PLONE.ORG: Product Lifecycle Management with Plone

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Plone at PNZ Produkte GmbH

PNZ Produkte GmbH is a niche manufactory of oil-based paints and coatings made from renewable resources. Next to its company brand product line, a substantial amount of business is generated from private label (PL) sales. These PL products are offered as a turn-key service: including promotional material, product information sheets and packaging. For some private label customers, PNZ also takes care of fulfillment to end consumers.

A typical finished product is derived from:

  • A Base Recipe which determines the ingredients, production methods, usage safety indications and applicable mandated regulations (e.g. GHS)  
  • A Master Product which defines the application specifications, usage instructions, packaging sizes, pigments and other general use attributes
  • A Finished Product which includes branding characteristics, marketing descriptions, article EANs and other customizations

Since 2015, Plone has been used as the engine for creating and maintaining product specifications. About 20 employees in multiple departments interact regularly with the software. The project received a “Digitalbonus” innovation award from Germany’s Landesamt Oberbayern.

A Typical Product Lifecycle

When a new product is formulated, has passed its application and safety testing phase, and is ready to go in production, its specifications will be split in three separate information layers. Custom content types in Plone connect these layers and manage their contents. Plone’s ability to quickly prototype content types through-the-web makes it easy to design an initial structure and refine it based on user experiences. Each information layer consists of 30 to 50 individual fields and can be extended as needs change over time. Connecting different types of data from dynamic and external sources is relatively simple as Plone offers a large variety of edit/display widgets out of the box. 

At each hierarchical level, new content undergoes a quality and regulations compliance control check before going through the Plone publishing workflow. This makes the document available for use in lower layers. Any base recipe can potentially power several master products, which in turn results in a large number of finished products. The current system powers some 25,000 individual articles or SKU’s. 

At the lowest level, a “Finished Product” content type includes product-specific overrides and any information not inherited from the recipe and master product layers.

PNZ Product Information Flow

Since products may be offered to multiple geographical markets, all information must be translated. Plone’s built-in multilingual capabilities make it possible to have each individual document available in several languages. Fifteen languages are currently in use within the PNZ system. Each field in a content type can be designated as translatable or multilingual, so that updates of multilingual fields can automatically propagate throughout the various translations.

Automating Content Creation

The information contained in its product lifecycle management system allows PNZ to automate the generation of a variety of ready to use content. Plone provides the BrowserView mechanism, used in conjunction with Zope Page Templates (ZPT), to determine what should be included in the content and how it should be rendered. PNZ Wrappers with inDesign and XML from Plone

PNZ creates colortone samplers and product information sheets, with a customized layout for each brand, using the tools provided by Plone. The documents then undergo a final conversion to PDF using “Produce & Publish” software, created by longtime Zope/Plone community contributor Andreas Jung at Zopyx.

In the packaging process, Plone powers the creative design of all product labels. A BrowserView is used to draw data from multiple content types and the company’s ERP system. This will generate a set of XML files for each product and its SKU variants, plus related dynamic images such as EAN codes, colortones, certifications and GHS warning signs.

PNZ Public Site With PloneThe XML files and images are then read into Adobe InDesign templates by the company’s creative designers, resulting in a professionally designed wrapper for each SKU that always contains accurate information and complies with industry standards and specifications.

Other types of content include the generation of raw HTML and images for use in a PlentyMarkets shop, and the creation of Product Information Management (PIM) CSV export files for large customers such as DIY store chains. Finally, using plone.restapi, the system powers the product catalog of PNZ’s soon to be relaunched public facing website which of course also uses Plone!

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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