Standards and Best Practices

The implementation of an ERP system for a print company is by no means a simple task; that’s why the development of a standard methodology is one of the pivotal factors for success. Standards in processes and procedures give us a basis of comparison, and a means of measuring performance and for understanding when something is not normal. How we develop and ultimately define these standards may vary from business to business, but a general reliance on “best practices” is something that will benefit print companies universally.

Lean is Ideal

Print falls into the category of “discrete manufacturing,” with individual orders and products varying almost constantly. Print businesses benefit greatly by pursuing a “lean” manufacturing ideology, striving to avoid waste wherever possible, and working to eliminate anything that does not bring value to the customer. How do we define value? Simply put, it’s what the customer is willing to pay for.

Pursuing a lean strategy fosters basic stability in your organization. This goes for your production and assembly processes but can apply equally to administrative functions like customer service. Maintaining standards around quality, cost, order timeliness and safety will result in your daily processes producing outcomes that equal your standards. Reliability of these outcomes will correspond favorably with low customer churn, great word of mouth, and a road to repeatable profitability.

Here is a summary of the 5 principles of Lean (Womack and Jones 1996 p10):

  • Define value – what will the customer pay for?
  • Map the value stream – using the customer’s perceived value as the strategic end point, map out the process flow that leads there. Any activity which does not add value should be considered waste.
  • Create the flow – evaluate and streamline the production steps in your value stream, reconfiguring and adjusting procedures where necessary, to avoid waste and inefficiency.
  • Establish “pull” – work toward producing only what is requested from the customer. This will have a positive effect on your inventory, one of the primary areas for waste to reside, and foster just-in-time delivery practices, where you are only producing what you need, when you need it.
  • Pursue perfection – Employ the 4 previous principles with the goal of continuous improvement – where everyone in the company works to make things a little better every day.

We want to embrace a methodology of continuous process improvement

Every process has the opportunity for improvement – we are always looking for ways to make things work better. These improvement measures can seem small or they may involve a fundamental change in the way we approach our daily work. When an ERP Project Manager or Consultant is engaging with the customer to implement a new solution, there are standards to which they can adhere to ensure a successful deployment.

We react to what we see in a company’s workflow and look for places to trim the “fat.” It’s quite common to find businesses mired in wasteful methods simply because they’re “used to doing it that way.” A simple example might be redundant printouts in the job jacket which no one reads; or using house paper on a job but still purchasing everything on a per-order basis, rather than maintaining a smart inventory. A good ERP system will help to address issues like these and much more.

PrintVis Status Codes: Go with the Flow

PrintVis works with a “status flow” – using individually defined Status Codes for each step of the production process. Generally, these flow from the initial request for estimation to quote to purchase to production to finalizing, delivery and invoicing. When the status flow is set correctly from one responsible person to the next, each knows his part in the assembly line. However, within each process it’s common to have various secondary stages before the status is ready to move to the next responsible person – here is another area where we cultivate a lean workflow.

For example, your Estimator will usually create a Case, estimate the costs of each internal process, confirm materials, acquire necessary quotes from subcontractors and more. If the same person is responsible for each of these contiguous steps, there’s obviously no need for him to move the status from himself back to himself. It’s always beneficial to have a clear description of all that is entailed in a status and plotting out these workflows in detail – as part of your implementation – will go a long way towards a lean operation. Fine tuning them whenever the need for adjustment becomes evident is proof that you’re applying a lean methodology – yielding immediate benefits for your customers and long-term growth for your print business.

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