A Management Information System (MIS) is used to manage, and can be used to optimize, the print production process. Effective management of the business can be best achieved by having accurate and timely information about the facility. The complexity of the MIS is increasing year after year with added functionality and connectivity between devices and software in the workflow. Wherever possible there needs to be the introduction of automated data entry to ensure the information is accurate and not affected by outside influences. In considering the printing industry, there is still not a full adoption of MIS by printers, with only approximately 65% of printers currently having a system in place. Of those, fewer than half are what would be classified as good MIS implementations.
The scope of the MIS will change dependent on the actual system but can include functions such as estimating, accounting/finance, order entry via traditional methods or Web interfaces, job scheduling, managing production information, inventory management, collecting job costing information, shipping, and job/facility reporting. Using this data allows the optimization of the production process and the driving out of costs from the manufacturing process.
It is important to stress, when implementing an MIS, the whole workflow needs to be assessed. Analyzing the workflow allows the maximum integration to be obtained with the introduction of the MIS, while minimizing the chance of propagating bad practices into the new system. A full review of the available MIS systems and their capabilities is contained in the 2010 Printing Industries of America Survey of Management Information Systems, which members can download for free at www.printing.org/free.
Purchase and installation
The purchase and installation of an MIS solution is exceedingly complex and time consuming. This is unlike many purchases in a printing facility due to a number of different factors:
• This is integral to production as a whole. It is the central hub from which much of the information must pass for an effective manufacturing facility.
• It is a software solution and, as such, the ROI can be difficult to calculate. There are many different calculators that have been developed, but as the savings are very personalized to the actual production facility, getting accurate data can be a challenge.
Often when a piece of hardware, such as a press, is purchased, some typical jobs can be run and assessed to evaluate the performance. This is not possible with the MIS purchase.
• It touches many different parts of the production process and has to integrate with them all. This includes both the hardware and software from many different vendors, with their own unique characteristics and requirements for information.
Planning your MIS
There needs to be, at the outset, a very clear statement of what is required and the expectations from the MIS. This will be a highly complex decision-making process that can affect the whole operating procedure of your company and not just one department. Compared to the installation of most hardware and software, this will have to integrate with more devices and personnel and needs to have acceptance and credibility throughout the organization. In addition, this needs to be driven by the senior management to ensure that all the available time is allocated for installation and focus is demonstrated within the company on the importance of the MIS.
One recommendation that does not change: do not automate what is already broken. It is important to look at your whole workflow and assess how the MIS will fit into this. There are many new features available within different MIS solutions. You need to understand where your pain points are and which functionality will give you the most improvement in your process. This will be a balancing act. It will include the whole team throughout the RFP process. It will be one of the areas that evolves as you and vendors develop the final proposal. With regard to this, there needs to be flexibility in the process and an understanding that customization comes with the price of both time and money.
You need to ask the question, “What must I have, and what would I like to have?” Understanding this will help greatly as the proposal and the final selection of the partner are completed.
Excerpted from an article that first appeared in Printing Industries of America The Magazine.