A Fluid Technical Transition to Digitalization in the Printing Industry with Neo4j

The Challenge

For years, printers have focused on print quality, reliability and attractive prices. In today’s world it is even more important to have the right IT support to provide customers with added value. This progress from pure product sales to solution sales presents a major logistical challenge for a modern printing house.

Even for a single print order, there are a number of interconnected deliverables, which requires a significant amount of planning ahead. In order to handle a multitude of orders from the web, Billes needed to adapt, streamline and prepare a number of internal systems. To survive in a competitive market, printers also must leverage all of their data in order to give customers all the information they want in real time.

Over the last four years, Billes has completed a number of acquisitions in which the acquired companies have a diverse array of their own IT systems. One option was to replace everything against a new system that would be used by all, but after an extensive feasibility study Billes chose instead another route.

The Solution

Together with partner NetConsult, Billes built a technology hub based on Neo4j, which connected all of the other IT systems. It became a more flexible solution because operations of the acquired companies could be adjusted gradually – a fluid transition.

The system is known by its acronym: Poff, which stands for planning, ordering, shipping and billing. It is built for graphics companies with a mixed set of systems and has been in operation since May 2014.

Poff completely administers the flow from the time a job comes in until the booking of deliveries and invoicing. All work is either completed in Poff or instructions are sent to other internal or external systems for performing the task. Poff is connected to the Billes ordering system, customers’ businesses and shipping portals.

The Poff system is built on the Neo4j graph database, which is optimized for complex relationships and extremely large datasets. Neo4j can also be integrated – and co-exist – with other systems until you choose to phase them out.

Another advantage of Neo4j is its flexibility. The Billes and NetConsult teams didn’t have to determine the database structure from the beginning. Rather, they expanded the functionality and capacity of Neo4j gradually.

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