Whatever form it takes, a management information system should be the central data repository for your business.
Once you’ve made a commitment to an MIS, don’t try to run part of your business outside of it. When you don’t have one, unified system of record, it makes it harder to run your business, says Matt. For example, if your assistant still has to play with job data from different sources for four hours to figure out whether or not you made money on the job, your MIS isn’t really your business system of record.
Another benefit to barcode scanning is the ability to enter data on the spot, saving employees the trip to a logging station. (Courtesy of Dprint)
Instead of trying to “bend” the MIS to make it fit with your workflow, consider adapting your workflow to stay within the parameters of the MIS. Ultimately, it might prove to be a more efficient way of working than methods adopted during the good old days.
If your staff needs to stay focused on production, ask your software vendor to help you get the system up and running instead of simply training your staff how to implement it. If an implementation is only going to happen once, that’s not what your staff needs to know, says Matt. Your staff needs to know how to edit the system to update such things as material costs, pricing, or royalty agreements. When the time comes to integrate new production equipment into your system, you can partner with the software vendor to make it happen.
Jimmy Turner says it’s important to get employees from all departments involved in making the MIS a success. But he recommends designating an individual to serve as the point person for dealing with troubleshooting, upgrades, customizations, and vendor relations.
He also suggests having individuals in each department set some parameters for accessibility. While many employees will need to enter data into the system, the last thing you want is for someone to corrupt or delete data. You need to establish some controls on what parts of the MIS each employee can access.
Implementing an MIS takes a lot of focus and attention to detail. But Matt cautions: “You can’t do it once and ignore it. You have to keep working on it because your business will keep changing. You will add new people, buy new equipment, and adjust your prices for certain customers.”
Whether your company specializes in graphics, garments, or promotional products, all of these markets will become even more competitive over the next five to seven years. The adoption of high-speed, single-pass inkjet printers with highly automated workflows that include online ordering will put pressure on your company to be as nimble as possible.
In a series of blog posts about the future of the printing industry, Terry Corman of Firehouse (onyx.fire-house.net) predicts that web-to-print software will change how clients interact with their printers: “Order writing, file submission, preflighting, prepress, job quoting, and job tracking can and will be automated.” He believes the front-end costs for doing short-run work will eventually be the same as with long runs.
He also thinks print buyers will want more collaborative relationships with their print vendors and will “cluster around print providers whose software technology best fits their requirements.” Firehouse has developed a customized, customer-facing version of their MIS system. Called “Spark,” the system enables customers to have real-time info on the status of their print projects.
If the long-term vision for your company includes adding a high-speed, single-pass inkjet printer, the MIS you develop today will probably need to integrate with the automated workflows that are required to do short-run, customized jobs on these machines. Keep an eye out for software manufacturers developing end-to-end platforms for workflow automation.
If all the buzz about MIS, JDF integration, and data analytics gives you a pounding headache, take heart. You are not alone – but you are in a position of opportunity. Your customers in brand marketing, corporate environments, and retailing are all facing their own struggles to gather and use data to streamline their operations, cut costs, and become more effective. Establishing yourself as an expert in this area – or simply streamlining one part of the process for them – will give you a leg up that goes beyond the efficiency of your own business.
Explore the rest of The Automation Issue:
The Automation Issue, Steve Duccilli
Killing Your Top 5 Time Wasters, Mike Ruff
Going Digital: Automating Sales and Marketing, Mark Coudray
The Benefits of Screenroom Automation, Johnny Shell
5 Steps to Take Control of Your Printroom, Marshall Atkinson
An Automation Wish List for Your Printroom, Marshall Atkinson
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