Our many uses for PlanetPress
Guest Post by Ken Stulce from Essex Industries Inc.
I was first introduced to PlanetPress around 2002, when I worked for a reseller and designing PlanetPress solutions became one of my primary focuses. Forward about nine years later, I went to work for one of my main customers in their IT department and we continue to use PlanetPress in many facets of the organization. PlanetPress was originally sold to my company to use for replacing the pre-printed forms and allowing the forms to be printed to cut-sheet, multi-function printers. This use of PlanetPress was a major savings to the budget and, at the time, one of the base reasons for customers to buy PlanetPress. Over time, I have designed a variety of uses for PlanetPress.
Use #1 : Email
One advantageous use of PlanetPress is to generate PDF copies of documents from the source and emailing them to the requesting end-user for various other uses, such as on-demand emailing to a requesting customer, with invoices, statements, etc. My company uses the Manage 2000 ERP package, from Epicor, to control the manufacturing process, and end-user profiles have an email address attached to that profile. I was able to modify the output print data-stream to include the run-time, end-user’s email address in an inconspicuous location, and setup a dedicated print queue for emailing the PDF version of the document back to the end-user. This workflow helped the end-users skip the manual task of printing and scanning the pages to PDF, plus the PlanetPress-created PDF is searchable and void of copy skewing and speckles.
Use #2: Go Green
My company is striving toward a goal of reducing our footprint by using “green” efforts. One of these efforts involves the roll-out of an electronic document management system (EDMS), “PowerFlow” by PowerFlow Solutions, for the major departments within the company, i.e. Sales/Customer Care, Accounts Receivable, Purchasing, Accounts Payable, etc. Using an EDMS reduces a LOT of unnecessary printed copies of documents that can be viewed on-screen, emailed to customers directly from the application, etc. We initially began a tactic of implementing specific documents with a print, scan, manual import method for Sales/Customer Care and Accounts Payable with promises of a future automated method involving PlanetPress.
Use #3: Importing
Because there is currently no dedicated plugin to automatically import documents from PlanetPress to PowerFlow, I went through an analysis process to design a dedicated workflow to make it possible. Part of the design is to build a “CSV” sequenced variable with the metadata for the image in PlanetPress Design. When the TIF images are generated from PlanetPress Imaging, the associated metadata “PDI” file contains the “CSV” string, which also contains a field with the name of the TIF image. I created a PlanetPress workflow to grab the PDI file, execute a Python script to read the PDI file and extract the CSV string, overwrite the PDI data inline, and output a named CSV file. The TIF image and CSV file are copied to a folder that acts as a waiting import “pool”. Eventually, a dedicated PlanetPress workflow gathers the CSV files from the “pool” and then imports them with the associated TIF images into PowerFlow by executing an external program call with a variety of parameters. This workflow is being used for three of our manufacturing facilities. This year, we’re implementing a Purchasing PowerFlow Vault and revising the Accounts Payable Vault to include a modified version of the PlanetPress automated import workflow.
Use 4: Automation
Our largest manufacturing facility uses PlanetPress to print work order packets. Some of the work order packets required a work center quality document to be manually added to the work order packet sleeve, which needed to be filled out when certain part numbers are built. Eventually, this “memory” task was brought to my attention and I was asked if there was any way that I could look for certain part numbers in the print data stream and if found, print the work center quality document with the packet. For PlanetPress, this was a piece of cake. A subsequent update task was eventually added, which would allow the Quality department to update the work center documents that were part of the workflow, without the need for IT to be involved. We use a shared, Postscript print driver (no live printer involved) that is monitored by PlanetPress to handle the update task. In a nutshell, the Quality administrator names the Excel document using a specific naming convention, prints the file to the shared Postscript printer, PlanetPress captures the job as a Postscript file, and generates a PDF of the document using PlanetPress Imaging (specifically the Digital Imaging plugin). The generated PDF file is named with the same name, minus the file extension, as the original Excel document, which overwrites the previously used version. This same workflow has been modified and used for other processes throughout the company.
Anything we can imagine
PlanetPress is used for many other tasks within my company, outside of the three aforementioned workflows. Each physical printer that has an associated Manage 2000 print queue, is using a PlanetPress workflow, which gives us the capability to do just about anything we can imagine. The only thing limiting us is time and resources (and other non-PlanetPress related projects). The PlanetPress Suite is a fantastically powerful tool that I cannot imagine what we would do without it!