Printius - An Electronic Market for the Graphic Arts Industry
by Jean-Christophe Leroy
In November 1995, R&ED S.à r.l., a Swiss Limited Company, announced its intent to create an electronic market for the graphic arts industry (paper, inks, printing, etc). Two years later, the market will be operational in December '97 in Switzerland. Finally, this ruined market got convinced by the numerous advantages of these new technologies and a substantial reduction in the administration costs would be just one important perspective.
Except for a few major companies, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is totally absent in the European graphic arts industry. Initially mostly artisans, the printing companies integrated the mass in the early 70's only. Today, the graphic arts industry is the 5th largest industry in Switzerland. The complex supply chain starts with the large paper producers and finishes with an heterogeneous scale of printer customers passing through small dealers of imported paper, important paper merchants, and a large scale of printers. The variety of different actors in the supply chain makes it difficult to find common solutions fitting all parties.
The Printius project tries first to cut administrative costs and second, to extend the concept of Printing on Demand from the technical point of view (numeric machines) to the data flow point of view, coupling tightly suppliers and customers. Printius will start by linking the 3 major Swiss paper merchants to a limited number of their customers. In the next months, this electronic market should be spread over the majority of the 2800 Swiss Printing companies and large Paper consumers.
Technically, this electronic market connects the large computer systems of the paper merchants to the professional management software of the customers through a Central Market Place responsible for maintaining the market operational. The network is partly Internet-based and partly Extranet-based (the Internet is still rare among the printing companies in Switzerland). The exchanged data conforms, for standard messages, to the EDIPAP subsets (orders, orders response, billing and stock management). Catalogs are distributed all over the network allowing off-line consultation, updates are centrally managed.
Two elements facilitate the widespread of the electronic market among the paper consumers despite the very different sizes of the companies:
- 80% of the printers are equipped with one of the seven professional management softwares on the market
- a former unified catalog management system is used in each of the seven softwares. This catalog management system is based on floppy disks distributed by all of the paper merchants, containing published price lists defined by a common standard. This standard will also be used in the catalog distribution system of the future Printius Electronic Market.
The next steps for the Printius market will be to go operational at the end of the year and afterwards to expand to other European countries. The Printius market is supported by CEPI/EDIPAP for companies up to 30 employees and R&ED S.à r.l. (http://red.epfl.ch), the author of the concept and the operator of the market, is looking forward to cooperate with ERCIM members in this field. A lot remains to be done!
Jean-Christophe Leroy - R&ED S.à r.l. CEO
Tel: +41 21 693 83 14