A Supply Chain That Runs Itself
The grandees of business re-engineering have been preaching for years about the power of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) to large corporations like GM and Ford. You might be surprised to learn that these lessons can also be effectively applied in the graphic arts industry for small and large shops alike. Process automation offers a golden opportunity to increase capacity, up productivity, optimize staff resources, and improve cash flow—even in today's economy.
You may be asking, "Why should I think about automation if I'm [just] trying to stay alive?" The simple before-and-after snapshot in this article should give you an answer.
PROCESS AUTOMATION … IN SIMPLER TERMS
To begin, let's consider what process automation is. If a process is a defined series of actions undertaken to achieve a specific business objective, then process automation is applying computer processing to a series of business procedures.
Underlying process automation is the convergence of several concepts:
• that applications can be programmed to perform tasks in a fault-tolerant way without human intervention;
• that disparate applications and systems can be interfaced with each other to exchange messages and data using industry standards; and
• that powerful databases are the key to storing, retrieving and managing information.
STATING THAT A DIFFERENT WAY:
• Computers rather than people should do repetitive, predictable tasks because machines are faster and cost less. When—not if—the process goes wrong, it needs to do so in a graceful enough way that you can easily pick up the pieces.
• Computers need to talk to each other in a way that does not require a massive programming effort to re-tool if you decide to change one or two components in the system.
• Powerful databases storing the information (metadata) about your jobs provide the necessary flexibility to let you look at, present and get reports in more ways than you originally thought when you captured the data.