From Chaos to Calm: The Power of Print MIS

Pat McGrew
 Jul 20, 2017

Power of Print MIS

If you come from the transaction side of production workflow, you have an array of business systems that control how jobs are accepted for production, when they are released into production, and how reporting is managed for compliance. If you come from the graphic arts side of production workflow, you have the same need to control job onboarding, the touchpoints of a job while it is in process, and to record the relevant information about the job all of the way to the point of billing. In some shops, the process is managed using a Print Management Information System (Print MIS) that integrates all facets of accepting and producing print work using software programs, data capturing tools, and reporting dashboards to ensure that all work is tracked and reported. On the other hand, in many shops some or all of these are activities achieved using sticky notes, whiteboards, projected spreadsheets, and envelopes with job notes carried from desk to desk and machine to machine during production.

If you are in that latter camp, this is a good time to start considering some automation. Many of your competitors are already adding automation to their business software portfolio to allow them to onboard and produce jobs more efficiently. This gives them an advantage at several levels. A good Print MIS program offers insight into the jobs that are onboarded, where each job is in production, what jobs are experiencing delays, job costs, and ultimately a view of the revenue. Most can generate e-tickets for job tracking, and even track waste data. Most importantly, a Print MIS becomes the system of record for all jobs, which means if job specifications change during job execution, the information is entered into the Print MIS and available to all departments immediately.

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Tuning up at GMC Analyst Day

Pat McGrew
 Jun 30, 2017
Matt Swain and Pat McGrew

As analysts, we are often invited to meet with vendors for analyst events where we often don’t know what the announcements or focus will be. That was the case when we travelled to Nashville, Tennessee’s Sound Kitchen Studio last week for a GMC Software event billed as “Not Your Typical Analyst Summit!”

ScottDraeger

Scott Draeger opening the GMC Analyst Day!

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Interacting with Ricoh Customers!

Pat McGrew
 Jun 28, 2017

When vendors decide to host user meetings they have two obligations: provide value for the time spent and help customers build a network. The Ricoh INTERACT meeting in Boulder last week met both requirements. The agenda was the best mix of technical education, market education, motivation, and fun for the attendees.

2017 Interact Template

It is a big request when vendors reach out to customers and ask them to leave their businesses for several days on the promise that they will learn things they can take back and use to grow their business. It requires a delicate balance between presentations and discussions. The INTERACT meeting hit the right balance by including several of their customers as featured presenters.

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For workflow, to scale or not to scale? That is the question!

Pat McGrew
 Jun 19, 2017

It’s time to ask the question that is often missed in discussions about workflow – is the current workflow scalable? Scalable isn’t only a question of getting bigger; it is also a question of complexity. If your workflow was built to handle one type of job, like books or bills or bingo cards, and today you are handling magazines, direct marketing mailers, and posters, there may be a mismatch between your work and your workflow.

The mismatches often begin with how jobs are sold and onboarded. A common change in sales is the addition of a web-to-print solution to open your doors to a wider audience. When that addition happens, your scale of operation generally changes. Instead of sales coming in via relationships with your sales people, who know your capabilities, there are jobs coming in from customers who may not have paid attention to your website, and may not have followed your instructions. While most web-to-print solutions allow for rules-based interrogation of the incoming job, in many cases, contrary to how the systems are intended to work, someone in the shop is assigned to look at the jobs and determine if they can move into production. When you think about scalability, the more jobs that come in through a web-to-print application that require physical review, the less scalable that process becomes.

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Why Was ESKOWorld 2017 Worth My Time?

Pat McGrew
 May 25, 2017

Pat McGrew
Director, Production Workflow Services
Keypoint Intelligence

Most vendors have learned the value of user group meetings. They bring together their customers and their product teams, open the door to learn more about customer requirements, and build a sense of community that leads to customer loyalty. The team behind ESKOWorld, the North American user conference for users of ESKO (www.esko.com) packaging, printing and finishing solutions, accepted their mission and, with the help of their customer advisory council, created a well thought out agenda that addressed the needs of over 500 users and 100 brand owners and agencies.

One of the harder things to do at these conferences is to provide guidance on the product roadmaps. A company like Esko is managing more than a dozen products, each with enthusiastic customers looking for guidance, and a passionate product team wanting to share. At ESKOWorld the solution to sharing the roadmaps for the large product set came in two shots: an innovative set of short presentations by the product managers during the opening and dedicated roadmap sessions. For customers not familiar with the range of offerings, that overview from the product managers was an excellent way to bring everyone up to speed. Whether it was a 20year-old product like ArtiosCAD or a newer set of products like Studio or Keyshot, everyone gave you a reason to want to learn more. How can you resist wanting to know more about Studio, a product that allows you to see things that do not currently exist and to create variations before deciding on the final execution? Even the Automation Engine has had a makeover with a new browser-based user interface.

