By Rob Onorato January 26, 2004 -- According to the latest Manufacturing report issued by the Institute for Supply Management, all indicators project a good 2004 for the manufacturing industry. In fact, most experts agree that the November 2003 report was the best since December 1983. New orders are up. Production is up. Employment is growing. And customer inventories are “too low,” according to ISM. This latter indicator is a good thing, since these low inventories will need to be replenished, resulting in more orders and more production. This is good news for the graphic arts industry. The manufacturing segment is a huge opportunity for us. Manufacturing establishments can be found in almost any geography. The industry in the United States contains a number of different segments, employs some 17 million people and generates in excess of $3.8 trillion in shipments. Despite the diversity inherent in this industry, manufacturing firms all have at least one thing in common: They purchase print and print-related services. And they all are looking for ways and means of making their print and document-related spend more efficient and effective. There have been a number of trends over the years that have helped the global manufacturing industry improve productivity, quality, time to market and a number of other important metrics. Just-in-Time Manufacturing, Total Quality Management, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma - these are just a few of the groundbreaking management philosophies that have originated in - and benefited - the manufacturing industry. Many of these strategies and philosophies have found applicability in other industries as well - industries that have piggybacked on the success of their manufacturing compatriots, fine-tuning these strategies to improve their own performance. Manufacturers have also been early adopters in the document management arena, with the massive amounts of product and other business information they must manage to effectively run their businesses, and in many cases, to comply with regulatory requirements. Witness the early successes of companies like FileNet and Documentum, and the product genre known as Product Data Management, now categorized as Project/Resource Portfolio Management by the Gartner Group, with offerings available from companies such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, Artemis and others. Many of these solutions have been compartmentalized departmental implementations that provide point solutions within the organization. Most of them result in printed output. But as companies increasingly migrate to a Web-enabled workstyle, the value of these point solutions diminishes in direct proportion to their level of departmental relevance; that is, the more a solution is tuned to a particular silo, and the less ability it has to communicate with other silos within the organization, the less overall value it offers in a world where instant access to critical information - from the Boardroom to the Back Office - has become increasingly vital. As experts in the management of information assets and business communications, we in the graphic arts industry have much to offer manufacturers as they strive to take their organizations to the next level. By educating ourselves in the principles of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing - or Lean Six, as we call it at PathForward - we stand to increase our value even more. And by taking it one step further and educating our manufacturing customers about the importance of developing and deploying an Enterprise Business Communications Supply Chain Management Strategy (Enterprise Strategy) to better harness information assets across the organization, we become a consultative - and invaluable - business partner. Let's face it; there is probably nothing more siloed in most manufacturing firms that the creation, management, production and distribution of information assets. And these information assets - which can perhaps more aptly be described as documents - claim up to 60% of an office worker's time and account for up to 45% of labor costs, according to Gartner. As we at PathForward work with our clients in the manufacturing industry, we find that in most organizations, decision-making relative to print lies in the hands of “silo” owners. This is largely due to the absence of an Enterprise Strategy. Whether the “output” is print or electronic, with no one minding the store from an enterprise perspective the manufacturer's goal of making its print and document-related spend more effective will be next to impossible to achieve. So what's a manufacturer to do? As graphic arts professionals, we can offer our manufacturing customers a “gatekeeper” approach to their enterprise output woes, which we call Print Concierge™. The Print Concierge is an on-site dedicated resource who is focused and responsible for driving the Enterprise Strategy. As external experts, we can act as that gatekeeper and help them develop an integrated view of their print output investments across the enterprise. Based on that integrated view, their approach to managing this expensive and time-consuming - and often ignored - element of their business can be rationalized. When, where, how - and even whether - documents are printed should be a strategic, not an ad hoc , decision. And all of the elements depicted in the figure below, including the customer relationship management (CRM) and content management (CM) initiatives the customer already has in place or underway, must be taken into account in the development and deployment of an Enterprise Strategy. Enterprise Business Communications Supply Chain Management Strategy As we enter a New - and what promises to be an exciting and profitable - Year, ask your manufacturing customers about their Enterprise Strategy. Take some time to learn about Lean Six. Engage business partners who can add credibility and expertise to your efforts. And turn the needs of that $3.8 trillion manufacturing industry into increased revenues for your business. Please offer your feedback to Rob. He can be reached at [email protected]