Update on MIS solutions for print

A management information system (MIS) can be an indispensable tool for organizations large and small. They act as information storage systems, as well as workflow tools to both unite business components and standardize processes throughout an organization.

The power of MIS lies in its ability to standardize key business functions in order for employees to perform tasks consistently and efficiently, thereby reducing human error. Managers can collect and analyze important information in one single repository that contains data from the entire organization. The data storage aspect of MIS allows for improved operations through data analysis. No one can predict the future, but MIS makes it easier to identify and anticipate trends in your business. MIS captures information such as sales and production data and many additional metrics that are of interest to managers who are running a business.

Different MIS exist for different markets. The various organizations within these markets will require different capabilities. For example, flexible packaging printers, screen printers, and offset printers will all require variations on MIS to fit their different workflows and processes.

Estimating and front-end automation (like JDF) are at the heart of MIS for print. If accurate job costing and production planning can be captured upfront, it creates efficiencies that can filter down throughout the production process. This will ultimately provide opportunities to increase profits in all stages of the production process.

Regarding MIS as a workflow and collaboration tool, every process from order entry all the way through to accounting and finance can be tracked in one central location. MIS is typically broken down into modules that exist in each department. These systems can be stand-alone systems or fully integrated into current manufacturing processes. However, the more complex the MIS integration becomes, the more challenging the implementation will be. Systems integration, configuration and training all require time, effort and buy-in from all levels of the organization. In a white paper from Network PDF about MIS for managers, it is stated that: “Successful implementations occur in organizations that are able to understand their business processes, accurately learn the capability of the software, and envision a future that embraces the best of both. If done correctly, the change will be for the better.”

Today’s update on MIS for printers will involve looking at two major players: HIFLEX and Avanti.

hiflexHIFLEX

HIFLEX MIS is a cloud-based print management strategy that is a fully integrated JDF system and has won numerous awards from CIP4 and PIA/GATF. HIFLEX provides JDF connectivity to all major systems like Heidelberg, Agfa and Polar, to name a few. HIFLEX’s cloud-based system can be accessed anywhere, including through mobile devices like the iPhone. This allows for increased efficiency and automation whereby job progress can be viewed from virtually anywhere in the world with Internet connectivity.

Within the last 8 months, Hewlett Packard (HP) acquired HIFLEX Software. HIFLEX solutions cater to numerous markets within the graphic communications industry including commercial printing, publishing, display graphics, direct mail, labels and packaging. The simple interface allows for program logic to be easily changed, often without the need for dedicated programmers, helping to reduce costs. The HIFLEX MIS system also allows for robust reporting capabilities with over 100 different statistics options. It incorporates a feature called the “EIS” (Executive Information System) that displays key information graphically to managers for increased functionality.

HIFLEX is a complete solution that can be integrated into every step of the production process, including a robust CRM front-end system. This component includes a follow-up notification system, as well as an integrated database-marketing tool. HIFLEX MIS can produce automatic estimates through their “Auto Pilot” functionality, and tasks like scheduling and imposition are also completed through the system. Poor material management can eat into profitability, but HIFLEX combats this waste through a barcode materials management system. HIFLEX is a robust MIS providing increased productivity and automation to increase printers’ profitability.

For the latest news about HIFLEX, check out www.hiflex.com.

avantiAvanti

Avanti has been in business for over 25 years and they are now shipping Version 12.3.4 of their Graphic Arts Management System. Their MIS provides complete JDF-enabled solutions for commercial printers including sheetfed, web, digital, large format and binderies. JDF capabilities enable job instructions to only be entered once at the front-end of the workflow and the automated instructions are fed to machinery to manufacture a job. Their new JDF integrations extend the list of equipment and software application integration to include Konica-Minolta’s Printgroove, GMC Software Technology, Software Marketing Associates PRO-MAIL Fulfillment Solution, as well as Ultimate Technographics Ultimate Bindery. As Avanti explains, JDF-enabled technology makes it so “it’s like all the software and equipment in your shop speaks the same language!”

Web-to-print provider, Associates International Inc., won a CIP4 award in 2010 for “Biggest Improvement in Quality Production and Customer Responsiveness as a Result of Process Automation” through their use of Avanti’s MIS. In an interview with Dave Zamorski, COO of Associates International Inc., he stated that their company was able to save between $150,000 – $180,000 in one year through the implementation of Avanti’s system, paired with other innovations from Creo and Xerox. He attributed these savings directly to the JDF-enabled systems driving front-end automation resulting in fewer touch points in the production process. Being able to capture this effectiveness (including capturing true costs) is another advantage of implementing Avanti’s system. Zamorski also stated that after the installation, Associates International Inc. saw a 75% increase in productivity and by automating processes, they were able to reduce their overall payroll by 30%.

At Graph Expo 2011, Avanti’s President and CEO, Patrick Bolan, demonstrated a “must-see” capability of their MIS that makes it easier for sales reps to manage leads. Avanti’s MIS can capture leads generated from an Internet portal and automatically move them into the CRM system. Sales reps save time by not having to think about manually moving leads into the CRM system and can have all leads at their fingertips.

For the most up-to-date information about Avanti, visit their website at www.avantisystems.com and register for a free webinar.

There is no question that a well thought out and relevant MIS solution can reap significant rewards. Increased competitive advantage through front-end automation, streamlined processes and reduced human error all increase profitability. If you are considering a new or updated MIS installation, make sure to do your homework to learn which system is right for you. Once you choose the right solution for your business, proper implementation and buy-in from all levels throughout an organization is critical for the lasting success of the MIS.

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.