process & workflow: Make It Work

In the commercial printing segment of the market, business management and estimating software has proved to be a valuable tool for business owners for years. In the wide-format segment of the market, though, those same tools never worked exactly right. Recently, however, software designed specifically for the wide- and grand-format industry has emerged, giving PSPs the tools they need to manage waste and resources, track jobs and projects, accurately quote new jobs, and manage all of their business finances.


How do wide-format printers benefit from using your software?

Ray Bradley, president, Sepialine: For wide-format providers with FM or MPS programs, Argos tracks detailed information about every print, copy, scan, fax, and more, in a centralized database. It lets providers and their customers, establish sophisticated pricing schemes and then provides that data in both presentation-ready reports and integration-ready file formats. Through our companion online service, FM Server, providers can aggregate usage data across multiple sites and locations into a single web-accessible portal for reporting, export, and integration with back-end accounting and ERP systems.

Tim Daisy, marketing manager, Prism: Wide-format printing is so very different from general commercial printing. It is much more like a manufacturing process versus a printing process. And, many wide-format printing companies operate a number of printing processes, such as offset or flexo. Unlike some other applications that can only focus on one facet of printing, Prism WIN can adapt to many processes within the same plant. As such, Prism WIN is very strong at managing the multiple units of measure that are used in a manufacturing process. For example, a substrate may be purchased in linear feet by roll width, estimated and billed by square inch, and manufactured (for grommets, for instance) based on sign perimeter inches. WIN will manage these units from one business area to the next for accurate costing, purchasing, estimating, and manufacturing.

Jim Drisler, national sales manager, CRC Information Systems: The primary benefits that most wide-format printers gain are a browser-based CRM to allow sales and customer service reps to effectively and professionally deal with customers; industry-specific estimating with least cost decision-making abilities; streamlined order entry with user-customized work orders; intelligent, easy to use scheduling tied to an intuitive shop floor data collection system; comprehensive cost capture and analysis; complete inventory control, both raw material and finished goods; seamlessly integrated, full-featured accounting; connectivity to production systems, vendors, and customers; and an e-Commerce suite that can be adapted to individual customer requirements yet is easy and engaging for the customer in processing W2P jobs.

Rich Giles, Print Shop Manager, Mail Center Manager, AACRO Computer Systems: Our Wide Format Template is designed specifically for a wide-format printer. It accounts for, roll size, finished size, number of images across a roll, number of inks used in a job, coverage, type of ink, resolution, etc. It’s not an offset or digital printer estimator that is stretched to do the job. It is a specialized template alongside the offset and digital templates.

Greg Harrison, owner, Franklin Estimating: Being a relatively new segment, wide format estimating has been erratic and inconsistent even within a shop. As this segment matures the margins will become more restrictive as new people enter the market. A profitable shop will need to depend on ever more sophisticated job and cost tracking in order to survive the new economy.

Mark Lewis, vice president of sales and marketing, Thoroughbred Software: Depending on how much of the estimating software they use, they can capture costs that many times are overlooked increasing profit margins. The Solution-IV estimating software provides a check list of options that are associated with that job type assuring that minor processes, services or product are not overlooked.

Bruce Moore, PowerQuote Software: They spend less time managing and producing jobs. They can provide faster, more professional quote presentations which will help to win more work. Also, accurate price calculations and detailed job tickets ensure estimates that protect profits. These improvements make a positive impact on customer service which in turn improves sales.

Pavan V. Muzumdar, CFA, MV Software: Our software drastically simplifies the management of the operational complexities experienced in wide-format printing operations. Companies are being subjected to technology and commoditization pressures resulting in the need to keep internal operations repeatable, scalable, and above all efficient.

Our software provides the framework and platform on which to accomplish this by providing easy to use solutions for day to day problems related to pricing of services and supplies, invoicing, workflow management, inventory tracking, equipment maintenance and servicing, FM management, and overall financial performance with detail wherever needed.

Udi Nachmany, Worldwide Aftermarket Business Manager, HP Scitex: HP SmartPlanner tool enables our customers to find out what their real costs are—variable and fixed, direct and indirect—without adding operational complexity, allows them to manage the complexities of a hybrid analog-digital production environment and offers the ability to optimize profits by making informed costing and pricing decisions.

Larry Presnell, president, Rocketprint Software: The Wide Format portion of Rocketprint software was designed and built from input by experienced wide-format printers from around the country. The result is a flexible e-commerce store front that can be designed to offer a wide array of products for online quoting and ordering. Once the store front is populated, it can also be used as a means to pull internal quotes. Private Customer Portals are a unique feature allowing a Printer to create an unlimited number of secure branded portals that gives the customer an “all mine” look and feel.

Mike Rottenborn, president & CEO, Hybrid Integration Inc.: Quoting wide-format print jobs is very challenging for many printers. With the tremendous number of substrates, finishing options, and the wide variety of wide-format products that can be produced, traditional print estimating systems are not up to the task of estimating for wide-format. GoSign provides a very configurable system that allows wide-format print providers to define their own products including all production variables, so estimates always reflect the reality of production.

