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GRAPH EXPO 2006: Management Information Systems — MIS: Front and Center

November 2006 BY MARK SMITH
Technology Editor
A KNOCK frequently made against printers is that many don’t know their true costs and, as a consequence, can’t say if they’ve made money on any given job. Another way of looking at is that they don’t know the dollar value of individual jobs and customers to the bottom line.

In order to know that answer, shops need to have the required infrastructure in place and an ingrained discipline throughout the company to capture and analyze the relevant data. It takes a big commitment to implement and religiously use a comprehensive Management Information System (MIS), now also called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), solution.

Part of the problem has been that this traditionally was seen as a business issue, not a direct production concern. Today, however, the vision of an integrated, automated printing operation has a MIS/ERP solution as a central component. Job data captured in the MIS is used to drive production operations and processing data is reported back for job and cost tracking.

A fair amount of skepticism has surrounded the JDF/JMF (Job Definition Format/Job Messaging Format) specification almost from its introduction. Nevertheless, the movement remains strong to implement it as the foundation for the integrated workflow.

The central role of the MIS is reflected in the priority given to it in the ongoing development of the specification. Just this past summer, the CIP4 (International Cooperation for the Integration of the Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress) organization and PIA/GATF (Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation) finally launched the JDF Product Certification Program.

According to Mark Bohan, PIA/GATF’s director, research and integrated technology, the second and third phases of testing targeted are JDF Product Certification for the “MIS to Conventional Sheetfed Printing” and “MIS to Prepress” Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) documents. Each ICS defines a minimum, base level connectivity between two types of graphic arts systems.

By some counts, there are more than 100 software products that provide MIS functionality tailored for graphic arts companies. That makes it impractical to encapsulate the entire product segment in a single article. As an alternative, though, the exhibitors at Graph Expo 2006 represented a nice sampling of leading solutions and the announcements made give a sense of trends in the market.

To set the stage, the Executive Outlook conference was once again held on the Saturday prior to the show. One of the featured presenters was Donald Goldman, principal with the ConsultWare consulting firm in Marblehead, MA, and a long-recognized MIS authority.
 

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