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Printing Attachments in Oracle 12.2:
How does it Stack Up?

Posted on by Brent Lowe

With the release of EBS 12.2, Oracle is making the claim that they have improved the attachment printing process. After reviewing the integration, I completely disagree; they have not given users a better solution.  No matter how you slice it, Oracle EBS customers are no further ahead with attachment printing than they were with 12.1.3.  Actually, customers are probably worse off given that the functionality is basically the same, and the use of the AutoVue device adds a lot more plumbing to manage. In fact, it’s more clicks for users to print with this new method! ARG!

As developers of the leading attachment printing product in the Oracle marketplace, you can imagine our keen interest in seeing what this long-promised feature would look like. After a thorough review it is clear that STR Software’s AventX Attachment Printer remains light years ahead of native Oracle functionality.

The problem with printing attachments from Oracle:

For years, EBS has provided the ability to upload attachments via the paperclip button or in self service as supplemental data.  The ability to include attachments is fine for those working within the Oracle framework, either locally within a company or via an iPortal-esque integration. However the persistent problem is that Oracle has not provided a way to print those attachments along with the primary report (i.e. get them out of the system).  As an example, printing safety protocols and maintenance instructions for Work Orders requires that those attachments can be printed. Users have two options for getting the attachments out:

  1. manually navigate to each attachment, open it in its native viewer (Word, Excel, Acrobat, etc…) and do a File->Print.  This is annoying when printing just a couple documents here and there, but what if you have tens, hundreds, or thousands of documents to print and each document has multiple attachments? Then the process becomes a barrier to productivity that affects the business as a whole.

-or-

  1. purchase a 3rd party product like STR Software’s AventX Attachment Printer that  automatically prints (as well as email, archive, fax) ALL appropriate attachments along with the work order report without user interaction.

By now, you’re probably ready for me to substantiate my claims of product superiority! Below is an honest look at Oracle’s new print attachments functionality as it compares to AventX, the eAM marketplace standard for automated work order and attachment printing. You be the judge:

Oracle vs. AventX for Attachment Printing

User Experience:

The user experience for printing attachments is considerably different between the two technologies.  We’ll use the example of printing a work order packet.  In this case, users want the ability to print a work order and all of its attachments as single package so that the information can be handed off to the maintenance crew for the work to be done.

Oracle User Experience:

User selects work orders that they would like to print.

print attachments1

User wants to print attachment?  Hover over attachment icon:

print attachments2

and the following appears that allows a user to Print.  Note that for a Web Page attachment type, the Print Icon is disabled. Oracle’s solution to attachment printing cannot process these types of attachments.

print attachments3

User clicks on Print Icon and the following dialog is displayed that requests which printer, type of paper and orientation to use.

print attachments4

Once the user fills out the information, they click on the ‘Print and Close’ button and the attachment prints out of the desired printer.

Note that there is no batching functionality here.  For EACH attachment that a user wants to print, they must select it, choose a printer and print it.

AventX User Experience:

The AventX user experience offers greater control over what is printed and how.  Instead of going to every attachment and printing them separately, AventX allows you to print your attachments along with your primary document (Work Order, Purchase Order, etc…) automatically with no user intervention.  Choose your route: either have users choose which attachments to print or just allow the system configuration to dictate which attachments get printed (by entity and category).  Either way, in the end your users end up with a single print job that contains the entire work pack and requires no collation or other manual intervention. AventX does allow for batch printing and can easily be configured to print work order batches on a schedule.

self-service-screen-shot12-2

Conclusions: What Users Want

So yes, Oracle can now print attachments without having the user open up the attachment on their desktop and File->Print the document.  Fantastic.  But what users want is the ability to print a concurrent request that may consist of one, or many, individual documents, and when those documents come out of the printer, they want the attachments associated with the report collated and ready to go.  Management wants the ability to store files in a location where they know that the most recent version is printed every time. Take the example of the work order print above. In the end, users are looking to select multiple work orders for printing and then have those work orders print with the appropriate attachments so that when they get to their printers, they have the following collated, individually stapled, page stamped, and waiting for them:

Work Order #1
- Attachment a
- Attachment b
- Attachment c

Work Order #2
- Attachment d

Work Order #3
- Attachment e
- Attachment f

The reality is that Oracle has provided a solution that lets them state “we print natively,” despite the fact that the execution is no different for end users, and the back end is significantly more complex. Although some might say my opinion is biased, I want to point out that focusing on the needs of end users by listening to them and making the print technology work for them is our job – our area of expertise. Oracle is trying to solve a lot of business problems; at the time of this writing, the end user problem of printing attachments out of Oracle is one they have not solved adequately. Our customers, like Barrick Gold and TPC Group – some of the biggest names and trail blazers in asset intensive industries – recognize that attachment printing is vital to their business and that Oracle’s solution was not developed with users like them in mind. Knowing what I know, the answer as to which is the better choice is still AventX.  What are your thoughts?  Feel free to share them below.


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