Skills MIS-Match: Three Signs Your MIS May Not Be For You
By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst, and Joe Lehn, PressWise
Now more than ever print businesses have a need for their operation to be guided by some kind of central intelligence, usually called a Management Information System (MIS). The MIS is not by any means a new concept, but it is playing a greater role in today’s print businesses. The thing to remember is that not all MISes are created equal. Just as different employees bring different skill sets to an operation, so too, do different MIS implementations. To be effective, an MIS needs to be tailored to the individual business.
Here are three warning signs that your MIS may not be a perfect, or even good, match for your business.
MIS-Match #1: The problems that your MIS was designed to solve are not the problems you have.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Your print business differs from every other print business. Each MIS is designed for a particular market segment with particular needs which may be different, in whole or in part, from your own. So, understanding the origins of a given system may help in determining how well it fits your own unique needs.
For example, your primary business may be inventory fulfillment with only a small amount of printing. As a result, having a full-fledged printing MIS without inventory integration would be a bad fit. On the other hand, a commercial web offset printer may have complex pricing and production requirements and need strong job ticketing capabilities, but may not need finished goods inventory management. So, in this case having a full-fledged printing MIS would be a good fit.
Think about your typical job’s run length, if there is such a thing. If it’s more than 100,000 impressions, you need to worry less about rapid job changeovers and makereadies than if your average run length is normally less than 100 impressions per job. Also consider these difficulties: Is your management based on complex accounting schemes where you need a strong job costing system? Do you produce repetitive short-run digital jobs from a web-to-print portal? Do you need a production system that doesn’t rely on manual ticket entry?
A properly fitted MIS will take all these questions and concerns into account. What’s important to note is that whatever the problem, there is a solution. You first need to identify the specific challenges that need to be overcome to operate efficiently. After that, the method for evaluating various software solutions will become clearer when navigating what is offered on the market today.
MIS-Match #2: You handle web-to-print orders differently than walk-in orders.
Ideally, your online portal and your bricks-and-mortar shop should be two “doors” that lead to the same place. Having two different systems means that customer and job information will need to be re-entered when jobs are transferred from the walk-in portal to the digital workflow. This not only takes personnel and time, but can also introduce re-keying errors, confusion in production, and different people processing orders. It also requires people to learn two systems simultaneously, which translates into increased training costs.
Having parallel production tracks makes the management of digital resources a challenge. For example, pricing needs to be set up in more than one place, which can lead to variability in estimating. If two systems have different pricing curves and different ways of interpolating prices, they won’t generate estimates in exactly the same way. It’s also difficult to get accurate reporting for business intelligence purposes when the information exists in more than one place. This can all lead to customer confusion. Should they order online or offline? Online for some things and offline for others? Does the pricing differ between ordering methods?
All too often, a company’s web-to-print system does not integrate with the MIS that controls the rest of the operation. It sends information directly into production and doesn’t “play nice” with the rest of the enterprise. You don’t want a web-to-print system that competes with the plant’s MIS. There needs to be a single enterprise-wide system that provides pricing, tracks materials consumption, and performs other analytical tasks. Jobs should be funneled into the same system leading to the same destination–regardless of whether they come in online or offline.
An example of a print MIS to consider in this case is SmartSoft’s PressWise, which was built from the ground up to include web-to-print and online storefronts. The quotes it generates online use the same pricing tables and production standards that an estimator would use to quote walk-in or other non-web-to-print jobs. Thus there is no duplication of tasks or systems, and, more importantly, no conflicting price quotes.
MIS-Match #3: It still takes too much time and too many touches to turn around each job.
It’s no secret to anyone in printing today that run lengths are getting smaller. At the same time, margins are shrinking as well. The challenge of digital printing has always been aggregating as many digital jobs as possible, and an essential part of this is turning those jobs as fast as possible. Whatever additional time is required for someone to work on a job eats into that margin.
There is an Irish blessing that goes something like “may you make it to heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.” Likewise, you want a job to make it through production before the estimator knows they’re there. Think about something like an order for 500 business cards. There is so little margin (if any) on a job like that, and even less if it needs to go through the traditional channel of salesperson to estimator back to salesperson to CSR to production workflow. This means automating as much of the process as possible. Automation can be found in many areas, such as allowing customers to order online from a catalog of standard print products, consistent pricing that is calculated automatically, and preflighting and proofing files before they even make it into production.
Having this kind of automated production process also gives customers what they want: the convenience of ecommerce. Printers need to facilitate this convenience for customers, while at the same time shaving time from every order. This is where a good MIS can play a central role.
Regardless of whose solution you ultimately end up using, if any or all of these three warning signs apply to your shop, it’s time to reevaluate your MIS.
PressWise believes in an all-in-one web-to-print, MIS and workflow automation solution to offer advantages over multiple, independent systems. PressWise provides a single, powerful system designed to streamline your workflow, reduce touches, lower costs and increase efficiencies you need to survive and thrive in today’s market.