Chaos to Calm: The Power of Print MIS
If you come from the transaction side of production workflow, you have an array of business systems that control how jobs are accepted for production, when they are released into production, and how reporting is managed for compliance. If you come from the graphic arts side of production workflow, you have the same need to control job onboarding, the touchpoints of a job while it is in process, and to record the relevant information about the job all of the way to the point of billing.
In some shops, the process is managed using a Print Management Information System (Print MIS) that integrates all facets of accepting and producing print work using software programs, data capturing tools, and reporting dashboards to ensure that all work is tracked and reported. On the other hand, in many shops some or all of these are activities achieved using sticky notes, whiteboards, projected spreadsheets, and envelopes with job notes carried from desk to desk and machine to machine during production.
If you are in that latter camp, this is a good time to start considering some automation. Many of your competitors are already adding automation to their business software portfolio to allow them to onboard and produce jobs more efficiently. This gives them an advantage at several levels. A good Print MIS program offers insight into the jobs that are onboarded, where each job is in production, what jobs are experiencing delays, job costs, and ultimately a view of the revenue.
Most can generate e-tickets for job tracking, and even track waste data. Most importantly, a Print MIS becomes the system of record for all jobs, which means if job specifications change during job execution, the information is entered into the Print MIS and available to all departments immediately.
One more point. If you do your own finishing your Print MIS can be your best friend. Set it up to track, trace and alert through the MIS all of the way to the final shipment and you should see that reworks do to mistakes in the bindery and finishing are reduced. The more information shared across the production floor, the less likely that late changes from clients will be missed.
Print MIS systems can be the path to reduce order errors, keeping workflow on track and identifying problems early in production, and moving towards more automation, but just adding a Print MIS is not enough. To reap the benefits of a Print MIS there must be a commitment to setting up the system, identifying information collection points, and keeping the system up-to-date as new software is added to the workflow and new equipment is added to the capabilities set.
Think about that commitment for a moment. If your information is being managed on notepads and in spreadsheets it is a sea change to bring in a Management Information System. You may find that staff becomes suspicious and resistant. Nothing sabotages a Print MIS installation faster than staff who find reasons to ignore it or ways to circumvent it. To be successful takes education and buy in. It helps to have an internal champion and evangelist to pave the way.
The goal of a Print MIS is to ensure that production is managed efficiently and profitably. It helps to identify cost issues and production bottlenecks while keeping management informed about the differences between estimated costs of work produced and actual costs.
It helps keep Customer Service Representatives focused on helping customers and not chasing work across the shop floor. It helps reduce the cost of preparing billing statements. Added up, a good Print MIS can help to reduce production costs, sometimes as much as 50%. That seems like a fair trade for giving up the sticky notes.
The Print MIS is the last of our 10 touchpoints in the Workflow Quiz. But, it is not the end of our on-going conversation about the path to better workflow. Next time a new arc starts with a new quiz!
Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP is the Director and Evangelist for the Production Workflow Service at InfoTrends. As an analyst and industry educator, McGrew works with InfoTrends customers and its clients to promote workflow effectiveness. She also has a background in data-driven customer communication, and production printing with offset, inkjet, and toner. Co-author of eight industry books, editor of "A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge," and regular writer in the industry trade press, McGrew won the 2014 #GirlsWhoPrint Girlie Award for her dedication to education and communication in the industry, and the 2016 Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award from Xplor International. Find Pat on Twitter as @PatMcGrew and LinkedIn.