ASU Tackles Big MIS Challenges with an Avanti Slingshot

When Cathy Skoglund comes to work each day at Arizona State University’s Print & Imaging Lab, she has two important goals in mind: provide hands-on training for tomorrow’s graphic communication industry leaders—and sell enough print to fund goal #1.

The Lab, which operates as a self-sufficient print shop, provides a unique experiential learning environment for ASU graphic arts students. It has a range of equipment including digital presses, digital large-format printers, offset presses, and a wide array of finishing equipment. The operation needs to work efficiently, accurately, within deadlines and—since campus departments are under no obligation to patronize the lab—maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.

There were challenges. Full-time employees and students were trying to manage multiple “islands of automation”—standalone systems for functions like estimating, ftp and job submission, web-to-print, invoicing, shipping and purchase order generation. The systems were only tied together by manually re-entering the information among disparate applications.

Particularly troubling was their homegrown estimating system, which was non-intuitive, cumbersome, and left room for error. The system was based around two Excel spreadsheets, with cell formulas constantly in need of fine-tuning to accommodate the nuances of each job. “It was so complicated, only two of us had the experience needed to produce an accurate estimate,” said Skoglund.

ASU was the perfect fit for Avanti Slingshot (Booth 4242), the new cloud-based MIS solution, officially announced by Avanti this week at PRINT 13. ASU has been live on Avanti Slingshot for the last six months.

Avanti Slingshot is a modular system that provides integration and control for all major functions needed to manage a print business: estimating, job ticketing and tracking, purchase orders, inventory management, fulfillment and mail, shipping, and invoicing. All of the information is available, in real time, to Avanti Slingshot’s Business Intelligence tools; eDashboard, CRM, and Reporting.

The ASU Print & Imaging Lab has used Slingshot to streamline their operation by creating a single, unified workflow starting with the request for quote and covering each step of production through to shipping and billing.

Because students comprise most of the staff, the Lab’s employee turnover rate is high. As a result, a key consideration for Skoglund was ease-of-use. “I’m finding that Slingshot is so intuitive that anyone with a small amount of training can create a job ticket and track the job’s progress throughout the shop.”

The lab now has a database of all its internal customers that can be maintained by any employee from any computer. The inventory process also has been automated, alerting staff when an order for paper should be placed. Regular reports from the Avanti system enable Skoglund to make timely, fact-based decisions on her operation’s performance.

Avanti Slingshot captures all of the Lab’s costs, keeping Skoglund always aware of the margins so, as she puts it, “we never risk losing money on a job.”

Of all its advantages, Skoglund credits Slingshot’s cloud-based architecture with a particularly valuable benefit: her freedom. “I no longer need to be tied to my desk in order to manage effectively,” she says. “I can create an estimate right in a customer’s office, or access my operation from any laptop or mobile device using just a browser.”