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Saving 15 Miles of Paper

Digital documentation could revolutionize IBM business and your shelves

Digital documentation could revolutionize IBM business and your shelves

Somewhere in Scranton, Pa., Dunder Mifflin’s Michael Scott woke up one evening in a cold sweat, screaming, after a terrific nightmare. As he drifted back into a fitful sleep, a few words could be heard trailing from his quivering lips: “IBM ... DPOD ... Noooooo.”

Maybe that’s a satirical account, but if IBM’s Worldwide Integrated Media Solutions (WIMS) team sees its ongoing Digital Publications On-Demand (DPOD) project come to full fruition in the coming year or two, paper-company managers will indeed have something new keeping them up at night.

At its core, the DPOD project aims to achieve a near-paperless vision for most IBM documentation currently shipped with hardware and software offerings. This would include specific end-user license agreements, IBM warranty documentation, safety manuals, and the standard service library that includes installation and service guides and a safety-inspection manual. When you consider such hard-copy documentation can include several thousand pages with each shipment, you begin to appreciate how monumental DPOD’s impact could eventually be.

As revolutionary an idea as a paperless IBM is, the concept was born almost as an afterthought at the end of a largely unrelated conference call.

“Around Thanksgiving of 2009, we were on a conference call and Bruce Orchard (process engineer and implementation manager) in Rochester (Minn.) happened to mention he was looking for a solution that would allow him to move his PDF files for paper publications to a piece of digital hardware media so he could begin looking at ways of shutting down the need for paper to his customers,” says Phil Gabel, IBM high-end media manufacturing and engineering project manager. “We started having additional conversations and the idea just grew to include more and more of IBM. We looked at all this paper that gets sent out with each new shipment and we logically started asking why.”

On a Fast Track

Paperless documentation obviously isn’t a new concept, but its adoption—even in the fast-paced world of IT—has been somewhat slow, owing largely to legal and operational speed bumps as well as plain old, stubborn resistance. But IBM’s DPOD project could soon change that, especially because most of the personnel, software and hardware have been in place since before Orchard made his seemingly innocuous request. And with the whole world focused on going green, the strong environmental aspect to a paperless direction is hard to ignore.

Initially, Orchard considered approaching an outside vendor to write the applications and provide the hardware and support, but others on the call realized everything he described was something IBM’s WIMS media-manufacturing application already performed. The WIMS application conducts media orders, writes packing lists, organizes stock and tells operators what media to write on the workstation. According to Gabel, it was simply a matter of taking a piece of that WIMS infrastructure and coupling it with an updated WIMS application to achieve the basic DPOD deployment.

Gabel’s team created the whole solution—website, server integration and a local workstation—in less than three months. DPOD has been operating in Rochester for a year, and IBM executives who’ve toured the facility are excited about the capability to write media on demand, Gabel says.

Once we start moving away from paper completely, you’ll see a lot of innovation.” — Phil Gabel, project manager, IBM high-end media manufacturing and engineering

Ryan Rhodes is a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine.


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