by Toon Van Rossum, Switch Product Manager, Enfocus
Winning print services with MIS
MIS for everyone
Management Information Systems are a must-have. There is no argument, there. They are the brains of the operation and print service providers rely heavily on them. The number of MIS software providers is astounding. It’s a daunting task to choose the right one for any particular business. In a Google search for "mis software for print business,” there were over 40 million results. Sure, that’s a misleading number, but glancing at the first five pages of results reveals quite a few different solutions. There must be common and unique features among them, and in the end, there’s one for every business.
Putting faith in an MIS is easy when a business is a direct manufacturer. It’s easy when the products or services provided are built to order. However, in the wild west nature of print, there is always an exception, there’s always a rush job and there’s always a monkey wrench somewhere in the works. An MIS should be able to deal with these types of anomalies, especially since print production anomalies are commonplace. A contradiction in terms, yes, but that’s the real world. The only way an MIS can be effective past releasing a job “into the wild” is if it maintains accurate data about job status. There has to be two-way communication between the brain and the limbs of the business.
Planning jobs is handled quite intelligently by most MIS software. Many use algorithms or logic that borders on AI. Systems are considering substrates, device capabilities, imposition variants and workload. Any business owner who has recently looked into MIS will be impressed with the options. As is the situation with hiccups or anomalies, communication throughout the business becomes increasingly important where multiple sites are part of the puzzle. Powerful MIS can and should be able to keep track of business operations as a whole. But again, the effectiveness is dependent upon maintaining dynamic job data. Paper job tickets fall incredibly short at job data. Many print shops get paper job tickets that travel through the workflow and come back to billing full of hand-scribbled notes. Without this information getting back to MIS, the situation may never get better.
Integrating MIS with production is key. Data is king. Correction: accurate data is king. Manually making updates to job status and costing is a start, but it’s often delayed and there is opportunity for error. This drum continues to beat, so it’s worth pointing out one more time. Two-way communication or better still, multi-way communication throughout production is paramount. Shop floor data can certainly be gathered manually. That’s better than not at all. The caveat lies in human error and timeliness. Lights out operation sounds like a fantasy to many business owners. Automation is not news. Business success is relying more on improving automation. That doesn’t mean that it’s too late to get started. It does mean that integration on the business level, not just in production, should be the goal.
A webstore should talk to an MIS. Both of those should talk to production. Prepress activities should be known to MIS. Changes, charges and statuses should be broadcast all along the workflow. Automated finishing equipment should be getting accurate instruction sets. Shipping notifications should be going to MIS and a webstore. Data integration drives effective automation. The more an MIS knows, the better planning, quoting and scheduling will be throughout a business.
Choosing an MIS distills down to one key point. Is the MIS vendor a candidate for a long-term business relationship? Don't choose the first one off the shelf. Get at least five demos with quotes. Ask to speak to existing customers, especially ones with similar work mix. It's easy to speculate that there is a such a vast menu of MIS providers because they each have an ideal customer in mind. During development, they had target use cases. The trick is in finding the one that was thinking of your business when it was created. No matter which one you choose, Switch can connect it to your production. - Toon Van Rossum, Product Manager, Enfocus
Enfocus Switch integration advantage
Enfocus Switch allows your MIS to drive the entire print production chain.
- Switch opens communication from your MIS to your workflow, without the need for manual entry of job specifications.
- Job files and the associated production data can be automatically released when MIS conditions are met.
- Errors that can occur during hand-keyed data entry are removed.
- Service staff are relieved from the monotony of replicating job information.
- Switch dynamically associates data with a job as it is being processed, giving previously unconnected systems the ability to talk back.
- With Switch serving as the workflow pipeline, job files are automatically evaluated, and decisions are made for processing according to MIS data.