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Print at Your Own Peril

by Jason Fox | insiderPROFILES

October 1, 2011

Output Management is often the last thing on a company's list of priorities during an ERP implementation. However, not seriously thinking about how printing output can affect your company could lead to a significant loss of revenue. SAP recognizes this challenge but also realizes it cannot create every piece of software its customers will need. This article showcases two case studies where companies benefited from partnering with an SAP-certified output management provider.

Picture this: A conference room full of your peers and superiors has assembled, ready for you to present crucial business information to them. And you have to keep them waiting. You’ve sent the print job to the printer, but the hard copy is not printing — and you don’t know why. Can you feel the frustration and panic setting in?

Now imagine that instead of a presentation, the print job is actually a week’s worth of customer invoices representing millions of dollars in revenue for your company. “Frustrating” just turned into “catastrophic.”

Output management is one of the most overlooked areas of an SAP implementation. The majority of companies don’t seriously consider print output until an issue arises that is dire enough to make it a priority. And by then, the oversight could have cost the business significant losses in the form of missed revenue or unnecessary expenses.

For example, has your organization ever compared the cost of maintaining its print servers with the amount of value they actually deliver? An SAP application that 10,000 users run may have hundreds of print servers associated with it, each costing more than $5,000. When those servers are running smoothly, that value analysis never comes up. However, when print servers go down, suddenly CIOs start questioning the servers’ maintenance and cost.

The same theory holds true for printing devices. Typically a good portion of a print job is processed on the output device — a printer, fax machine, or multifunction device. And instead of owning these devices, many companies lease them, which minimizes the control the business has over the print output. Yet, those devices represent a crucial link to how companies issue invoices, process orders, or ship products to customers.

SAP’s mission is to provide its customers with the solutions and options they need to help maximize their IT investments and capabilities and run their businesses better. SAP recognizes that it cannot create every piece of software its customers will need, and no vendor can. In the area of output management, SAP has partnered with best-of-breed solution providers, such as Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. (LRS). Such partnerships help SAP customers identify and implement the solutions that will help them gain strategic value from their output.

LRS solutions that have received SAP integration certification not only reduce total output costs by limiting the work that print servers and devices perform, but they also provide functional organizations more control and reliability over how documents are routed and printed. Using these solutions, users can gain a deeper visibility into how much they spend on printing and supplies, and even identify ways to avoid printing in certain instances.

The following two case studies illustrate the value that SAP customers can gain from partnering with an SAP integration-certified output management provider. Harley-Davidson and Pfizer each wanted more control over its SAP-related print output and have both realized value that extends well beyond reliable printing capabilities.

The lesson for SAP users is clear: Be proactive about your output management strategy because waiting too long can prove very costly.

Case Study 1: Harley-Davidson Accelerates Its Output Processes with LRS






“Print is always underestimated in ERP projects,” says Michael Yamaguchi, Senior Technical Analyst on the Basis team at Harley-Davidson, an SAP customer. “People think SAP documents print without any effort. But it requires effort — in our case, it required a lot of effort.”

When Harley-Davidson rolled out its SAP ERP implementation in 2006, it installed a number of Windows print servers to support the output. Over time, the company’s SAP users started to report issues with the reliability and the monitoring of printing capabilities in the SAP environment.

“The print servers we used would provide a success message when the job was handed off to the Windows queue, but that didn’t necessarily confirm the printer had printed the document,” Yamaguchi says. SAP users at the company spent valuable time chasing down purchase orders, invoices, and reports they thought had printed, but in fact had not.

It seemed there was an issue related to translating data from the generic output format (GOF) to the printer command language (PCL) format. Harley-Davidson’s IT organization was preparing to buy and code 200 new data stream conversion chips (DIMMs) that would be installed in its printers to process the translations. 

With this expensive proposition on the table, Yamaguchi began to explore other options. Having worked with LRS successfully in the past, he met with the SAP partner to find out how its solutions could help Harley-Davidson’s specific output-related issues.

