Dump That Paperwork
Questions the parties should be asking, Brown suggested, include: "Do I have big enough pipes to transmit the information? Can I do it quickly enough? And do I have the proper software to manage the files?"
Many companies, Brown continued, provide extensive information about their capabilities, capacity and in some cases, their pricing, through the use of Web pages. "Web sites, more often than not, are a company's entryway to e-commerce."
Malloy Lithographing uses T-1 lines to rapidly transmit files electronically via FTP and e-mail. The company also uses its Web site to provide: guidelines for supplying specifications and material for manufacturing; answers to FAQ's; online status reports of work-in-process; an electronic version of its quarterly newsletter; and links to other publishing-industry Web sites.
"Internally, we rely on the electronic exchange of information," Brown said. "We've developed a system that uses one database allowing us to look at it all,' or to subset information into individual titles, accounts, products, equipment, etc.
"We've taken great strides toward a paperless environment, and continue to move in that direction," she summarized. "One of the major advantages of online information in the manufacturing setting is the ability to make changes and see how those changes will affect cost and schedules. As printers, we'd like to be able to access publishers' status reports, to be able to see changes immediately to keep schedules reliable."
Publisher's case study
Microsoft Press, a publishing division of the software giant, works with Malloy and other printers, continually improving electronic data-sharing. In the past, Microsoft put DTP files on CDs and overnighted them to vendors, said Kevin Coomes, who supervises preflighting and provides technical support to vendors and in-house compositors. Although the company still sends hard copy to printers, it no longer burns CDs. Now files are delivered electronically using FTP, e-mail and a secure Web site called Mercury Vault. Microsoft Press, Coomes reported, also puts purchase orders in a PDF format and sends them directly to the customer service representatives.