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Digital Smart Factory Should Extend To Suppliers And Clients

Press release from the issuing company

PARAMUS, N.J., August 11, 2003 – A number of featured speakers at the 5th Annual Digital Smart Factory Forum emphasized the importance of creating a digital smart factory (DSF) that extends beyond the print operation to include both ends of the supply chain—the supplier and the customer. A “digital smart factory” is an environment in which information technology (IT) is strategically applied across the printer enterprise to integrate manufacturing, business, and customer-interfacing systems. Sponsored by the Research and Engineering Council of NAPL, the June 23-25 Forum in Philadelphia drew nearly 100 attendees from across the country. “While computer integrated manufacturing or CIM is an integral part of the digital smart factory, it is not the only component. Customer-facing technologies are the other critical component,” noted Charles (Chuck) Gehman, director, Product Marketing, of Printcafe, Inc., Pittsburgh, chairman of this year’s Digital Smart Factory Forum. “Customer facing systems based on e-commerce can help graphic arts companies integrate their customers in a seamless workflow that bridges shopping cart, fulfillment, customization, jobs, and status. More and more customers are demanding these kinds of solutions.” Several industry executives discussed their companies’ approaches to developing and implementing customer-facing solutions. Among them were: • Mark Jones, senior vice president of customer solutions, Quebecor World: Jones noted that the company is “focused on providing flexible, integrated print, media, and technology solutions to our target customers.” Quebecor World has grouped its broad range of customer facing solutions under the QWikLink brand umbrella. “QWikLink is our portal to exchange information with our customers,” said Jones. “Grouping our various tools helps unify Quebecor World’s efforts and combats the perception of disjointed products. QWikLink represents the beginning of a truly integrated set of tools for our clients.” Quebecor World is continually developing and expanding its QWikLink portfolio, which is based on a standard extranet structure. Among the customer interface solutions currently offered by QWikLink are those for digital printing, book and targeted publications, catalog reporting, and commercial/direct printing management and fulfillment. “In addition to giving our key customers what they’ve been asking for—seamless access to their content and production information—the links will provide measurable cost savings to manufacturing,” said Jones. Jones explained that for now, only select customers are being targeted for QWikLink and functionality is being provided gradually. “The key,” he said, “is to engage the system with customers who are willing to participate in its development.” Among the areas Quebecor World will focus on in future development of QWikLink are the use of a standard and cooperative efforts with suppliers as well as customers. • Chris Wells, president, LaVigne, Inc., Worcestor, Mass. Wells discussed how his company leverages e-commerce as a vehicle to implement numerous customer engagement models and revenue opportunities, including collateral management, inventory management, print management, and print-on-demand systems, and a campaign launch program. Wells said such systems can yield numerous benefits for a company, including the ability to save customers time and money; expand market share among clients; gain entry to prospective customers; and create “sticky” business. “Traditionally, the only way to capture more business when demand is shrinking has been to emphasize lower prices,” said Wells. “These customer engagement models provide another way.” Forum attendees also heard from a range of industry experts on the latest developments affecting the digital smart factory concept, including: • Mills Davis, managing director, Project 10X: Noting that value chain integration is key to the concept of a digital smart factory, Davis told attendees of a “Shared Resources Solutions” session that “a focus on process integration promises huge benefits to the industry—up to 10 times improvement in performance in some cases. He pointed out that, although significant barriers remain, “shared resource architecture provides a new process platform with dramatically better lifecycle economics that benefit all value chain participants.” • Tim Daisy, CIM product manager, Printcafe, Inc.: In a presentation on “Digital Manufacturing: Supply Chain Automation Profit Potential,” Daisy pointed to a number of benefits to be realized through systems integration with suppliers, including increased accuracy of physical inventory; the opportunity for just-in-time purchasing, and reduced inventory costs. He noted that extending digital manufacturing to customers can lead to increased customer satisfaction, enhanced content management, and higher customer retention, among other benefits. • Dr. Rainer Prosi, technical chairman, CIP4, for Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG: Dr. Prosi provided Forum attendees with a comprehensive briefing on the current and anticipated future status of the Job Description Format (JDF) standard. The next version of JDF—JDF 1.2—is now in preparation, with an anticipated publication date of late 2003, Prosi said. He noted that the standards group is addressing the interface between the customer and the printer, and between MIS and production, as well as prepress, press, and postpress enhancements. Among the other highlights of his presentation: By providing a single grammar for specifying job data in the graphic arts, JDF permits the integration of production, customer, and MIS systems. Vendor extensions are also possible, allowing integration throughout the value chain. The Forum provides up-to-the-minute information on the latest print production and graphic arts technologies, along with insights into applying those technologies to implement a “digital smart factory”—an environment in which information technology (IT) is strategically applied across the printer enterprise to integrate manufacturing, business, and customer-interfacing systems.