The answer the business was searching for came in the form of the VPSX solution from LRS, which works as a central enterprise output management system. Using the VPSX output server, SAP administrators and users can monitor print status, identify and resolve errors, and control the entire printing environment via a single interface. VPSX software spools the data and delivers the output to printers, fax servers, file servers, and other devices.

The VPSX solution has brought a number of IT administration benefits to Harley-Davidson. For starters, its translation capabilities helped the company avoid buying and coding the expensive printer DIMMs. VPSX spooling capabilities reduce the load on the print servers, which also reduces long-term costs. “For me personally, I went from print administration being a majority of my job to not having to touch print, except when I have to add a printer to our SAP applications,” says Yamaguchi.

For SAP users at Harley-Davidson, the VPSX solution brings reliability and peace of mind. When printing from an SAP system, users receive a pop-up notification indicating their print job was successful. And since VPSX software handles the spooling and translation, it limits the load on the SAP applications, which frees up servers and speeds processing times. 

 “Users don’t have to spend as much time chasing down their output to see if it made it to the printer,” says Yamaguchi. “They really don’t even know the VPSX solution is there — so that means it is doing its job.”

Overall, the project has opened Harley-Davidson’s eyes to the importance of output management in the broader business sense. “Even though larger concerns exist in an SAP environment, being able to print invoices and shipping labels reliably is pretty important, too.” Yamaguchi says.

Case Study 2: Pfizer Follows the Document Trail to Streamline Business Processes






Pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Inc. was spending too much time and money on its output administration. Several members of the Pfizer SAP Basis team spent considerable time troubleshooting printing problems. “It was not the best use of our time,” says Steve Kelleher, Senior Director of Enterprise Output Management at Pfizer. While the Pfizer team’s goal was to fix the printing issues, they were also able to streamline a variety of business processes and deliver value directly to Pfizer’s bottom line.

In 2006, Pfizer began to expand its use of SAP applications. Unfortunately, Pfizer’s printing issues expanded as well. According to Kelleher, some print jobs got hung up in UNIX print queues. “We had no guarantee that our business-critical documents were printing to the right device,” Kelleher says. “We needed to reduce our reliance on the devices and gain some central control over the output.”

At that time, Pfizer’s output management team analyzed the available solutions to address these issues. The team’s most pressing concern was stabilizing its output management and gaining more visibility into its critical business documents. One of the challenges to successful output management is that different organizations in the enterprise own the various pieces of the output process. For example, the facilities team often owns printing devices, the UNIX/Linux team manages a portion of the process, outsourcing partners and/or

Basis teams are responsible for part of the process, and of course, the SAP team has control in some areas.

“We learned that SAP partners can integrate with SAP software to help us achieve a centralized control,” explains Kelleher.

To achieve its primary goal of centralized visibility and control over its output management, the team implemented VPSX/OutputManager software from LRS.

With a reliable output platform in place, the team began looking into how Pfizer could further gain value from its output management strategy. LRS enabled the team to watermark documents for different types of output. This was an important feature for the company. The watermarking capability in the LRS solution eliminates confusion by clearly identifying test output. Even when a document is printed on a remote device, it is clear that it is not for production use. 

The switch to a more robust output management system also drove strategic process mapping. The team realized that to truly manage the output of its internal customers, it needed to understand Pfizer’s business processes and the role output plays in those processes. In some cases, the business processes involved one organization printing documents and delivering hard copies to another internal group which then scanned the documents back into a different part of the system.

“Users were conditioned to think a document had to be printed,” says Kelleher. “But the final destination of a document does not have to be a printer. It can be a fileshare or a repository like the LRS PageCenterX archiving solution we use here. To understand that business process, we had to follow the document.”

Today, Pfizer uses the LRS solution to help connect the right systems and move data and documents to their final destinations in whatever format that might be, thus streamlining many business processes and improving productivity.

“When we started working on this project, we just wanted to fix the printing,” says Kelleher. “But we realized we could improve productivity while reducing costs.”

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