MIS for Print
Buying and deploying the right Print Management Information System (MIS) for your shop is critical for a more efficient, strategic, and profitable business.
By Michael Miley
In today’s globalizing economy, commercial printers face an increasing array of challenges to remain competitive and profitable. Increased competition from out-of-state and overseas printers works to undermine a stable base of clientele. More marketing dollars are going to non-traditional media, via email and the Web, causing print to suffer. The trend to shorter runs and faster turn-times is also rapidly accelerating with the spread of digital presses. And in the midst of efforts to retain old customers and bring in new ones, to add more value and act more strategically, printers are still finding they need to squeeze more time and cost out of the production process. How is that possible, when they’ve already spent hugely on faster RIPs, CTP devices, digital presses, and PDF-enabled prepress workflow systems? Perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and to deploy a Print Management Information System (MIS).
An integrated Print MIS system is designed to help manage every aspect of a printing operation. It not only supplies management and operations with the tools they need to more efficiently run their printing business on a daily basis, it supports higher-level, strategic decisions for long-term growth. The best ones do this by centralizing and integrating data across all business functions, from planning to production and fulfillment to administration. As described in the ABC’s of Print MIS, a 2005 guide by Electronics for Imaging, a comprehensive MIS system will have many, if not most, of the following key functions:
- Planning: specifying, estimating, quoting, order entry, customer alterations, planning, scheduling, purchasing, and custom forms.
- Production: job status, receiving, inventory, production, Direct Machine Interface (DMI), Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM), Job Definition Format-compatibility (JDF), third party data exchange (via XML), shop data, finished goods, fulfillment, and shipping.
- Administration: job costing, job history, invoicing, receivables, payables, general ledger, financials, and reporting.
To this set of functions, an advanced MIS system may add tools to integrate it with the prepress workflow; a Web capability for online customer ordering, finished-goods inventory management, and multiple plant and/or vendor communications; dashboards for executive, operational, and business-line metrics; and even a radio frequency facility for inventory management. Some higher-end systems also provide dynamic scheduling, which permits the projection of what-if scenarios and real-time optimization of the production schedule across large enterprises and multiple print streams.
The benefits can be manifold. Typical improvements include more precision and speed in the estimating process; more control over job costs, inventory levels, and purchases; a better handle on wastage and spoilage; overall improvement in production performance; and improved cash flow management and more timely financial reporting. The trick, of course, is finding a MIS system that’s best suited to your type of printing business. "That’s a tall order," says Craig Press, president of Profectus, Inc. a national consulting firm for the printing industry, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. "Since buying a Print MIS system is one of the most critical decisions a printer will ever have to make—and there are so many choices between vendors and features—extreme due diligence is required in the selection process," says Press.
This is the first part of our exclusive editorial series on Print MIS. Next week we focus on providers of print MIS. A full article will appear in the September/October issue of DPS.
Jul2006, Digital Publishing Solutions