Supply Chain Links
Today's production software works toward optimum process efficiency both converter and customer can monitor.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
THE ROAR OF the crowd for e-commerce capability will eventually grow too loud for package print firms to ignore; in preparation, business/production software suppliers have been charged with seamlessly integrating shop-floor data with on-line customer service.
The notion of e-commerce and its implications for business has become increasingly familiar to package printers over the last few years. "Today, we are finding printers are much more knowledgeable about the Internet and software in general," states Glen Forbes, VP/sales, Western Region, CRC Information Systems.
He counts two primary schools of thought emerging among package printers in regards to e-commerce: first, proactive printers interested in marketing Web-based service, and second, converters reacting to customers' demands for such services.
Tailored Solutions, which services the narrow-web converting market with its Label Traxx system, has observed a distinct rise-and-fall pattern in regards to e-commerce buzz. President Ken Meinhardt saw a considerable build-up through 1999 and 2000, but laments, "As the markets changed and companies were further educated in what is involved to effectively integrate e-commerce, interest dropped off." The sluggish economy has further discouraged potential investment, Meinhardt adds, because printers are now focusing solely on sales and profit generation.
PRIMAC Systems Marketing Director John Knowlton has witnessed interest levels greatly outpacing installations. "Actual implementation is lagging because many [printers] are still learning what the customer really wants to have available."
Knowlton counts top priorities as 1) the ability to view finished goods in the printer's warehouse; 2) visible job status of labels in production, including planned ship date; and 3) shipment tracking numbers with links to vendors.
The market for managing production and e-commerce capabilities with one software system isn't limited to larger printers. In a set of recent case studies, CRC profiled numerous graphic arts firms—ranging from $2.5 million to over $100 million in sales—employing production software. Based on study findings, Forbes points out, "While the need for automated information management is certainly more exaggerated in larger shops, smaller companies tend to see more immediate benefits [from implementing software systems]." Forbes notes one CRC customer grew from $1.5 million in sales to $3 million while reducing staff by 30 percent.