Kristen Simmons, marketing associate, Cyrious Software: Cyrious Control covers practically the entire business cycle in a company, starting with sales/marketing and estimating through to collecting for that job and the related customer service along the way. For estimating, Cyrious Control offers dozens of product specific pricing screens designed to handle every detail of sign pricing and estimating. Whether you work with roll or flat stock, or are a large or a wide format printer, Cyrious Control has forms specially designed to price and cost the products. This makes it easy to make sure the quote will be profitable, to deliver the quote within minutes to the customer thereby increasing the odds that you'll win the quote, and to make it easier to enable others to quote knowing that the quotes will be consistent and profitable.


What is the best argument for adding business management and estimating software to a printing company?

Bradley: The argument for a print provider using software like ours hinges on whether the provider is, or plans on becoming, an FM/on-site/MPS provider. If so, software like Argos is critical for the provider to be able to accurately account for and invoice the services they offer.

Daisy: Cost and labor control. It is as simple as that. Business management software allows a business to grow without adding front office staff. And it provides real-time information on performance or non-performance. While there are all the benefits of reporting and conformity to accounting systems, most of this is not nearly as useful if a business is unable to analyze the data and learn how to operate more effectively. Our experience shows that every new customer is able to enjoy greater cost and process control without a loss in quality.

Drisler: If you know anything about Print MIS you know that any system worth its salt can seamlessly process an order from request for quote through accounting. However, our vision for Nucleus goes beyond traditional Print MIS. Our goal is to provide users a “command center”, pulling together all the information they need to effectively perform their jobs. User-defined dashboards contain a variety of ways to show you the information you need to act effectively and decisively. Automatic notifications alert you immediately regarding any mission-critical exception. We include reporting tools that enable you to easily and quickly analyze the vast amount of data available to present you actionable information. Our goal is to empower users with superior tools to provide the highest quality service while effectively managing production and controlling costs.

Mitch Flemmer, business software consultant, Cyrious Software: Many sign businesses today are fighting competition based on price and customer service. We estimate that an average company not using a system can improve their profit margin by 10 percent after implementing and using a full system like ours. For example, if the average sign business not using a system has a profit margin of two percent, adding and using a good business management system ought to enable them to increase the profit margin to 12 percent range. Customers tell us Cyrious Control enables them to do a lot more, with a lot less.

There are numerous benefits that result from implementing a business management system including, but certainly not limited to: better organization, increased efficiency, significant time savings and higher profitability. Each of these benefits ultimately allows a sign business to provide a better product with better customer service, and with a higher profit margin.

How does this help with profitability? If you're competing on price, it's crucial to know the true costs of your products. You need to know your margin on each order and when an estimated price is no longer profitable. Estimates are more consistent, and things are no longer left off estimates. Further along in the cycle, by staying close to your customers and monitoring accounts receivable, you have a greater likelihood of obtaining payments on-time to ensure cash flow.

How does this increase efficiency? Simply put, you only enter order information once. The same information used to create the estimate is automatically used when converted to an order, work order, invoices, etc. Save hours of time by not relying on messy handwriting, stacks of paper and inconsistent records. You can search by order, invoice, customer or company to instantly access the information you need.

Giles: A good estimating program is the front end of processing. The time saved in the front end means the ROI is measured in weeks or months, not years. It is very cost effective. Once a good frontend is in place, going back is never an option. The software becomes one of your most valuable tools saving you money every day in save time and better estimates.

Harrison: The past three years have been devastating to the Printing Industry as a whole. It is estimated that up 25 percent of all printers have vanished since 2008 when the recession begun. However, even with these horrendous losses Franklin Estimating software has five percent more customers than in 2008. These surprising numbers tell us that a well run and modern business can not only survive, but even thrive in any economy.

Lewis: Businesses today are in a very competitive market. Fractions of a cent can be the difference between success and failure of the business. Knowing where you are today as opposed to old “if there is money in the shoebox at the end of the month” strategy can reveal issues that can be corrected immediately and not later when it may be too late. Solution-IV has an Analytics (BI) feature, e-Dash and service that rolls up the entire business, in real time, providing precise financial information as to where the business is today compared to yesterday, last week, last month, last year with many supporting drilldowns. Estimates and quotes are listed and can be reviewed in detail to determine if they need attention.

Moore: Better customer service leads to more sales and profit.

Muzumdar: Studies have shown that our software provides a strong business case for the investment because of the reasons mentioned above. The return on the investment includes not only cost reduction, but improved customer service and growth potential because of superior operational insight available to management.

Depending on the nature of the business, current processes and inefficiencies, a company can expect direct cost reductions of anywhere from three to eight percent of annual revenues. Depending on the size of the firm, this can represent a several-fold return on investment for the company.

Nachmany: I would ask, how can you run a business and make complex, everyday production decisions without knowing what your costs?

Presnell: Being pro-active is much better than being reactive. Many times we speak with Printers that find themselves on the verge of losing an important customer to a competitor offering online print management solutions. First and foremost, it’s about “Protecting your turf” by offering your existing customer base an easier way to do business with you. For example, giving your top customers Private Portals containing the print materials they order on a regular basis is a great way to fend off the competition and create customer loyalty. Then, look to grow your business with an e-commerce store front that promotes your complete product line and provide a Business to Business environment that customers want.

Rottenborn: The old adage, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” definitely applies to business management and estimating software, especially in wide-format. With tighter profit margins and shorter lead times, efficient estimating and production are more important than ever to insure business profitability.