Another hard thing to program is the keynote, but this was not an issue. Dr. Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics brought one of the best overviews of the economics of the market we live in, with a good dose of which things to pay attention to and why. One of his more interesting points was that organizations must drive efficiencies to grow –a key element of the workflow story – but also that marketing is an essential element due to the competition.

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Solution Focus: RSA’s Vendor Neutral Options

Pat McGrew
 May 9, 2017

Getting to an automated workflow requires the right tools and workplan. In some organizations the solution is to rely on the hardware vendor who brought the hardware in to recommend the most efficient workflow tools. In other organizations the policy is to do an independent search to find the tools that will work best. In either case, the burden is on the workflow team to understand what is available in the market and how it might improve their overall efficiency.

One approach is to look for vendor-neutral workflow options that support the major hardware vendors and open interfaces to share data and reporting. The same criteria will always apply: great user interface, easy-to-use tools to automate, and an organization that will back up the tools with great training and support.

Rochester Software Associates (RSA) meets the brief with products that provide the workflow infrastructure that an organization needs. And, while best known for supporting the in-plant and corporate print environments, digital print-for-pay companies will find that the combination of ReadyPrintTM for makeready and job submission and QDirectTM for output management provides an excellent infrastructure.

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Solution Focus: Ricoh ProcessDirector in the World of Workflow Automation

Pat McGrew
 Apr 25, 2017

In another series of workflow blogs we have been walking through the path of auditing the current workflow in your environment and identifying ways to optimize through automation. It’s a long story that has been unfolding over many months. Along the way many have asked specific questions about some of the fine points of automation and what tools would be on the “must review” list.

The characteristics of the products you should review begin with the user interface. If you are going to add a tool to automate as much of the workflow as possible, the user interface – what you see when you are sitting at the computer screen – becomes a critical deciding factor. Does the layout of the screen make sense to you and the team? Does it provide access to the key pieces of information about each job coming through the production process?

How much automation does the tool allow? Automation that requires constant manual intervention is not really automation, but there is a delicate balance. Any automation scheme that allows for too much manipulation by the team on the shop floor eliminates the benefits that automation should bring.

Also consider the changing needs that will surround your workflow. We know from our research, including the most recent North American and European Software Investment surveys, that dealing with a high number of small jobs is the single largest headache in many shops. Looks for tools that make this easy.

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Is it time for a Workflow Intervention?

Pat McGrew
 Apr 17, 2017

Workflow ChaosBAs we come to the last few items in the Workflow Quiz it is time for some of the heavy lifting that comes with optimizing and right sizing tasks and processes in the workflow. Not everyone will be happy with the process because it uncovers their pet projects and sometimes lead to power plays that start with “this is how we have always done this job” and end with annoyed team members. Despite all of those risks, it is time to look at all of those places where it takes some type of manual intervention to get a job from start to finish.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you take on a job from a new customer, how much of the job setup requires a person talking to a person or a person talking with a group of people to get all of the specifications identified and coded into the system? Are there manual checklists sitting on a service representative’s desk in addition to what is in the system? Sticky notes on monitors in prepress and account management that detail what is missing in the job notes? If so, you have opportunities to optimise because all of those notes are taking time to manage!

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Geomarketing in your Workflow: Linking Seller to Buyer

Pat McGrew
 Apr 13, 2017

When you look at the opportunities across the spectrum of marketing outlets the choices can be daunting. Which of the many channels should you use to communicate the value proposition of your product or service? There are hundreds of lines of blog content and millions of pages of guidance in books and magazine articles, and they all provide points to consider. What is missing in much of the guidance is a specific pointer to technologies that can help to change the marketing narrative.

One technology that is underused is geomarketing, the art and science of using location data in innovative ways. It can help to change the brand narrative by creating direct links between where the sellers of products and services can be found and the people who want to buy them. It can add valuable new revenue streams to the menu of services offered by marketing and print service providers. And while geomarketing techniques can work for any communication channel, marketing and  print service providers miss the opportunity to offer this valueable service.GeoServices - locr

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A look at the 2017 Digital Solutions Cooperative (DSCOOP) and Jetcomm!

Pat McGrew
 Mar 10, 2017

Pat McGrew
Director, Production Workflow

The HP Digital Solutions Cooperative (Dscoop) has been a mainstay of event calendars for Indigo users for more than a decade. Over the past few years HP has moved to include users of their other print technologies, including Scitex, DesignJet and PageWide Web Press. While in past years the HP PageWide Web Press team held their Jetcomm event in advance of Dscoop, this year the Jetcomm sessions were integrated into the main Dscoop agenda alongside tracks dedicated to Business & Leadership, Operations, Sales & Marketing, and Technology & Innovation.

Dscoop is part tradeshow and part education event, with an agenda that included A-List keynotes and mentalist Lior Suchard as emcee. The sessions were the expected array of customer success stories, successful selling solutions and product reviews, but there were also a variety of sessions covering finishing, packaging and 3D printing, all of which rank highly in KeyPoint Intelligence / InfoTrends surveys as target expansion opportunities for print service providers (PSP). Read more »

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