing software can't be used to analyze the accuracy of the es- timating process. Likewise, a scheduling system that isn't linked to your planning and shop floor data collection system can't op- timize resource utilization, increasing capacity utilization while eliminating costs. It's no surprise that many businesses plan for a 10 to 15 percent margin in estimating only to realize 1 or 2 per- cent at the end of the production process. It may be surprising, however, that many of the best-managed businesses consistently perform at the planned level. The concept is simple: the reason we invite the department leads to any corporate meeting is that we function better when we have feedback from all departments on the impact of the decisions we make. An integrated MIS works under the same principle: visibility and feedback result in more control and more profitable decisions. A good MIS scheduling module will utilize the job plan to cre- ate a scheduling plan. The process looks at the individual opera- tions required for the delivery of the job, while at the same time looking at the promised date for the job. No surprise here and not much different from most manual systems. But at the same time, the module looks at the characteristics of key operations in the job and compares these to virtually every other job and operation in production. It builds a schedule based on a combination of the delivery requirements and job characteristics---sequencing jobs when possible to reduce production costs and increase capacity utilization. A run list is delivered to each workstation, identify- ing the optimum work schedule. As work is completed, the same system receives real-time updates from the shop floor data col- lection system providing critical feedback for the next scheduling calculation. This type of dynamic management is virtually impos- sible to duplicate in a manual or disconnected system. Yes, a good MIS can play a significant part in the success of your accounting team; but if you stop there, you're probably missing out on at least 90 percent of the system's potential to improve profitability. Your MIS has an important role in virtually every aspect of your operation, from data acquisition to planning to production and analysis. Its ability to collect, organize, and present information can make the difference between surviving and thriving in today's competitive business environment. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald Walsh has worked with infor- mation systems designed for the printing industry for more than 20 years. He has trained, implemented or consulted on more than 100 MIS installations. He has a degree in Graphic Arts Technology and Management from Central Missouri State University, has owned and operated a printing company and has been a print buyer for Dun & Bradstreet. Currently, Walsh is the director of market development for the Advanced Professional Print Software (APPS) division of EFI. This article references PrinterSite InternalTM and PrintFlow Dynamic SchedulingTM technologies from EFI.