Printers and Their MIS: A Love/Hate Relationship
In the world of print production software there is no better example of a love/hate relationship than between print service providers and their print MIS solution. Print MIS solutions are, or should be, the one record of truth for the business which means the solution touches every function and every employee within the shop. Therein lies the problem. Print MIS solutions take a long time to setup and implement in the shop, assuming internal resistance does not derail the entire project.
Print shops usually start by implementing the core modules of estimating, quoting, purchase orders, job ticketing, and accounting which takes no less than a few months but can run over a year for larger operations. After the core is in place and running, some shops continue the journey and start implementing more advanced modules for shop floor data collection, inventory control, fulfillment, and customer relationship management. Still fewer shops continue to planning/scheduling and business intelligence modules which, sadly, can have the greatest impact.
So why would any print service provider, knowing the inherent challenges and implementation path, want a print MIS solution? Transformation. When done right, a management system can provide real and increasingly real-time data to enhance operators, production supervisors, management, and owners, with making the right decisions at the right time. Instead of experience, intuition, or guesswork, a fully implemented print MIS has the data to answer important business questions, such as:
- Who are my largest customers and what percentage of total turnover do they represent?
- Who are my most profitable customers and products/services?
- What is my production capacity for any given time and will I be able to meet peak demand and maintain my SLAs?
- Who are my most successful sales representatives? What type of work and what margins are they booking?
Getting to the advanced-user curve of your print MIS solution is the goal. However, the print MIS solution must work in coordination with other software to push you to the next level – smart print manufacturing.
Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.
Print MIS solutions need to reach upstream and downstream to coordinate and record production processes (remember it’s your shop’s single record of truth). Can it receive online orders (through a module or third-party solution) and provide real-time, cost-based pricing to the customer? Can the job ticket, with all the customer’s intent, travel with the supplied artwork into your prepress workflow? Can it optimize material usage through intelligent planning and job ganging? Can it receive milestone updates from downstream software and equipment to update the job ticket and scheduling while also triggering alerts and notifications? Suddenly, your print MIS behaves more like a management and workflow platform for the entire shop.
That’s exactly how IQ, a software developer with operations in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States, designed their solution. Realizing customers were looking for “far more than just an MIS”, IQ bills their printIQ solution as a “Management Workflow Solution.” Beyond the core and advanced modules described above, printIQ has existing integrations with other industry leading software from Chili Publish, Enfocus, Kodak, and XMPie, to pass relevant production information upstream and downstream. The company publishes a set of APIs as another method for exchanging data and integrating with other software within your shop. Depending on the other software, IQ has simplified this process by using Zapier to link web-based applications (over 750), such as the accounting package Xero.
The company is trying to solve longtime challenges within print shops, i.e., capturing accurate, timely shop floor data. We know from our 2016 North American software investment survey, that two of the top reasons for not capturing shop floor data are because of resistance by staff and the amount of time it takes. printIQ took a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to the problem by creating an app that staff can download to their phones and capture the information with a device and interface that are already familiar. The phone’s camera can also be used to scan barcodes to speed up the process. Print shops looking for a new or different solution for managing the many aspects of their operation should give printIQ a close look.
Love it or hate it, print shops need tools that enable transformation. Smart print manufacturing is the next evolution in print production and many have already started on the path. Have you?
Ryan McAbee is an Associate Director for InfoTrends’ production software services group which focuses on providing technology, business and market insights to clients active in the Digital Marketing & Media, and Print Production Workflow markets.