Many wide-format print providers are embracing use of Web-to-print, workflow, and MIS software to enhance their businesses and gain efficiencies.
But the selection of the software is not something to undertake lightly. The product has to fit your shop’s needs today and down the road, and must positively impact the company in every area of its business from order processing to production and shipping. As one Midwestern shop owner says, it affects every aspect of your business.
In the pages ahead, representatives of four North American shops talk about the products they selected, what they replaced, and how their choice is helping increase sales and profitability. The stories show just how much attention must be paid to getting the right software fit.
Nutis Visual Communications Group
When CTO Daniel Newman arrived at this 65-year-old shop, no product other than paper was used to track workflow. “Part of what we are trying to do with the Hybrid Software solution we have is not just improve information throughout the plant, but to also re-evaluate what we are doing. We’re just now implementing the Hybrid Facelift product, an MIS system.”
The product helps to track jobs through the plant and monitor how long jobs require to complete. It also helps managers keep an eye on delivery times as well as substrates being used and needed. “As we gain more data, we will be able to better manage waste and understand where waste is occurring,” he says.
Before the MIS system was implemented in mid-May, job progress through the plant could only be tracked once the jobs became orders.
“There’s a lot of things that happen before something becomes an order, and conversely there is the possibility of one press run feeding multiple orders,” he says. “We believe there’s going to be a lot of efficiencies. There was a lot of labor involved in people running around the plant, trying to keep track of where jobs were and what their status was. That efficiency will now allow those people to be used in ways that will more effectively grow the company.”
“Lastly, once the data is in after six months, we will be better equipped to re-evaluate how we quote different jobs. Up to this point, our quoting has not been informed by production data.”
West-Camp Press is a company that has been in existence since 1962. West-Camp Press is an offset printer producing display graphics and specializing in retail work, says CEO Ed Evans.
The company uses VUTEk printers and is in the midst of upgrading its company-wide MIS software to EFI Pace, following an evaluation of major products that took a year to complete. “Our MIS software was an EFI product, and needed to be upgraded,” Evans says, noting the software was seven years old. “We decided that EFI Pace would give us the most flexibility and minimize our touches. Most of our work is short-run, and quick turnarounds, and that guided our choice. We need to be extremely efficient with work production.”
Part of the problem the company faced was that it didn’t have one system to guide its production, but rather a patchwork cobbled together from different software products. That affected how quickly West-Camp Press could process work and the amount of man hours needed.
“We wanted one software system we could utilize for the majority of our operations,” Evans relates, adding the company expects to be able to process additional work without adding staff, and become far more efficient in every step along the way, from the front office to the shop floor to the shipping department.
Companies considering the move to MIS integrated workflows need to understand how various options will impact the many areas of the business. “Some products may have a sales focus, but you have to consider accounting, shipping, mailing, warehousing, inventory, and the shop floor,” Evans says. “[Software chosen] affects every aspect of your business.”
PIP Triad has long produced yard signs and similar flatbed work. But in the fourth quarter of 2012, it added an HP Latex 26500 roll-to-roll machine that enabled it to expand into new areas, says owner Jimmy Brumley.
“It’s latex ink, so it’s got a great green feature to it,” he adds. “These products can be put in hospitals, nurseries, and schools, and there are no harmful effects. Lots of universities want to be green, and this product truly is.”
The 30-year-old company is an EFI MIS user, adopting EFI PrintSmith about two decades ago. Before that, “you would do tables and that would leave you vulnerable to pricing errors and scheduling products,” Brumley says. “We did everything by hand.
“We certainly needed control of our costing and scheduling. As we got busier over time, it gave our production manager a truer look into efficiencies.”
Today, the software is more helpful than ever. With PIP Triad recently adding a second location, the software can inform management whether one store is getting full, so work can be transferred to the other location to better meet customers’ needs and expectations, Brumley says.
“We’re busy, and we know when departments are at capacity. We can monitor our calls very effectively, and add efficiencies and productivity with the software. It allows us to better manage both our human resources and our equipment.”
HP customer Tower Litho has an HP Designjet L25500 printer, and uses HP SmartStream Director for its workflow.
“Part of our digital strategy is implementation of Web-to-print,” says Andre Soriano, the company’s IT and digital manager.
“It is something we can’t do without, especially since the printing trade is moving towards a more digital and technology-based model.
“We have researched and tried several Web-to-print solutions—from zero startup cost to fully MIS integrated Web-to-print. We find HP SmartStream Director attractive for several reasons, [including] HP support, full control of the servers, quick storefront development requiring 10 minutes to create a brand new storefront, and very low technical/IT competency requirement, which we all know is one of the critical resources in the printing industry.”
Tower Litho developed its own Web-to-print for one client. It is still in use today, but cost of development and maintenance was so high the company stopped further development. “We have not offered it to other clients,” Soriano says. “We will eventually move that client to HP SmartStream Director.”
Addressing the question of how the software helped increase sales and profitability, Soriano says the company knew from the very beginning that Web-to-print is a marketing tool. Thus, the company is not measuring the profitability nor expecting it to be a profit center. “However, it has opened doors to new clients, strengthened our relationship with existing clients and increased our productivity by using HP SmartStream Director for print jobs that require very tight deadline and after hours prepress and press requirements,” he adds.
Tower Litho has integrated HP SmartStream Director with its existing offset devices by means of automation, he adds. As a result, prepress does not have to be in the plant after hours waiting for rush jobs that may not take place, and that virtually eliminates the need for prepress to set up and impose files and make plates for the litho press, he reports.
“This is the same model we use with our HP Indigo 7500 Digital Press, which is also integrated with HP SmartStream Production ProPrint Server,” he adds. “And it is also how we drive large-format jobs to our HP Latex 250 Printer, formerly the HP Designjet L25500 Printer.”