Nonetheless, the rewards are significant for printers who employ more than just the basic tools. Most systems link to QuickBooks and other common accounting programs. Automated invoicing is one of the most frequently overlooked features, and one that has the greatest potential to bring positive change to the print shop.
“The advantages are simple yet very effective, financially,” says Greg Harrison, president of Franklin Estimating Systems. “Often the feedback I get from printers is that they get a much better view of which customers are making them money and which ones are not. Profits tend to rise quickly, given that type of information.”
Customer communication functions are also part of most systems. Tulin Edev, vice president of Printer’s Plan, points out that users can create templates to send out emails to groups of customers. “Users can send emails to a group of customers for various purposes, such as a quote follow up, job re-order reminder, new customer welcome, and thank you notes after jobs are shipped,” she explains.
Beyond performance reports, invoices, and enhanced communication, these programs are now so integrated that the lines are beginning to blur between estimating software, workflow software, and Web-to-print solutions. With all this potential, why are so many printers apparently sitting on their assets?
EFI’s Walsh offers a fairly succinct explanation, which he refers to as the MIS paradox. “The problem often begins early in the implementation process. Businesses evaluate and select a system, and then implement the system—out of necessity—while they continue to run the business,” he says. “In many instances, they’re forced to implement the system piecemeal, one department and one process at a time. While each department may leverage the new software for their area, the piecemeal implementation often leads back to isolated, disconnected processes.”
The software vendors have programs in place to help users get the most from their products, but the only real way to remedy this situation is for printers to make full implementation a personal priority.
New Features Coming
Despite the fact that most printers have not yet attained the full benefits of their estimating software, the developers are not letting the grass grow under their feet. Hints about features yet to come were intriguing.
Many companies plan to implement Web storefront functions. There were several mentions of applications for mobile devices, software as a service (SaaS), and cloud computing. Increased control of automated processes and JDF were also hot topics.
Despite all the bells and whistles, Meyers brings everything back down to earth. “He who estimates first wins,” he insists. “The purpose is to get the order. If you don’t get the order, you don’t have a business to worry about. If you don’t automate now, you’re going to be left behind.”