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."
"Accuracy is essential to us. We spend a lot of money on paper, and our publications get charged back per paper usage. We need to have immediate access to accurate data," adds David Trevorrow, director of finance, Time Inc. "We needed to migrate out of the mainframe world and devise a three-year plan for getting Web-enabled."
Designing an open, XML- and WWW-based architecture proved to be the best solution for exchanging real-time data across the manufacturing supply chain; in place, it would also alleviate redundant data entry and thus cut out cycle time and costs associated with tracking and correcting bad data.
"The system [which we call Papyrus,] is written in Java," explains Leon Misiukiewicz, IT project manager, Time Inc. "And we are moving all of our transactional information from EDI to XML. [Time Inc.] is represented on the GCA's (Graphic Communications Association) committee that's helping to drive the XML standard, so we've been looking at XML for quite some time."
At full implementation, Papyrus (which utilizes GCA standard XML transactions, HTML Web browsers, Java servlets and Sybase databases) will be a publisher inventory management system that monitors roll-based, cut-size and newsprint paper for the company's magazines, books and commercial print products. It will automate a full suite of standard XML inventory management transactions, including purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgements, shipping manifests, receipts, usage transactions, invoices and adjustments. Papyrus will also support supply-chain initiatives by providing inventory, usage and spoilage reports—via the Web—to publishers, paper suppliers and printers.
"If you think of Papyrus," suggests Anne Considine, B2B information manager, Paper Purchasing Department, "you have to imagine that it's a two-part system.
"The first part is the GUI, or graphic user interface. That's the part that the user sees and interacts with. The second part is the technology that runs behind the scenes, exchanging the business data," Considine adds.
During Papyrus' infancy, Time Inc. opened discussions with several of its primary suppliers, including Consolidated Papers (Note: Consolidated Papers was recently purchased by Stora Enso.), which had simultaneously been designing its own e-commerce solution, recalls Craig DeRusha, a Consolidated sales executive devoted to the Time Inc. account: "We had a similar IBM mainframe system in use, but we were looking to create a more user-friendly system for allowing our customers immediate access to order data. We wanted to afford the option of monitoring order status from start to finish, and the Web appeared to be the best platform."
Understanding the importance of integrating systems with one of its largest and highest-profile customers, Consolidated took part in the publisher's beta testing. "We were really fortunate to work with Time on Papyrus," DeRusha stresses. "They have the power to influence change in our industry."
Papyrus, which went "live" in April 2000, represents Time's first true extranet, according to Misiukiewicz. The first iteration provided the publisher, its printers and its paper suppliers with live-time purchase order and spoilage data. July 7, 2000 marked the launch of Papyrus 1.2. In the short span of time between its original launch and this upgrade, Papyrus' functionality has branched out. Systems integration now enables financial feed to Time Inc.'s PeopleSoft applications that
process monetary transactions and generate a plethora of accounting reports. And with each passing month, more paper and printing suppliers are signing on to participate in Papyrus, remarks Considine.
Beyond the sapling stage
Papyrus won't stop growing anytime soon. With nurturing, its functionality will continue to grow, and its productivity will be continually monitored. For Time Inc., the results manifest in the bottom line: "Papyrus will allow us to maintain the lowest inventory possible and reduce spoilage," Trevorrow emphasizes.
With less than a year since its original deployment, there have already been revelations about the system's value. "Where EDI fell short was in the amount of investment it required. The cost was enormous, and it was a cost that no particular organization was willing to incur. But all of that has been worked out, thanks to the Web," notes Spitz. "I firmly believe that the Web is going to pull our entire industry forward."
-Gretchen A. Kirby