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Business Opportunities

Management Information Systems

With printers always on the lookout for ways to boost production, Rob Fletcher looks at how companies are utilising management information systems (MIS) to ensure their service offering is on target

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Targeting solutions

Customers are more demanding than ever in the modern world, expecting quality printed work to be delivered in a speedy manner. Whether it is a simple set of 500 business cards or a long-run book printing job, more often than not customers will require the work to be completed as soon as possible.

And with competition as fierce as ever in the industry, it is vital to ensure your company stands out amongst others—one way to do this is with excellent customer service. This is where solutions such as management information systems (MIS) can help print companies. 

Offering firms extra help in the management of their production process, MIS solutions allow printers to more effectively manage their work so they know exactly where they are with certain projects. 

Customer service

Dawn Stafford, marketing executive at Shuttleworth Business Systems, says an
MIS can significantly improve customer service

One company that has taken advantage of such technology is Swindon-based print firm Multisets Print Solutions, which opted to install the latest MIS software from Shuttleworth Business Systems.

The solution includes a new job tracking function called ‘Milestones’ that Shuttleworth says automatically integrates and updates all job information, therefore making it quick and easy to view the status of a job as it passes through the business. 

The new solution also includes an iPhone and iPad customer relations management (CRM) app, which Shuttleworth says has been designed to help the sales. Sales staff can use the app to access contact and enquiry details, as well as send job-related information back to colleagues at the company via a link to the Shuttleworth CRM module. 

Iain Cox, managing director at Multisets, says the addition of Shuttleworth’s MIS has helped the firm in a number of ways: “Shuttleworth’s latest MIS developments have given complete transparency to the business, without having to search for information. The real time data is a click of a button away, whether it is a customer event, productive information, or CRM. The format is presented in a completely user friendly way, so we can access and look at information instantly and with great ease.”

Every business needs to look at ways it can make efficiencies and reduce costs whilst still providing an outstanding service. Critical to the success of any business is to be seen to add value to the supply chain

Dawn Stafford, marketing executive at Shuttleworth Business Systems, echoes these words and goes on to say how an effective MIS can boost a company’s customer service.

She explains: “Every business needs to look at ways it can make efficiencies and reduce costs whilst still providing an outstanding service. Critical to the success of any business is to be seen to add value to the supply chain. A key element to this is the provision of world-class customer service. Shutt-leworth’s MIS specialisation helps us to understand these demands and provide the tools to make a real critical difference to these businesses.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2014, Stafford says Shuttleworth is set to launch not just a new product, but also technological services for its customers to offer to clients of their own.

She explains: “This year, we will be launching a mobile stock app that enables users of the Shuttleworth System to use mobile technology to better control their stock. We will also be showing how they can offer services to support their business development activity, with customer bespoke mobile applications, QR codes, and augmented reality. Shuttleworth can show users how social media data can be delivered back to the brand owner.”

Importance of integration

Accura claims its AccuraOnline web portal has been successfully utilised by
companies around the world

Fellow MIS provider Accura MIS also claims to have installed systems in more than 600 print companies around the world. Trevor Cocks, managing director of the firm, says its Accura MIS solution is targeted at small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) printers of all types.

He continues: “The Accura MIS is a print management system that offers a suite of integrated modules covering every aspect of running a print business. Modules include cost-rate-calculator, CRM, estimating, production, proofing, dispatch, invoicing, purchasing, stock control, job costing, remote-data-capture, scheduling, and e-commerce or web-to-print.

“A good MIS brings integration—and the importance of this cannot be overstated. Instead of running several different systems that won’t talk to each other, an MIS system brings this all under one umbrella. This information does not have to be re-keyed, and this offers savings in time, efficiency, reduction of errors, reductions in manpower, and ultimately saving money.”

A good MIS brings integration—and the importance of this cannot be overstated. Instead of running several different systems that won’t talk to each other, an MIS system brings this all under one umbrella

With this in mind, Cocks cites some of the companies that have benefited from using Accura MIS. Glasgow-based PR Print was able to expand its business on the back of installing AccuraOnline and won contracts totalling £96,000 per annum for the next two years as a result. Elsewhere, US firm Ricter Web Printing claims Accura has integrated into the existing business to assist with quotes, purchase orders, order confirmations, and invoices.

Keen to improve solutions further, Cocks highlights a number of developments that have been made to the MIS. These include a Visual Scheduler, a new interactive drag and drop interface that is updated in real-time from factory data. 

Elsewhere, eDocBuilder is an artwork editing, variable data, web-to-print plug-in for the AccuraOnline web portal. In addition, Time and Attendance is an add-on to the remote-data-capture module that Cocks claims can replace a traditional clocking-in system.

