5 Things Successful Print Businesses Do with Their MIS

Over the years we have visited and worked with many printing companies.

Some companies are clearly more successful than others. Naturally we consider what differentiates highly successful business from the others in our sphere. Here are 5 things which stand out from the crowd:

1. Template-Based Estimation

Time is of the essence – but the price has to be right and there cannot be any errors.

In the point and click world, customers are sending more and more jobs out for more and more quotes – and small price differences can make the decision for them. For most companies in the printing industry, the quote-to-order ratio is going down as a consequence.

Unfortunately, this means in the everyday life of an estimator more work and less likelihood of landing the job.  Online web-shops allow customers to shop their simple jobs for cut rate prices– but the more time consuming and more complex quotes are still man-made.

To meet the challenge printing companies realize that software can help them be successful in quoting at a decent speed: They build templates.  With proper set up, a template can reduce the time spent on a product estimate by 75% without endangering the pricing precision (improving it, actually) and with less error in production specs.

The structure and elements must naturally be personalized on a job-by-job basis but will draw upon the already given data, and must change dynamically when data changes occur. Then it’s a big boost for better efficiency in the print shop.

If you want to optimize your print MIS – this is a great place to start!

2. Integration to Customers

Corporate customers often prefer a direct link to their vendors instead of a Web2Print solution. In fact, successful printing companies benefit from having direct communication with their larger customers. A major reason being that once this integration is in place, the loyalty rises significantly.  Customers love to come back to a branded site that is easy to use where they can see their own items for purchase.

This is by no means a reason to turn away from your Web2Print solution which serves another set of customers – rather to be regarded as an upgrade of certain customers.

Typically this integration is made with an XLM import – coming as a direct file from the customer’s own purchase ordering system.  In good installations, this matches some individual SLAs and pricing structures prepared in the system.

The effect for the printing company will be that orders flow in automatically and in some cases go directly to the digital printers – or to the prepress department for plate making. Additionally, several automated events can occur, such as the invoice and delivery note already in the printer when the job is registered. The time savings across department lines becomes obvious and the ability to have correct invoices out the door as soon as the job arrives is a huge benefit.

3. Attention to Prepress Time

Getting paid for what we do in prepress departments is a constant headache.  Most employees in prepress want to deliver great work and keep customers happy; sometimes that happiness comes at a cost.

The classic case of expecting a print-ready PDF and instead getting a shoebox of photos with sticky notes still has some truth in it – and will cost us if we’re not careful.

Keeping a keen eye on what time is spent on jobs – and specifically the unplanned time – can make a difference on our bottom line. Companies can greatly benefit here by systematically monitoring deviations. Typically it starts with being clearer with the customer on the service we expect to deliver. This includes a more explanatory quote, an automated letter of milestones and/or other explicit information to the customer about the conditions for a quote and conditions for files to be submitted.

Successful prepress departments are very clear in their quotes to customers and have happy customers who know when they are getting extra services they must pay for and can even see which services they have received for free.

Turning your prepress department’s work into a small revenue stream can be a tremendous advantage not often considered before, and this is an area that PrintVis can help track the time and costs efficiently.

4. Paper Stock Monitoring

Stock inventory is usually a much larger cost than companies care to admit.  While a perfect balance of on-hand inventory levels versus delivery time to get stock in house is sometimes difficult to achieve –many factors can play a part.

We see that successful companies have a clear strategy to minimize the stock levels in a way which keeps them flexible on their production. Obviously having a good set of suppliers is a big component – but internal analysis is just as critical.

Paper forecasting and bulk purchases can benefit the paper costs and transportation fees—these things prove to make a monetary difference if the estimators and production people are also aware of the company initiatives.  If you can get estimators to use some set of central stocks (and if you can get your customers, then even better) you can eliminate the random purchases and remnant inventory that haunts most companies.

A lot of focus should be put on paper usage and paper waste – no news there. The real value comes in when we start weighing extra cost for waste paper against costs of ordering a special size paper for a job – including the actual time we spend for this– in production, in extra price, special delivery, unused stock if we used less, expensive extra delivery if we need more, etc.

In this analysis it can sometimes actually prove better to use a different and “incorrect” size paper with up to 20% more wasted space than making a special order. Software that can allow analysis of those changes or a system of calculations you can do internally before sending jobs to the production floor can be a great area to see your profits increase and your raw material costs decrease.

5. Work on Their Data

The dusty old back-end system you live with and never change is simply not good enough if you want to be a successful business, this is a fact. Unfortunately it can be all work and no play – even for the accounting department and the company super user. We see a big difference in how active printing companies are with their ERP and MIS systems.

Some companies only revisit their system setup when machines are changed or new machines are brought in. A printing MIS is so much more than machines and speed tables. We see a clear pattern of successful businesses nurturing their software, tweaking and optimizing.

There are many data elements to focus on. Getting better with your order input is important – the templates – but also paper prices, customer price agreements, better job tickets, capacity efficiency changes…the list goes on and on.  One great way to get help with all this is to install a better MIS system and use it to support all the areas of your company.

Optimizing Business is a Constant Challenge

As in all other aspects of our daily business life there is no rest for management in their pursuit of optimization – it is an ongoing task!

We see the best results where management is making clear priorities of which areas to deal with, and in what priority. Short and focused work projects which have clear targets and can be measured afterwards are preferred to larger, broad work where there is a good risk of diversion – or of not finishing the project at all. Most work is being done by the Super User and usually a system supplier will only be slightly involved for supporting reports, suggestions of parameter measures and other advisory work.

For all this optimization it pays off both short term and long term to have a smart, dynamic and fully-integrated print MIS like PrintVis with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.