Reducing Inventory With POD
It seems only fitting that a pioneering software company like Unisys has one of the country's most cutting-edge in-plants.
Having incorporated online book ordering, color management and print-on-demand (POD), Unisys' in-plant has firmly established itself as one of the leading in-plants. It's also one of the largest, with 91 employees and $16.5 million in annual sales. But again, this is only fitting for a company as vast as Unisys.
"Unisys is a big company," declares Gregg Gabbana, manager of print-on-demand operations. "It has 37,000 employees and operations in 100 countries. As the company's in-plant, we do the worldwide printing and distribution. That's what makes our in-plant operation so large. What makes us successful is POD."
Printing software technical documents, CD-ROM inserts and sales/marketing materials, Unisys' in-plant specializes in turning work around quickly. As a one-stop shop—offering design, prepress, offset and digital printing, bindery, mailing, fulfillment and Internet services—the in-plant turns most jobs around in less than 24 hours.
"We have such short lead time, usually a day at the most," Gabbana says. "And because we have that short lead time, we can't afford to keep inventory on the shelf and in stock. Our technology [Unisys software] changes so quickly, we don't want to keep inventory on the shelf. The technical manuals and material will become outdated and have to be thrown away. So, we've implemented a print-on-demand system.
"Through our electronic bookstore, people place orders, and the server downloads them to our DocuTechs," he continues. "From the Web, someone can order a document; we have about 16,000 external titles and 40,000 internal. Most are stored on a large server, and when an order comes down, it will flow, with requirements, and will go directly to the printers."
Unisys' auto-scheduling capabilities, which earned it a CAP Ventures Technology Innovators Award in 1995, are the in-plant's "claim to fame," states Gabbana. "We used to have $33 million in inventory. Now we have $300,000 in inventory. The reason is, we only build inventory when we get an order. If there's something on the shelf, that's because we've printed it, and it's going to be shipped in the next 24 hours."