Deft Flux is jump-starting the movement to return to elegant information design.  You are saying to yourself, How?  So, here we have an example.

Recently, an Epicor client asked us whether, on his traveler, it would be possible to print the color of the part being produced.  We responded with the standard questions:  What is the real reason for the change? Since the raw materials are already listed, is it worth the effort?  Is it even possible?  We explained that the difficulties are four-fold:

  1. The color of a part is determined by the last paint that goes on it, but there are normally at least three raw materials used on a part — some that are not even paint, usually a base coat, and sometimes two-part paints.
  2. Even if we could choose the final raw material, it would have a five or seven word description from which the computer must guess the color.
  3. The paint color could change from time to time.
  4. The client produces thousands of parts, making it impracticable to add a manufacturing note to each part.

After the client indicated that he was resolved to show the part’s color on the traveler, and what is more, he would like a paint-colored band printed at the top, we implemented the following simple and flexible solution:

  1. Create a memo category called “Color.”
  2. Attach a memo to any paint (raw material) for which the client needs to have a colored band and note on the top of the traveler.
  3. At the top of the traveler, print the Text from any “Color” memos for all raw materials required by the job.
  4. Look for a hexadecimal color number in the description.  At the top of the traveler, set the background color of the note to this number (white if there is none).

The “Color” memos are created by the Quality Manager.  Color codes are in the HTML format — #RRGGBB — and the text of the memo is usually something like “PURPLE.”  In order to print this note on the traveler, we simply added the Memo table to the Report Data Definition (RDD), along with the appropriate conditions and table relationships, and then added a sub-report to the traveler that prints out all memo text.  We wrote a formula to conditionally set the background color of the memo text.

Because this is an elegant (that is, robust and flexible) solution, the client can use it for purposes beyond the original design.  For example, the client could highlight a quality alert on a part by attaching a memo with a red background and the text of the quality alert.