The Value of Bi-Directional Communications and Print Job Delivery Confirmation

The customer associated with this case study is a large, multi-national manufacturer of cars and trucks.

Business Problem – Printers located on the production floor have been installed to print instructions for production line workers. These instructions ensure that the production line worker can correctly install their parts and components on a vehicle as it moves into their production station. These printouts must be correct (right part for the right vehicle) and “on-time” as the company never wants the production line to stop. Compounding the critical nature of the correct printout being available is the fact that this is a “build to order” production line. It is not the more traditional assembly operation where a production worker assembles the same component onto each vehicle as it goes by. This production line builds vehicles to order, which requires assembly workers to know which specific components go on each vehicle based on what the customer has ordered.

 

However, we all know that printers will fail from time to time. Whether the printer problem is a jam, a media shortage, a Print Spooler error, or another problem, printer problems really do happen. When problems occur, it is imperative that the customer’s MRP Application Help Desk knows about it as soon as possible so that the problem can be resolved. The critical business problem was how to let the Help Desk know that a print problem occurred and how to give them enough information about the problem to Paper Boxes Vietnam  be able to fix it quickly (within a few minutes) before the production line was impacted.

Key Technical Challenge – The customer’s MRP Application runs in an HP-UX environment and it sends text data to an electronic forms package running on a Windows system. On the Windows system, the text is merged with a “form template” then sent via the Windows Print Spooler system to the printer. The technical limitation in the Windows Print Spooler system is that it has no capability for bi-directional communications with the printers to see if the documents printed successfully, or request printer status, or pro-actively notify the Help Desk about printer problems.

As a result of these shortcomings in their native spooling systems, the customer needed to augment their current system. They required print management solutions that could provide:

  • High reliability since this was a mission critical function
  • No changes needing to be made to the MRP/business Application or the Electronic forms application
  • Support for printers from multiple vendors
  • Bi-directional communications with printers
  • Ability to capture SNMP data
  • Translation of SNMP data into MRP Application error codes
  • Seamless integration with their MRP Application to return error codes to it should printing fail
  • 7 x 24 support with 20 minute response time The customer approached Plus Technologies regarding their business problem and we recommended an Advanced Spooling Solution based on our OM Plus Advanced Print Spooling, Document Delivery and Print Management software. Customer Technical Environment
    • Packaged MRP Application on HP-UX System
    • Electronic Forms on Windows based system
    • Printers from multiple vendors
    • See diagram – At the end of this document Technical Solution
      • The OM Plus advanced spooling system is installed on the Windows System, along with the Electronic Forms package, augmenting the functionality of the print spooler system on that server.
      • OM Plus receives jobs from the Electronic Forms software (without requiring changes to any forms application), and then OM Plus delivers the jobs to the printers on the production floor.
      • OM Plus opens a bi-directional communications session with the printer and requests SNMP status information from the printer, which provides a detailed status of the printer. OM Plus also waits for the “job complete” status to come from the printer (indicating the job was accepted, printed and the pages were sent to the tray). If printing is successful, OM Plus marks the job status as “printed” on the OM Plus Administration screen and no further action is required.
      • If OM Plus does not receive confirmation from the printer that printing was successful within one minute, OM Plus updates the job status on the OM Plus Administration screen as “failed”, converts the SNMP status codes to the appropriate MRP Application error status codes, and then updates the MRP Application regarding the print failure, in real time. This allows the MRP Application Help Desk to be notified of the problem, within the MRP Application screens that they are monitoring, virtually immediately. The notification will tell them what the problem is, what document is affected that needs to be re-generated and how to fix the problem.
      • In addition, if needed, OM Plus can send an email to Tech Support notifying them of the problem (in addition to the above notification to the Application Help Desk).
      • With the information gathered and provided by OM Plus, the MRP Application Help Desk knows when a printer has failed and they know the nature of the failure. This enables them to rectify the situation very quickly and minimizes the production line downtime. Other Features As a bi-product of installing OM Plus, the customer also gained access to all the other features of the system designed to help them control and manage their print jobs and printers including re-routing, re-printing, audit, accounting and many other functions. These features streamline operations and reduce costs related to administration and support. Implementation Installing, configuring, testing and training were completed in a very short time. A Plus Technologies engineer was on-site to assist the customer with installation of the OM Plus software and to provide configuration assistance. Results
        • Tech Support is now able to provide much faster resolution to printer errors
        • Faster problem resolution resulted in a significant reduction in production line interruptions
        • Improved production line productivity results in manufacturing cost reductions that were significant enough to warrant rolling out OM Plus across the customer’s North America production operations. Customer Quote “OM Plus solved our problem so successfully that we are rolling it out across North America.” Plus Technologies Case Studies The Plus Technologies case study series includes real examples of how companies use Advanced Spooling Solutions to streamline operations, reduce cost and/or add functionality to existing business processes. For more information on these case studies, contact Plus Technologies.

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