Unlocking Efficiencies with ThinPrint: VMN’s Journey to Streamlined Business Processes


Overcoming E-Commerce Challenges through Seamless Printing Solutions

Rod Webster, Director at VMN had a background in high-end digital production printing before establishing VMN, an e-commerce operation for 4WD accessories. VMN was founded in 2009 when Rod solved a problem on how to extend the steering shaft when fitting a body lift to a 4WD vehicle. Eventually it took over his life. After becoming a full-time gig, the business moved into a small warehouse before covid.

The Search for an Ideal Solution to the Print Dilemma

As he built a tight integration between Odoo ERP system and Magento Ecommerce with some help from Damien Mcphee at One Click Media, Rod was well aware of the criticality of print where the non-core business of print supports enterprise-critical business processes. The critical business processes in e-commerce are accurate product Identification, order picking and shipping label production. Generally, barcodes play a critical role in these processes. Implementation required direct printing without user involvement to our devices. The VMN business model was further complicated by the restrictions on browser-based printing that prevented the externally hosted ERP system from printing to output devices behind the firewall. This problem is so difficult to solve even Google gave up and withdrew its cloud printing solution! Rod had been looking at possible solutions for a long time, but the few options identified required software clients to be installed on workstations, yet Rod wanted to adopt a solution that was operating system agnostic that allowed printing from any device including Windows, Apple, Linux, Chromebooks and mobile devices.
ThinPrint to the Rescue

Then he found ThinPrint. They even had an Australian office! After an initial consultation, it fitted the bill perfectly. A CUPs server co-located with the ERP server could send print jobs from the ERP to an LPR print queue on a Windows Print Server. ThinPrint could forward print jobs using VPN-like technology to a ThinPrint Hub behind our firewall where it was forwarded to the output device. Despite the steps involved, ThinPrint works at amazing speed.

Designing for Efficiency with ThinPrint

Rod wrote a requirements document for an Odoo module for direct printing using ThinPrint and engaged a programmer to code it. The resulting solution leans heavily on Rod’s production printing knowledge and his ability to analyse business processes and how users interact with the ERP system. Very few of VMN’s suppliers had GTIN codes for their products, so delivery receipts need to print barcoded product labels when incoming goods are received. Manufacturing orders also allow the production of product labels with the print quantity set by the production quantity.

Operational Transformation with ThinPrint

Rod Webster, Director at VMN tells: “ThinPrint is critical to our business processes. With all products now barcoded, “carton labels are printed for each picking slip on a daily basis. This then allows us to use a 2-step delivery process using Odoo’s barcode module. A picking is retrieved by scanning the carton label and all products on that picking are scanned into the carton and validated on completion by scanning a system barcode.”

Game-Changing Results

This results in fast, accurate, error free picking. Finally, at the dispatch station, a delivery order is retrieved by scanning the carton label, shipping weights and dimensions are checked, and the delivery order is finalised. This generates a shipping order on an external shipping system. The shipping label is retrieved by Odoo and sent to a dedicated Zebra label printer.

Rod Webster: “All of this is done without the user to ever needing to use File/Print on their device. At one stage, we benchmarked procedures with a stopwatch showed that an e-commerce operation with 200 orders per day would save eight hours of labour per week just by eliminating the File/Print shuffle.
The solution makes extensive use of Zebra ZPL which allows a print job to specify the number of labels to be printed and can optionally print incrementing batch/serial numbers.”

Rod Webster, Director at VMN tells: “ThinPrint has proved to be an amazingly robust, fast, truly enterprise-grade solution which has brought significant internal efficiencies for a very nominal cost…ThinPrint has allowed VMN to bring all its business processes into the Odoo ERP system which streamlines all our critical business processes. We continue to be amazed about the sales per FTE VMN can achieve with ThinPrint and our bespoke direct print module. It has helped us position the ERP atthe centre of our business processes by eliminating external systems and unlocking efficiencies….ThinPrint has truly allowed us to leverage the criticality of print and secure a competitive advantage. More importantly, it’s invisible to the business processes it supports because it’s just there, it is truly OS agnostic, and it works!”