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Start-up targets mass customization

Impresse will debut its first product, PresseWare, a software package for linking business applications into a system for mass customization of manufactured goods.

Impresse, a start-up headed by a former Oracle executive, will today debut its first product, PresseWare, a software package for linking business applications into a system for mass customization of manufactured goods.

PresseWare is the first product in a category of software applications the company calls "enterprise digital production" or eProduction, said Nimish Mehta, Impresse's chief executive.

Mehta, formerly a marketing executive with database giant Oracle, said eProduction systems go beyond enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications from Oracle and SAP to integrate the Internet and supply chain technologies to provide "on-demand" manufacturing to convert a digital request into a manufactured physical product.

The software allows companies to develop their Web sites to sell a large range of products from the virtual warehouse of digital masters as well as from physical inventories, the company said.

The company's first product will target the publishing industry. Versions for the entertainment industry will follow, according to Mehta.

PresseWare can allow a publisher to custom manufacture each customer order. For example, brick-and-mortar bookstores and online sites such as must stock large in-house inventories to offer a wide selection of books. Using eProduction concepts of mass customization, a bookseller could theoretically offer any book ever printed, since each order is custom-published. The bookseller would save money by not having to stock and maintain a huge inventory of books, some of which it may never sell.

"Packaging applications, music, software, books--all of these areas are ripe for this," said Mehta. He acknowledged that some industries, such as the oil and gas business and automobile manufacturing, aren't suited to the eProduction concept. "To do real mass customization they [auto makers] would have to make a car just for you and that's not cost-effective," he said.

Mehta said PC makers, such as Dell, are "a good part of the way there. But not all the way--they are doing mass customization of prefab components."

The company claims PresseWare can potentially reduce organizations' total expenditures by 10 to 30 percent.

PresseWare, which uses technologies including Enterprise Java Beans, eXtensible Markup Language (XML), and Dynamic HTML to integrate disparate applications, targets the printing and publishing market, including book publishing, commercial printers, in-plant printing facilities within large corporations, and quick printers.

The software sits between standard ERP systems, order entry systems, planning and scheduling applications, and digital production equipment to coordinate production. Mehta said companies have attempted to mass customize their production systems in the past using custom-developed software.

Mehta said a typical PresseWare installation would cost "in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We will do an ROI for every prospect."

He said Impresse has signed up two early adopters: Oracle and George Lithograph, a printing firm.