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COMPLEX ESTIMA TING

MADE EASY

Hallmark Cards take advantage of software from VantagePoint Systems

Text by Jessica Armitage

W

hen Hallmark Cards Plc, the UK subsidiary of the world’s largest producer of greeting cards, was looking for an integrated estimating system to replace their old spreadsheets, they knew they would be faced with a daunting task. With thousands of designs of varying shapes and sizes, and a market that is particularly cost conscious, the need for an accurate cost estimate was of paramount importance. “Like a lot of companies, we had developed a complex spreadsheet that was becoming ever more cumbersome and difficult to maintain” explained Sharon Thackray, Head of Finance, Hallmark. “When the author and main user of the software moved into another role, we knew we would be faced with problems, and needed to find a system that could be easily used and maintained by our team of estimators.”

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Like a lot of companies, we had developed a complex spreadsheet that was becoming ever more cumbersome and difficult to maintain…

The Challenge Manufacturing everything from cards and envelopes to wrapping paper and bows, the estimating process at Hallmark is particularly complex. The products themselves include a combination of manufactured and bought-in items, and involve various layouts and print forms. Finding an estimating solution that would meet these requirements, with little or no modification, was the challenge. “The ability to estimate our various products, but specifically handle the intricate mixed sheeting, was key to our selection of a software supplier,” continued Thackray. “Additionally, we had a very tight deadline for implementation and needed to work with a product that handled the complexities of the production process. Having reviewed several solutions, the Accelerate™ estimating software from VantagePoint Systems was the clear choice.”

Folding Carton Industry. July/August 2005


COMPLEX ESTIMATING MADE EASY

The Solution Already operating in many folding carton operations, where mixed sheets and combination layouts are the norm, the Accelerate estimating module is part of VantagePoint’s integrated business software, specifically designed for the paperboard converting industry. Using a Windows interface, the system has been designed for ease of use, even for the most complex of estimates. With a ‘look and feel’ similar to products such as Word and Excel, the learning curve for training is very much reduced, as the user defined ‘wizard’ workflow enables the estimator to follow a process, particular to the estimate in hand – be it a simple card, or a complex product set of cards, envelopes and boxes. Being able to instantly breakdown the costs of an estimate, between fixed and variable — direct and indirect — was seen as essential to the Hallmark installation. Furthermore, the ability to identify the individual costs associated with a single component on a multi-component layout was absolutely necessary, given the extensive use of combination layouts by the company. These were standard features of the VantagePoint solution. “The ability to see a visual representation of our products and manufacturing workflow, within the estimating system, is a big benefit”, added Thackray. “It is so logical. We can drill-

Folding Carton Industry. July/August 2005

down to the detail for immediate access to the cost calculations, and make decisions and what-if comparisons ‘on the fly’.” VantagePoint’s estimating system has also been designed to integrate with other

corporate ERP systems (such as SAP, Oracle Manufacturing, PeopleSoft, etc.) or as part of the overall VantagePoint Accelerate management information system. At Hallmark Cards, the estimating system integrates with the company’s corporate PeopleSoft/JD Edwards and Data 3 ERP systems, passing information about the estimate – bill of material, routing, waste and costs – to the ERP system for the manufacturing parts of the workflow. Given the tight deadline, the rapid implementation of the system was a necessity. “All-in-all the installation went more smoothly than expected,” observed Thackray. “We were very focused on meeting the deadlines set out in our project plan, and managed to go-live on target, within two months of starting the project. We are now in an excellent position to take advantage of the software and gain extra leverage during our busy summer period.”

About Hallmark Hallmark Cards, PLC, a division of Hallmark Cards, Inc. has evolved from a business that first offered world markets Hallmark's domestic design, editorial and product concepts to one that develops specific products to meet the personal expression needs of diverse markets. Today Hallmark International operates from Bradford, England, and has about 3,000 full-time employees worldwide. Hallmark Cards, Inc. publishes products in more than 30 languages and distributes them in more than 100 countries through a multi-national strategy. In 2003, Hallmark reported consolidated net revenues of $4.3 billion.

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