Clarity in business

Emerson Welch, marketing manager at Clarity Software, says an integrated MIS
ensures jobs are right the first time

Fellow MIS provider Clarity Software is another company to have reported increased interest in its products from companies throughout the industry. Having been installed by a number of major players in the industry, the company has received plenty of positive feedback about what its solutions can do.

Basingstoke-based print business Magellan World is one company to have opted for Clarity’s MIS. Lee Robinson, managing director at the firm, says the solution has helped in a number of areas.

He explains: “Clarity Professional had all the functionality we were after, along with a very attractive price and it more or less gives us ISO9001 because it fully tracks everything. We have been told by the ISO accreditation team that by using Clarity we are more or less in line with the requirements to obtain ISO9001.

“Clarity saves the sales guys a huge amount of time. We can produce quotes, letters, delivery notes, and order confirmations all from one client contact. It’s made a massive difference. And in addition to increasing our quoting speed we now have far better procedures and have significantly reduced our mistakes.”

Elsewhere, wide- and large-format specialist Hollywood Monster has also opted for Clarity MIS. Tim Andrews, managing director at the company, has nothing but praise for the solution: “We needed a business-wide solution that would work for everyone in the new company, one that our employees could adopt and use effortlessly to perform their digital print or sign-making tasks.

An integrated MIS ensures jobs are right first time every time, using customised works orders or job cards that are generated with one click

“Clarity was by far the best option and gave us the chance to centralise our processes from marketing through to Sage 50 accounts integration.”

Emerson Welch, marketing manager at Clarity, backs up these positive customer comments with an explanation of his own about what an MIS can bring: “An integrated MIS ensures jobs are right first time every time, using customised works orders or job cards that are generated with one click. Errors, wastage and stock holding are reduced through clever stock management, yielding huge cash benefits.

“We’ve changed the game for sales teams with a simple way to create, send, and manage print quotes on the move. With our cloud-based system Clarity Go, the days of quoting bottlenecks are over and you’ll be selling all the time.

“By estimating jobs and finalising precise quotations from anywhere, there are no more delays in releasing quotes, no more reasons to go back to the office, and no dead time sat on a train accruing cost of sale.”

Welch also claims Clarity has made advancements in the management of roll stock, with the firm’s solution managing the usage of partial rolls and off-cuts, whilst adding remainders of roll media back into stock with new stock IDs. In addition, he says Clarity WebShop is the easiest way for printers to sell online, as it allows users to manage stock for sale on a website directly from the MIS. 

Precision in printing 

Precision Printing integrated its Coreprint web-to-print solution into OneFlow and
Tharstern Primo MIS from Vpress to boost its ordering process

While an MIS may seem impressive in its own, integrating other products into an existing MIS system may also be another way forward for print companies. Precision Printing did just this earlier this year after integrating its Coreprint web-to-print solution from Vpress into OneFlow and Tharstern Primo MIS—a move Steve Roucaute, technical director, claims enabled complete automation of the ordering process.

Roucaute explains: “We needed a robust and comprehensive web-to-print platform with a lot of functionalities, covering a wide range of our clients’ requirements in terms of users and spend management, artwork and stock management, all of which Vpress offer. 

“Warehouse management and invoicing are fully managed by Tharstern at Precision, whilst the production is fully automated via One-Flow, so linking the three systems together was a no brainer for us and now gives a full end to end automated solution.” 

Under the new system, clients can order print items without human intervention, which helps save time and costs at the company. Files are received, booked in, imposed, sent to press automatically, scheduled via OneFlow up to the point of shipping, where the order is then scanned. A carrier label is then printed, the order invoiced in Tharstern and tracking number sent back to Coreprint so that the end user can track its progress.

Roucaute concludes: “We can definitely say that we have closed the loop and achieved a significant overhead cost reduction.”

We can definitely say that we have closed the loop and achieved a significant overhead cost reduction

Elsewhere, when Merthyr Tydfil-based Stephens and George Print Group needed to update its MIS configuration it turned to Crimsonwing, investing in a fully integrated ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Andrew Jones, group man-aging director at Stephens and George, explains why a new solution was necessary: “The need for one system was crucial, as the flow of data needed to be seamless. Where previously we were using different systems for ordering, marketing, and production, we now enjoy visibility from the first process of finding a potential client right through to profit analysis work has been completed.”

Stephens and George app-roached Microsoft to find out more about their applicable platforms, and were, based on its background in the print industry. Crimsonwing was able to demonstrate the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics NAV PrintVis, the only fully integrated print-specific ERP platform at that time.

“We’d thoroughly recommend both Microsoft Dynamics NAV PrintVis as a package and Crimsonwing as an implementation and support partner,” Jones concludes.

It seems that there are plenty of positive messages coming from both supplier and customers of MIS, with both sides citing numerous benefits of integrating such a solution. In an age where almost everything is going digital, maybe it is time you took a leap forward into a carefully managed future. 

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