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Case Study: How Embracing Digitization Can Transform Your Business

By Eric Davis | Automation Alley | 6/6/2018
 

For manufacturers today, technological change is coming faster than expected. But for some companies, customer demand for digitization has already reshaped their industry. This is the case for Daniel Esteban, IT director at A. Esteban & Company, a New York-based reprographics company that provides printing, data management and distribution services to the architectural, construction and real estate developer community. 

“We are still the backbone to the construction document management process, managing quality control on official issuances, and making sure the latest information gets to the right people quickly,” Daniel says.

For those unfamiliar with the reprographics industry, it has gone through a transformation in the last 20 years. The demand for physical prints was offset with the rise of digital printing and storage, which caused shrinking profit margins for reprographics companies and industry consolidation. For many small, mom-and-pop printing shops that weren’t acquired, this meant closing their doors for good. 

But while the industry was experiencing a shakeup, their customers still needed a solution to manage their documents effectively. 

“The industry has changed, but a lot of the old aspects of the construction process are still around today. For example, maintaining the latest version of each drawing or specification still falls on our shoulders. The information still needs to be disseminated to the contractor, which now is in the form of an online document management site and a digital download, instead of a roll of paper drawings.”

For companies like A. Esteban & Company that were ready to embrace change, they began to re-think how they did business.

“Physical printing has definitely gone down dramatically. New technologies allow for fewer employees managing fewer, but faster, printers which offset the reduction in printing revenue somewhat. We also charge for digital services like maintaining the files stored on our servers, as well as digital distribution to the contractors,” he said. 

In parallel to improving the customer-facing side of their business, improving workflow internally has been a priority. Utilizing his background in computer science, Daniel has been able to develop solutions to make his employees’ lives easier.

For example, when an order comes in to the shop, workers enter the job codes into an order tracking system. Using their web API, billing will import these specific orders into the billing system with a simple click of a button. Billing updates the orders with the correct customer and billing information. 

In the past, this data transfer was done manually on hand-written notes, which adds unnecessary time spent copying information. Now, employees can focus on what they know and do best. For A. Esteban & Company as a whole, this means being able to take on more orders without sacrificing quality or throughput.

These improvements aren’t revolutionary, but can provide profound improvement to a business’ profitability and competitiveness. To keep pace with technological change, a cultural mindset to embrace such change is required. Taking small bets on new ways to operate creates the opportunity for huge payoffs without disrupting the day-to-day operations. Of course, along the way, there will be failure. But a tiny failure is another opportunity to learn, pivot and grow.

Eric Davis is Automation Alley’s technology investment analyst. In this role, he is responsible for providing in-depth analysis and insight on participants in the organization’s successful entrepreneurship program, the Automation Alley 7Cs™, where he is also assistant facilitator of the icube™ methodology and the Growth Readiness Assessment, giving companies the framework for growth. Eric also oversees activities related to Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Business Accelerator Fund, and manages the investment process for Automation Alley’s pre-seed fund. Eric has an extensive background in performing due diligence on both public and privately-held companies.

Categories: Innovation and Technology (63)

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