Give Customers More

noelward

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Give Customers More
How a Print MIS Adds Value for Customers and for You

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

In case you haven’t noticed or are ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, customers expect more than they once did. And are not shy about asking for or even demanding new levels of service and attention. Delivering on their desires can be a vital differentiator for your business whether your shop is a commercial or in-plant operation because it imbues a higher level of care to the work you do for each customer. This matters and is often the case at in-plant and commercial printers alike, so I got on the phone.

I’d already heard this story from several commercial shops but I needed to hear from an in-plant, so I called Mount Carmel Health System to see how serving customer needs might have its roots in changes in work processes. If you’re thinking this sounds like big changes to an operation’s Print MIS you’d be right. Although some say this can be a challenging experience, what I’ve heard from several commercial shops and again from Mount Carmel is that the value far outweighs the challenges.

The in-house printing department at Mount Carmel Health System serves four hospitals, several free-standing emergency centers, plus specialty and primary care outpatient facilities in central Ohio. The operation also provides printing services for other regional hospital systems. Carol Stokes, Printing Services Operations Manager, says her facility produces 800,000 to 1 million impressions per month, although that range increases when building inventory levels for materials that are kept in stock.

Chasing time
Stokes says the in-plant operation was challenged by time lost to pricing, quoting, tracking jobs in process, keeping the flow of short-run jobs on schedule, and keeping customers looped in on job status when jobs left her shop for delivery.

“We didn’t have an efficient way of providing quotes to customers or a system for tracking inventory,” recounts Stokes. “We were relying on paper tickets and an antiquated manual billing system. We were physically tracking down job tickets to see where a job was in the workflow. We also didn’t have a way to track jobs once they were out for delivery, so customers couldn’t locate their job once it was out of production.”

With dozens of customers and many jobs in process each day the need was for a fast and accurate way for both knowing and communicating job status. “We needed a digital solution that would allow us to streamline all these processes.”

Beginning at the beginning
Stokes came to her role after her predecessor had selected PressWise from SmartSoft and built the storefront. She knew its digital solution addressed many of the problems she and her team faced and that digitizing job tickets would be the foundation of a stronger and more effective workflow. But would it handle the moving production parts of a workflow that included jobs from many customers with unique demands and documents? Stokes had high needs and expectations.

“We made many changes and improvements to our processes as we learned to do things that suited our needs,” recounts Stokes. “We wanted to create a customer database, track projects, easily configure quotes and invoices, and give customers real-time access to job status. We also wanted to be able to review a customer’s history so we could simplify reordering or verify jobs specs from a previous order. Finally, we needed a way to track deliveries made by our courier service.”

PressWise as a Change Agent
PressWise integration changed print production at Mount Carmel Health System on every level. The operation can now track jobs instantly, saving time and streamlining customer service. Changes based on quantities, costs and delivery can be quickly created, re-quoted and modified.

Such real-time flexibility became a game-changer. “We are still refining our processes and learning how to utilize both the storefront and the workflow to meet our internal needs and those of customers,” says Stokes. “We’re continually finding new things the system can do. For example, it seems trivial but job delivery can be challenging because our customers are spread over a wide area. PressWise lets us add a tracking number to the job ticket so when it’s ready to ship we can see where and when orders are delivered”.

The practical advantage for the in-plant is that PressWise takes the guesswork out of many processes that were previously labor-intensive. For instance, Stokes says reducing production time has enabled them to produce more work in less time, fostering overall productivity. The shop can now monitor inventory levels of documents produced for inventory as well as paper stocks, hardware items, binding materials, and more.

Follow the Data… and the Money
Like many executives who have adopted a Print MIS such as PressWise, Stokes says she wishes the shop had moved to the system sooner. If you are yet to adopt a modern Print MIS, the process works best for both commercial and in-plant shops by encouraging and adopting a proactive and informed approach. The steps a variety of print business owners have suggested include:

Pulling your entire team together and laying out both the good and bad of your entire existing system, from job receipt through delivery, on the table or a whiteboard.
  • Paying attention to the number of touchpoints, how long they take, what is involved and the real business costs of each step. Make sure these are real numbers, not guesstimates, because you are going after the actual costs in both dollars and time.
  • Helping all staff understand how all costs, including wasted time and effort, impact your operation or company.
  • Include the things you’d like to do (or know you should do) but don’t because they are too involved, too expensive or require exception processing.
  • Once these costs are all detailed, look at the costs for doing the same tasks using a Print MIS.
  • What is the anticipated learning curve (time and dollars) for your staff when implementing a Print MIS in your business?
  • How can you use the expertise of the Print MIS vendor, in this case SmartSoft, to shorten the learning curve?
  • What are the best ways to introduce customers to your new Print MIS so they can see the advantages?
  • What is the anticipated value of the Print MIS to your company or operation over 12 months? Over 18 months?
There will be internal resistance (you can pretty much count on it) but by helping your entire team see and understand the big picture it may be easier to handle and even reduce the push-back.

According to Stokes, Mount Carmel now relies on PressWise for every facet of production. “It has been a game-changer for us,” she says. “It provides a wealth of easily accessible information. I can’t imagine not using a system like this.”
 

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