27
Wed, May

Why are you still not happy with off-the-shelf MIS options?

Are you ploughing big sums of money into developing end-to-end management information systems in-house because you can’t find anything off-the-shelf that works for your business? If so, you’re not alone. 

What do you want/expect a management information system to cover?

Anthony Wyville, Commercial director, Platinum HPL

Visibility on all areas of the business from estimating to invoicing. Quick, simple and accurate estimating to achieve our target of 24hr turnaround of quotes. Real time data from production and scheduling to be as efficient as possible. Faster turnarounds, with the ability of producing a job same day.

Mark Gerrard, Director, Simpsons Group

All aspects of a job’s lifecycle, from prospecting and estimating enquiries, through to shop floor data capture, job delivery and invoicing. We were really looking for a system that would provide a comprehensive overview of all work in production, track all job actual times, control purchasing and stock levels and help to automate repetitive tasks.

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, MD, ImageCo

This is the golden question - a fully automated system from enquiry to delivery but unfortunately with the bespoke nature of our workload the systems out there that do this are no good for us. 

It is important that our workflow is streamlined and produced in a way that is both efficient and accurate. If we were just printing banners and wallcoverings all day this would be easy but we aren’t.

Our work is extremely varied and can contain many processes from print to lighting, even floristry, so there is a lot of information we need to input and monitor. I’m not a fan of creating work for people so we are on a quest to find a solution that is easy to use - from start to finish - and that gives us accurate reporting on all our work. 

At ImageCo we are almost there with a solution but it will be very tailored to our requirements. We have used Tharstern for years now and the new version of Estimate Pro combined with the tradition MIS software we have is the best solution I have come across so far.

Rebecca Caldicott, Projects and installations co-ordinator, MX Display

We would like a system that could take the information from our estimate and then automate our file set-ups, automate our proofing, and provide us with a production plan based on the initial information provided


How do you currently attain this information?

Anthony Wyville, Commercial director, Platinum HPL

We had an old MIS system which was updated at the start of the year to a much more modern one.

Mark Gerrard, Director, Simpsons Group

Through our recently purchased MIS!

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, MD, ImageCo

As I have mentioned, we use Tharstern and have done for as long as I can remember - our problem is that our work is getting that little bit more bespoke. Getting everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet and enter all information correctly is the key. We have streamlined our operations recently and really nailed down getting this done religiously. As with any software out there It is only as good as the information put in and everyone has to do this correctly every day on every job. We are at that stage now, but it has taken a long time to get there and when we took over ImageCo this was pretty much non-existent. 

Having a team in place who not only use Tharstern well but influence others to do so has been key. It’s quite easy to take short cuts, especially when work load is crazy so we need to be disciplined and efficient in our operations otherwise there is no point and any financial reporting will be wrong. A lot of the bespoke data is currently input manually which is why we are looking at things such Estimate Pro to aid us in the future.

Rebecca Caldicott, Projects and installations co-ordinator, MX Display

We currently use independent systems - one for estimating/creating job bags, one for proofing, one for Ripping of files and one for production planning. None of the systems integrate, thus double entry is needed, which is very time consuming


Have you investigated MIS solutions – and what is your current thinking on their viability for your company?

Anthony Wyville, Commercial director, Platinum HPL

We researched a few solutions when looking at our upgrade. I think they do pay a very valuable role in a company of medium to large size producing a decent amount of jobs per day.

Mark Gerrard, Director, Simpsons Group

We went through an extensive tendering process of the available options, to decide which of the systems on offer was best geared up for both the range of work we produce, and the range of print and finishing machines we have. All of the systems we viewed had different strengths and weaknesses - they all require varying degrees of configuration to replicate our in-house setup and meet our future vision.

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, MD, ImageCo

Yes - we have looked at every solution out there. I am no expert and I have called colleagues, friends in the industry for their input and ideas. I get mixed reports which makes things even more difficult. It’s like anything - what works great for one person may not be suitable for another so hopefully we end up making the correct decision. It’s not easy but a solution will present itself.

Rebecca Caldicott, Projects and installations co-ordinator, MX Display

We have started to look at whether anyone is able to provide a system that joins up some of these tasks, however, this is proving to be a challenge. The first is that the estimating systems do not enable us to manage the proofing process as part of its functionality, and when looking at machine manufacturers MIS systems, they seem to fall down if you are also running machines other than theirs as the MIS information (such as ink use/print time etc.) cannot get this information from these other machines.

There are one or two suppliers that suggest they can provide an all in one package, but even they are talking about different systems being joined together to achieve this, which does not feel as though it will work as required.


Are there specific ‘gaps’ that ‘off-the-shelf’ type MIS packages fail to address – if so what are they?

Anthony Wyville, Commercial director, Platinum HPL

A solution that works well with different types of print. We are a litho, digital and large-format printer with in-house mailing, so finding a system which works well in all those areas is difficult.

Mark Gerrard, Director, Simpsons Group 

I’d say we went into the process knowing that no ‘’off-the-shelf’’ system would be perfect for us. We have various other internal systems (Web-to-print, pre-press etc) that we needed our MIS to integrate with, to achieve the levels of automation were striving for, so we were fully prepared for the development hours that were required.

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, MD, ImageCo

There are some good ones out there, and I’m sure there is a solution for most companies in what they do. I know a lot of friends in the industry have built their own software to tailor their specific needs. There is good and bad to most MIS packages so it’s about shopping around for the right one and having the solution suited to the business. Excel still does a job and I know people that just use this. Like I say I am no expert but I know what I want to achieve - it’s just making the right decision to enable us to do that.

Rebecca Caldicott, Projects and installations co-ordinator, MX Display

The joining up of information and the restrictions that this has by not having the data in one place when trying to do analysis.


How would you measure the ROI on an MIS?

Anthony Wyville, Commercial director, Platinum HPL

Being more efficient to reduce lead times and therefore producing more with our current workforce and equipment.

Mark Gerrard, Director, Simpsons Group

I’d say an MIS system is a necessary evil to do the job in this day and age. You could measure jobs per month, estimated/artwork files collected etc from KPIs 

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, MD, ImageCo

Any good MIS system would enable us to generate accurate quotes with accurate reporting and not have to employ more staff to run the thing. If an MIS were to streamline operations and help reduce time, waste, labour then it would pay for itself in no time. I would be a no brainer, but only if the criteria is met and works well.

Rebecca Caldicott, Projects and installations co-ordinator, MX Display

The main one would be the time saved on any double entry. The others would be a judgement call on efficiencies gained in studio/production by things being more visible.