Do you use your MIS system properly? Tharstern’s business development manager Ross Edwards, and pre-sales consultant Philip Dodge, argue that PSP in the wide-format sector aren’t using them to best advantage. But is that about to change?
Can you believe that that there are still printers who don’t use their MIS to its full capability, or even use it for its main purpose - managing information. They use it for estimating and booking in jobs, but that’s it. No analysis! This is something that the Pira MIS best practice study identified back in 2006. Things have moved on a since then, but not necessarily when it comes to MIS use in large-format. Ross Edwards, business development manager, and Philip Dodge, pre-sales consultant at Tharstern - a MIS supplier with many customers in the wide-format sector - believe product development and changing business requirements mean that’s about to change.
“To get a good ROI on your MIS it’s crucial to use it to your full advantage. There are so many features in an MIS nowadays that it would be really advantageous to use more of its capabilities.
“We’ve targeted some of our customers’ issues by introducing our Business Intelligence module. Modules like this are a way for power users to consume MIS information and create actionable analytics. It allows you to view key information on a dashboard that you set up yourself - a simple drag and drop system - so you can easily see a performance overview and ensure sales and operating activity are in line with your business strategy. Decision makers can see which elements of the business they need to improve - whether it’s speeding up production or identifying areas where profit margins can be increased or pricing needs to be more competitive - invaluable data.”
Data capture has often been identified as a sticking point when it comes to MIS, but developments should mean this is less of a problem than it has been in the past argue Edwards and Dodge.
“Almost every element of an MIS now includes data collection and analysis. Data can be so powerful - we’ve seen customers using sales analysis to determine which of their customers, market sectors, product types and orders are worth keeping and which are worth surrendering because they are of no value to the business. And then there are customers who look at timings at each stage of a job and where they can be improved, to try and become more efficient.
“Data capture in an MIS is becoming a very popular feature, especially with barcode tracking. Printers can use real-time data capture to scan the jobs and track how long each job is taking to provide your team with a real-time flow of information including up-to-date work in progress and production tracking information. It’s tools like those that have been developed to help address the data collection issue, so they can easily address targets and KPIs.
“You may think it’s time consuming to collect the required data for proper analytics to begin with but it will prove extremely useful in the long run. Now we can even automate the capture of data using JDF integrations.
“Using your MIS for business intelligence can make a huge difference to a company’s performance, so when selecting which to buy you are obviously going to want to make sure you select the system right for your sector/type of business.”
Tharstern says it works closely with customers in the large-format space to ways in which MIS can improve their workflows. “Some of the modules particularly useful for wide-format are: advanced imposition, for nesting irregular and regular shapes of the same or different sizes together to optimise material utilisation and production; the milestones functionality, that can help users track and manage every aspect of the job - from artwork approvals through to installation; and job tracking, which can also be used both on- and off-site, which is really useful for tracking not only design and production costs but also site surveys and installation activity - this in turn can be used to compare against estimated versus actuals to make sure quotes are more accurate.
“Integration capabilities are a huge benefit in an MIS. Make sure the system you’re buying has an API, then you can integrate with different products and open up more opportunities for streamlining your workflow.
“Tharstern developed its latest estimating module to provide extensive support for wide-format, but also, so that it could work without needing a fully qualified estimating team - users can quickly create an estimate using a description of the item, that is production ready. This means it can also submit into production workflows electronically for workflow automation.