Welcome to the (sometimes complex and intimidating) world of Management Information Systems (MIS) for the graphic arts industry! With so many options to choose from (and so much techo-babble to wade through), it can be difficult to narrow down the features and benefits of each system’s offerings. Today’s examination of four MIS providers includes HIFLEX, Avanti, EFI and Prism. This is meant to be a brief overview of each company’s product and their capabilities. The focus is on the products’ unique position in the marketplace, and not a comprehensive examination of each system. Although I can provide a concise explanation of each solution, I cannot do any company justice in one article. Therefore, there is a web address beside each explanation where you can find a great deal more information about all of the solutions available.
HIFLEX is an MIS and Web2Print automation solution for the graphics industry, which uses the power of a JDF workflow to take functionality to the next level. HIFLEX MIS systems are extendable, which allows for superior connectivity to existing technology. Graphics industry users of HIFLEX systems vary across a range of applications, including commercial printing, newspaper and packaging. Information gathered by the system is displayed on the dashboard in visual graphs and charts for quick reference. This helps all members of the production team complete their jobs to the best of their abilities. Systems can be integrated throughout a business allowing for increased continuity and simplicity. Measuring performance by key success indicators (output, profit margin or value added, for example) is critical to understand the business and plan for success. The HIFLEX system enables transparency for better production planning to be proactive in a market that too often is reactive, and as a result, HIFLEX systems have won 10 CIP4 Innovation Awards.
Avanti’s management software for print shops allows integration from order input, through the management of the print shop floor, to invoicing. Avanti’s mission is “to help our customers streamline their workflow and increase their revenue through the implementation of our print MIS software.” Avanti’s 25-year history has allowed the company to create a comprehensive JDF-enabled workflow, customized to various equipment and processes in the graphics industry (from sheetfed offset to screen printing to bindery). Their dedicated partnerships to the world’s leading equipment and software manufacturers (including Xerox, HP and Microsoft) enable integrated MIS functionality. End-to-end solutions and depth of experience provide Avanti with its greatest advantages.
EFI’s MIS and ERP software systems are uniquely designed to custom fit individual system needs. EFI invests a great deal in research and development and is therefore able to provide solutions to changing MIS and ERP system needs over time, as technology changes. EFI asserts that its systems will be relevant long after the average system (which is approximately 10-15 years after implementation) and its strong research and development focus helps EFI to create this exceptional long-term value. The company’s solutions range from small-scale copy centres (PrintSmithEFI) to large global operations (MonarchEFI) with a variety of scalable options. These options aim to fulfill a number of functions including, but not limited to, removing paper-based processes, maximizing resources and capturing key business data to make better-informed decisions. EFI’s product line also incorporates JDF automation allowing its MIS products to communicate with other JDF-enabled systems, permitting complete automation from start to finish. EFI maintains 26 offices globally and with over 10,000 print MIS and ERP installations, EFI is leading the way in business solutions management for the graphic arts industry.
Prism’s MIS and ERP systems have been available in the market for 25 years, including options for packaging, commercial print and others around the world. The company employs particularly strong solutions for printing facilities with a combination of conventional and digital equipment, due to its enhanced system configurability using a common database. Prism has partnered with numerous equipment and systems manufacturers (including Heidelberg, Goss, Kodak and Agfa, as well as CIP4 for JDF capabilities), ensuring full integration of its product into specific workflows. With 7,000 users of Prism WIN MIS and Prism QTMS worldwide (and offices around the world to support the installations), the company is a global organization in which “innovative products are modular and fully integrated and will manage all or any part of your business with unrivaled accuracy and flexibility.”
Management Information Systems require meticulous research and consideration to ensure the best possible solution for your specific needs. There is only so much insight you can gain from reading product brochures, so speak to your colleagues and industry contacts to discover what has worked well (and what has not worked well) in their experience. Only after you clarify your most important non-negotiable items for a MIS will you be able to sift through the information and find the right fit for your business.