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Management Information Software

Good Management Information Software (MIS) can help to provide fast and accurate estimations and grow your customer base. Carys Evans takes a look at the software available

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Management Information Software can be adapted to each businesses’ individual needs

Boost your production

If you want to improve organisation, operational efficiency, and add value to your existing products, MIS can help you to achieve this. MIS broadly refers to a computer-based system that provides businesses with the tools to organise, evaluate and efficiently manage an organisation.

MIS can be adapted depending on each business’ needs with numerous software modules designed specifically for the sign and large-format print industry to choose from. Businesses can use MIS to help with all aspects of production, from estimating, customer relationship management, to production and delivery scheduling, to invoicing, orders, and stock management.

MIS gives total control and overview of what is going out and into your business and identifies any potential bottlenecks. This gives users the chance to rectify such issues quickly, reducing downtime. The right MIS should offer increased productivity, streamlining of processes, and increased profitability.

The size of a business can be a deciding factor in whether to invest in MIS. The larger the business, the larger the operation, this means more to keep track of, and tasks will take longer to complete. In cases like this, businesses would benefit from MIS to help to reduce downtime and take the pressure off manual tasks. Smaller businesses may prefer to operate a simple cloud-based software to minimise time spent creating spreadsheets or manually updating accounting systems.

Exploring the market

With so many different aspects of production in sign-making, companies need to think carefully about which areas of their business would benefit from MIS.

Solihull-based software firm Clarity Software provides a range of modules for the sign industry including CRM, Invoicing and Reporting, Estimating and Quoting, Production Management and Goods and Stock Management. Other modules are Delivery Scheduling and Tracking, Proof of delivery App, cost analysis, network integration, and nesting which reduces wastage and makes the most of existing materials.

The firm states on its website: “For 19 years Clarity Software has continually innovated and grown as a provider of MIS, CRM, marketing and sales solutions for large and wide-format signage, print, digital and packaging industries.

“Clarity Software enables users to work smarter not harder utilising automation. Businesses achieve unrivalled time and cost savings from streamlined workflow which means staff can focus on more value-added tasks in their daily schedules.

“Our solutions are customisable and can be adapted to suit your business need. We get to know how your business works to create exactly the right suite of modules for you. Clarity Software integrates with common accounting platforms including Quickbooks, Xero and Sage.”

CoreBridge Software provides sign, graphics, and print companies with MIS

CoreBridge Software provides sign, graphics, and print companies with MIS. CoreBridge Software says that with the right MIS, companies can “experience quicker turnaround of estimates, eliminate duplication, know the status of all jobs, and provide the best customer service to keep clients returning”.

The CoreBridge management system enables sign and print businesses to quickly and profitably estimate jobs, manage production queues, automatically communicate with customers, collect payments and manage its accounting. The interface was built for ease of use, so users can take control and dive into their workflow from day one.

Factoid: MIS dates back to pre-1965, a time of huge mainframe computers housed in special temperature-controlled rooms, operated by computer technicians.O

The software firm explains that various MIS options exist for print and sign companies. Typical variations between systems include cloud-based vs server-based and product specific (i.e. built or customised for the unique needs of print and sign companies) versus generic. “Many of these systems offer additional integrations with other software systems, such as accounting and shipping services and ecommerce platforms. Price points for these systems can vary significantly. The right fit is determined by the needs of the business alongside the budget,” says Kristen Licursi, marketing director of CoreBridge.

“Whatever the goal might be – increasing sales, streamlining workflow, improving customer communication – a dedicated management system can help achieve it. A management system can be utilised to solve existing problems arising from bottlenecks and inconsistencies or leverage growth.

“Immediate benefits include drastically improved communication between internal teams and with customers. For example, any staff member can see the status of a job in real time while customers can be automatically notified with project updates and invoices. If quoting inconsistencies are an issue, an MIS will provide the same quote for a job, regardless of who is completing the estimate.”

Anticipate the obstacles

To those in the sign industry who are interested in investing in software to help with workflow, but don’t know where to start, Licursi recommends starting with the end in mind. “Once there is a clear picture of critical needs and a goal, it is much easier to begin the research process. This research can take many forms.

“Ask fellow business owners and managers how they are using systems in their shops. Visit a few different product websites and arrange demos if needed. Ultimately, this system will help run an entire business. For that reason, the end goal should be revisited throughout the buying process to ensure the workflow solution correctly aligns with the print service provider’s needs.”

