Planting the Seed
The volume—and cost—of paper procured annually by Time Inc. is remarkable. The New York City-headquartered publisher supplies the consumer market with some of its most beloved titles, including People, TIME and Sports Illustrated. With the sum of Time Inc.'s monthly print runs exceeding several million, paper costs are significant. And the numbers continue to climb as the publisher develops additional titles. This year alone, Time Inc. launched Real Simple, InStyle Australia, eCOMPANY NOW, SI For Women and a large-print TIME. Time Inc. also handles procurement for other corporate divisions, including HBO, Ivy Hill, Warner Books, Time Life Books, Leisure Arts and iPublish.com.
Needless to say, Time Inc. buys a lot of paper, and the costs incurred dictate that the publisher monitor usage, track supply and demand and manage EDI (electronic data interchange) transactions.
Time Inc. relies on a mainframe system for paper and manufacturing EDI. The solution managed paper data exchanged by the publisher and its domestic- and internationally based paper suppliers and print vendors. Named the OMS (Operations Management System) Paper System, it included a mainframe that resided in Tampa, FL, and a client-server solution (written in PowerBuilder) based in the New York City offices. Proprietary software applications performed batch processing and automated purchasing, inventory adjustments and invoicing, as well as financial, inventory and spoilage reporting.
In 1999, Time Inc. began to look at the Web as OMS' replacement. "The most significant problem with our mainframe system was lag time," reports Douglas Spitz, director, systems development, Time Inc. "It just wasn't as flexible as it needed to be.
"Error-correction and validation eat up a lot of time, and we have a number of personnel devoted to these tasks alone," Spitz reports. "Our mainframe kicks back error-ridden documents, but then we revert back to phone calls and faxes to correct the problems."