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Software to the Rescue

 

Automating Workflow

 

By Thomas Franklin

 

Part 1 of 2

 

The goal of workflow software is to automate manual processes and to centralize what is currently dispersed. From estimating job costs, order entry, prepress, RIP, printing, finishing, billing, and customer management, a robust workflow suite empowers PSPs of any size to save.

 

“Software is the nervous system of any workflow,” says Sebastien Hanssens, VP of marketing, Caldera Graphics.

 

A number of solutions are on the market—some focus on business management and job costing, others on the prepress, RIP, and finishing process. “Every business, no matter the size, experiences bottlenecks,” explains Kristen Simmons, marketing department, Cyrious Software. “For some it occurs while estimating, taking hours to come up with a price, dealing with scribbled pieces of paper everywhere, and losing information to follow up. For others a bottleneck occurs in production—spending time confirming order details with sales, while trying to optimize machine and labor time and avoid errors.”

 

End-to-End Solution

Increasingly, software firms are trying to merge these functions to provide a true end-to-end solution that helps a PSP organize and expedite orders on the one hand and ensure high quality, color-accurate output on the other.

 

Behind the drive to automate more functions is a transforming print market, shares Eric Wold, VP, Datatech SmartSoft, Inc. “Print jobs are getting smaller, and if they’re getting smaller we have to ask; how much smaller can they get and can you be profitable tackling ever smaller jobs.” Building a system to wring profits from ever smaller orders was the driving force behind the company’s PressWise program.

 

“There were a lot of silo solutions for PSPs in the past,” continues Wold. A PSP would have a program for order management, another for preflight, a third for finishing. “We throw those distinctions out the window, why does a printer need five different software platforms” to manage these different functions, he asks. Wold—who in a previous life owned a print shop—notes that the glue tying the different software together was people.

 

PressWise aims, among other things, to slash the amount of labor a PSP requires. The value is simple, if you shed employees during the downturn, you won’t have to rehire them as volume and business returns. “We think you can achieve a ten percent workforce reduction if you implement the software properly.”

 

The system creates an online tool for customer order entry and then “the only other touches are the strategic points—the press person who scans the job bar code and the person in the bindery confirms what finishing is required. Any personnel inputs are related to value-add activity.”

 

Estimation Fascination

Workflow software not only helps control costs on the labor side, it provides business intelligence. Firms such as Cyrious and Estimator Corp. offer tools to enable PSPs to estimate the profitability of a job, so they only accept offers that will contribute to the bottom line. “A consistent, detailed quote is produced in minutes and all of this information automatically appears on work orders and invoices,” explains Simmons. “From the beginning, a business owner knows they’re making a profit, can win more jobs, save time, and reduce errors.”

 

Sometimes there’s resistance in the marketplace to adopting a software solution, she adds. “First, there’s an aversion to the time and effort it will take to get the system up and running. Second, some find it difficult to trust a software program to accurately estimate a job and manage information along the multiple steps in the order process.” However, if a PSP takes the leap, they usually enjoy a full return on investment in six to 12 months.

 

Next week look for an article on bringing the job definition format standard to the wide format marketplace.


Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Feb2011, Digital Output

 
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