Anticipating and planning for potential challenges and disruptions is part of the process of adopting an MIS, adds Licursi. “As with any major change in a business, there will be growing pains while adopting and implementing an MIS. Before getting started with the process, there should be a clear understanding of the path – know what is expected of both the sign company and MIS provider.

“There will be challenges along the way but determine the best ways to minimise disruptions. One example of this is to assign a point person internally to own the project. This individual can help train others, communicate with the MIS provider and ensure the implementation process is on track.

“Lastly, take advantage of all training opportunities available. This can avoid frustration and shed light on new ways to use the system.”

Managing workflow

Onyx Graphics is a provider of Raster Image Processor (RIP) and print workflow software solutions for wide-format print. The firm offers products including its ONYX 18.5 which brought Adobe PDF Print Engine 5.1 to market and is a development of its ONYX 18; and a software module which incorporates iccMAX compatibility and ColourCheck, a toolset for proving colour accuracy, consistency and conformance to standards such as G7 and FOGRA.

Onyx Graphics’ ONYX Hub is designed for business owners and production managers to understand their real costs using actual data

The software provider also offers a business intelligence software for wide-format print called ONYX Hub, designed for business owners and production managers to understand their real costs using actual data.

ONYX Advantage is the company’s software maintenance subscription service which provides access to product updates on top of product support; as well as access to resources such as on-demand web-based training and access to a large library of device drivers for printers, cutters and colour devices.

“We understand the need for print-service-providers (PSP)s to have access to accurate data to make business decisions,” says Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing at Onyx Graphics. “Our customers who use MIS systems have found that the data from ONYX software solutions along with their MIS, enables them to increase production efficiency, manage waste and costs, as well as improve overall profitability.

Looking for the right workflow solution can be a daunting task for any print-service-provider, especially with small margins and the evolving needs of print buyers

“Looking for the right workflow solution can be a daunting task for any PSP, especially with small margins and the evolving needs of print buyers. For Onyx Graphics, workflow can also mean many things, such as RIP and print workflow or print production efficiency.

“Commenting on print workflow, based on what we see in the industry, PSPs are seeking RIP software solutions that provide an end-to-end workflow to RIP and print jobs in a fast, accurate and efficient manner from the time the design file hits the software through to a finished product.”

According to Manwaring, print-service-providers are seeking solutions that don’t rely on human input for accurate data from their entire site and want access to that data at the click of a button. “They are asking for solutions that can help them answer questions such as: how much did I really make on that print job? What was my actual cost for that print? How much ink and media am I wasting? Are we estimating jobs correctly? And ultimately how profitable am I?”

Having multiple systems leaves the door open for errors between workflow steps

Manwaring warns that operating multiple systems for different areas of workflow could leave gaps open for avoidable mistakes. “Having multiple systems leaves the door open for errors between workflow steps such as issues in maintaining accurate colour management or keeping finishing marks appropriately placed on the print file.

“These issues can be avoided with a single system for their entire site much the same way that automation in a workflow can reduce the potential for manual print errors,” he concludes.

Tracking delivery

There is no point in investing in MIS to manage orders, estimations, quotes, automation of production workflow, and customer service, if a business can’t guarantee the product will make it to the customer at the end of the process.

In order to provide a true end-to-end service, sign-maker, Blaze Signs, has recently implemented a new tracking software solution

In order to provide a true end-to-end service, sign-maker, Blaze Signs, has recently implemented a new tracking software solution. The Kent and Birmingham-based firm is implementing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking system from software developer, CoreRFID.

Each sign made by Blaze will be tagged with an RFID label so it is scanned when it leaves the factory and scanned again on arrival at the customer site, capturing the signature electronically with a photo taken on delivery. GPS is also used to mark the delivery location and time as part of the electronic record.

Chris Abbott, sales director and Clive Knight, chief executive officer of Blaze Signs

Clive Knight, chief executive officer of Blaze Signs, says: “CoreRFID has a strong track record in electronic tracking software solutions which can also be used for inspection purposes. Munzi and his team’s skills in adapting the technology to our needs will improve our services to small businesses right up to the household brands we serve.”

“The signs can be expensive and while the majority were delivered without incident, there were cases of some being lost or damaged. The electronic tracking system will ensure a smoother and recorded handover to the installation engineers,” adds Munzi Ali, technical director of CoreRFID.

With so many different products available, all designed to aid the productivity and efficiency of sign-makers and sign firms, all there is to do is choose the combination that’s right for you. 

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