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

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.

Goldman contends that the technology exists—and, in fact, has been around for quite a while—to achieve the end-to-end integrated print workflow with the MIS as the system of record. “But it requires best practices with regards to driving the work through production, starting with the estimate/job plan. Management must support the discipline to force the full use of the MIS with electronic job tickets and that scheduling changes are made in the print management system to drive the job/workflow,” he says.

The unwillingness on the part of print managers to run their plants by the numbers, as opposed to the walk around method, is a key reason why more printers don’t use computer-assisted scheduling and won’t commit to really use JDF, Goldman continues. He asserts that a modern MIS solution should do more than just collect information that satisfies the accounting needs of a company. It should:

• collect and provide information that lets management control, monitor and react to the dynamics of change;

• provide the information for job setup and monitoring, with real-time feedback; and

• control and provide the communications link between print providers and their customers, as well as vendors.

Among the barriers to realization of this vision, Goldman adds, are lack of:

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