Under intense competitive pressures, manufacturing companies have invested tens of millions of rands in the latest techniques and technologies needed to produce their products at the lowest cost and get them to market fast.
Meanwhile, they have a non-manufacturing problem that is anything but lowest cost - and it is hurting them more than most realise. The problem is printing - an enterprise-wide problem in many manufacturing companies.
"It is not just printing, it is a document issue," says Pierre la Grange, divisional manager for Océ South Africa. "When you do not have good control of your documents and the information they contain, it affects many departments, not just a data centre or CRD."
Pierre la Grange, divisional manager for Océ South Africa
La Grange says manufacturers are often slow to change infrastructure systems such as printing. Many continue using AS400 printers, which often drive line printers printing ASCII text onto statements, shipping receipts, bills of lading and invoices, often onto pre-printed forms and using bursters and decollators. Beyond the workflow weaknesses of such a process, line printer output does not lend itself to efficiency downstream of the printer. Documents produced on line printers typically become part of paper-based processes that perpetuate costs of storage, tracking and management of hard copies. And because of the cost of redesigning legacy forms for ageing printers, many documents go unchanged for long periods of time. These almost archaic processes are in sharp contrast to modern, tightly controlled manufacturing procedures, and can result in a significant - and all but invisible - drain on cash flow. By contrast, being able to have documents immediately available digitally, and able to print on any workgroup printer, is very important for a manufacturing company. "It is beyond how printing is done, it is how the information is managed, and the value each document provides as it goes out to customers," notes La Grange.
For example, using Océ's PRISMAsatellite, a manufacturer with its own delivery fleet could print all the delivery orders and invoices for each delivery route on a workgroup printer in its warehouse, all coordinated with the goods loaded onto each truck. Once the goods are delivered, the signed receipts come back to the warehouse, are scanned into a document management system, automatically catalogued by customer name, stored as a digital file, and are instantly accessible for future reference. Similar processes can streamline document production and control in engineering applications and manufacturing facilities, and can be coordinated with customer service and accounting operations.
Additional savings are readily available in manufacturing companies' office suites where there are many opportunities to reduce costs and gain efficiencies by shifting from desktop printers and standalone copiers to workgroup printing, scanning and copying solutions.
Manufacturing companies should take a closer look at how their many documents are processed and managed and develop a strategy for making their document control systems up-to-date and efficient as their manufacturing operations. Controlling documents and the information they contain is a business imperative in these difficult economic times, where efficiency in every area of a business is a prerequisite for survival and success.