Touch Less, Print More. From Everywhere.


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Touch Less, Print More. From Everywhere.
Print management in the age of pandemia

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Every time someone in your shop touches a job it costs you money. And news flash—it doesn’t matter where your team member is working from: the cost doesn’t go away. You still have to track estimating, order entry and management, production, inventory, mail processing, shipping and fulfillment. Then it all has to get to the bean counters to determine how much money you didn’t lose.

In some shops these touches can add up to a dozen or more people, each taking from a few minutes to a few hours to do their part. Many hands may make things easier when moving tables and chairs and grilles for a block party but when it comes to a printing business fewer hands puts more profit in your pocket.

A common term for minimizing touches is web-to-print, often abbreviated to Web2Print or even W2P. But simply streamlining job submission with a digital storefront application is not always enough. A more comprehensive approach comes with a Print MIS, an end-to-end Management Information System that encompasses your entire print production process from job receipt through production, inventory and shipping. If you don’t have a way to automate these steps and keep your team up to speed on every job—while reducing touches—you may find yourself unable to catch up with your competitors.

Complicating this is that many customers and print shop employees these days are working from home. The touches your team makes still add up, so what can you do about it? Good question, and there’s a backstory.

Endless white boards
Back in the bad old days every shop had white boards taking up entire walls showing the status of every job in process. More than a few still do it this way. I’ve been in them and wondered how they manage in an age of shorter runs and fast turn arounds. I’ve been told they use programs like Excel and rely on paper job tickets. Okay, there is something to be said for manual systems and paper forms for an occasionally busy one-location printer with five employees and a lack of customers who want jobs done yesterday. But if you are even a little bit busier you probably need a system that reduces touch points and can support your operation as it grows. Because if your business doesn’t grow you may find yourself with more time to do yard work or fine tune your golf game.

Over the past few months, I’ve been looking at several Web2Print, print automation, workflow, and Print MIS systems. Their value is clear to anyone who has spent time in print shops or has even a glimmer of understanding of how manufacturing processes work. Yet adoption remains slow. One industry veteran once pointed out that many printers would rather face a natural disaster than change their Print MIS, job submission or workflow. Clearly, the printers he was referring to never discovered their digital presses to be islands in a room of thigh-deep water, as happened to a print business owner I know whose business was torpedoed by a hurricane. Moreover, suppose the pandemic-induced work-from-home trend is here to stay? Will you be ready to make the transition or will you be scrambling to find a way to keep all the plates in the air? This is not an idle question.

The Why and the Now
In my phone calls and web searches and online demos so far, one product that seems most attuned to most printers’ needs these days and moving forward is PressWise. It was developed by a printer who thought there should be software to track and process print jobs. He was right, and as it happens, today’s pressing need to work remote also makes PressWise, a SaaS (Software as a Service) product, the right tool when many people’s workplaces are kitchen and dining room tables.

“With COVID-19 limiting how much of our team can be in the shop, PressWise has helped keep orders flowing and supporting our trade customers,” said one PressWise user. Many of this printer’s customers have been using the PressWise on-line portal to order recurring jobs, check on the status of work and obtain shipping information, such as the online tracking provided by UPS or FedEx. The printer’s own staff are also seeing benefits. “One of our CSRs suffers from asthma, so with Covid we’ve had to be careful about limiting her in-office time. Using PressWise she has been able to keep up with her clients while working from home.”

Beyond those with pre-existing conditions, the prevalence of the pandemic has brought home the need for greater flexibility. “Sometimes employees don’t feel well and need to work remotely,” describes one user. “PressWise makes the process convenient for them because our entire system is in the cloud. Jobs still come in and the work still gets done.”

Extended Benefits
The advantages also extend to how business owners work. “Being able to track information remotely when I work from home has made my job easier,” says one. “I always had to be in the office but now I get all the information I need from the cloud.”

Such abilities are anything but trivial. Over the past couple of years I’ve talked with many print business owners who tried out some remote print management systems, hoping to get status reports when out on a golf course or a boat, only to find gaps that limited the utility they sought at the 19th hole or while chasing bluefish three miles offshore. With PressWise though, users tell me that as long as they have a good internet connection all the data they need about every job in their shop is the same as being there, absent the aroma of hot toner and the click and hum of running presses. For others, the flexibility PressWise offers is a boost for everyday tasks like working up quotes. “I love being able to work on quotes and enter orders into our system from the house.” I suspect the same is true from a boat, a golf course or on a chair lift.

Getting smarter
Because choosing a Print MIS is a complicated decision the first stop these days is usually online. Me, too. So as I cruised around looking for info and insights, I found the PressWise website to be a tutorial for anyone in the selection process. It walks you through what you should be thinking about as you move through the decision process. This is important no matter what you buy, because acquiring a Print MIS is not a decision to be made likely. Unlike presses, this is not a mix and match process. Once you decide on a print management system you will be living and working with it for several years, perhaps indefinitely, so you want to know what problems it will solve and what it will deliver. Look for companies that understand your existing and expected challenges at both the basic and highest levels and you might find the Print MIS solution you need.

All the web sites of companies offering Print MIS and Web2Print software provide some of this info, but of the ones I’ve seen only PressWise goes into the details printers need. The thing that struck me was that you can tell the software was developed with a printer’s input because it addresses most of the questions someone with ink and toner under his or her nails is likely to ask.

As I sat through the demo and talked with users I also realized how the scalability PressWise offers for printers and their customers is a major plus—especially these days. Moreover, as print customers have come to expect providers to offer some level of SaaS capability not having a solid Print MIS workflow can be a reason for jobs to go elsewhere. So don’t let them.


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