Adapting to Omni-Channel with Conditional Printing a CYBRA Specialty
September 2, 2015 Alex Woodie
The humble shipping label sits at the intersection of our digital lives and the real world. You can order 15 items from Amazon without leaving your comfy chair, but warehouse workers still need to find the product and generate the right barcode label that tells UPS where to go. CYBRA has been playing this game for a while, but a new release of its MarkMagic forms generation software helps IBM i shops take omni-channel fulfillment to efficient new levels.
The focus for MarkMagic these days is all about conditional printing in support of changing fulfillment trends. Not long ago, a manufacturer or distributor would package their products on a pallet and ship it to a retailer with a single label guiding that pallet’s voyage. Huge volumes of orders flowed through the distribution centers of Wal-Mart, Target, and other retail giants in this manner.
While the consumer goods supply chain is still intact, the rise of online shopping and omni-channel fulfilment has added an interesting twist to shipping. Companies that still actually make and move physical things (as opposed to the digital middlemen that get investors’ hearts all a flutter) must adapt to these changing times or risk losing market share. A part of that business process adaptation is maintaining flexibility with the forms generated by business applications.
Sheldon Reich, vice president of marketing for CYBRA, explains how changing commerce trends impacts his IBM i customers.
“The traditional model is they’re shipping pallet loads of stuff to a retailer’s distribution center,” he says. “But now they have websites and they’re sending onesies and twosies through carriers like FedEx and UPS. So instead of sending 200 watches to Macy’s, they send one. That’s a whole different kind of picking and different things you’re printing out.”
Complying with the labeling requirements of each retailer is not always a simple matter, and it could require a programmer and cost upward of $10,000 to get each batch of forms right if done manually, Reich says. With the diversification of channels that online shopping has brought to shipping–not to mention shipping individual items to specific stores, per the omni-channel revolution–those costs soon make manual manipulation of labels a big drain on profitability.
“We have a customer tied into Walmart, JCPenney, and Amazon. The customer sends the same apparel to each of the retailers, but they all require different forms,” Reich says. “You, as a shopper, get something from Amazon, it needs to look like it comes from Amazon instead of Joe Schmoe’s Apparel.”
MarkMagic helps by enabling customers to modify the labels to support the different retailers’ requirements, without requiring the services of a programmer. “MarkMagic can automatically produce the correct documents without programing,” Reich says.
CYBRA is taking condition printing to an even higher level with the recent launch of MarkMagic version 9. Among the new features in this release are new print transforms that tell the software to change how the form appears based on certain segments that appear in a field, as opposed to reading the whole field.
“So you can start at position five for a length of three,” says CYBRA marketing manager Chuck Roscow, “and look for certain values, like SKU numbers or PO numbers that contain XYZ. Then based on that, have the format look or printed differently.” The lookup can even start with the last characters in a given field.
This new feature, which would have required programming in earlier releases, will help customers support omni-channel goals. “It allows you to look at a certain part of that field, and if it contains ACME, for instance, you could strip that out and insert CYBRA, if you wanted to.”
The new release also uses “trim and replace” data that retailers don’t want in the label, such as extra dashes or spaces. “Maybe you don’t want the dashes for your account number to be in the barcode,” Roscow says. “We can automatically take that out in V9.”
New edit codes added in version 9 (“You can never have too many edit codes,” Reich jokes) give customers more power over forms. Specifically, the new version brings new “AND” rules that let users specify how the forms should be distributed. So if a certain spool file shows up on the queue, MarkMagic will ensure that the generated form is automatically routed to employee “A” as well as customer “B.”
“This is the kind of stuff that we pride ourselves in MarkMagic–giving users the ability to create these sophisticated results without programming,” Reich says. “The holy grail in our business is conditional printing, and we’ve taken conditional printing to a very high level.”