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Better Workflows for Smaller Shops

Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2018 by Ryan McAbee, Director, Production Workflow, Keypoint Intelligence.

Managing a print shop is complicated. There are many moving parts and interdependencies, along multiple streams of inputs and outputs, that must be executed with timeliness and precision. A print management information system (MIS) has been the default tool for shops to control the chaos. As you know, the challenge, at least for small-to-midsized shops, is that many solutions on the market have been financially out of reach and the ones within reach are often not as sophisticated or encompassing. According to a Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends study, money and time were two of the top three reasons smaller shops (up to 19 employees) did not upgrade to a more robust print MIS.

better workflow

Smaller but Similar Challenges

Smaller print shops have similar business and operational challenges as larger shops, and the need for a single system of record to manage the business is just as critical. With fewer employees, smaller print shops are even more challenged to meet production demands. Having an easy-to-implement and use print MIS is important for smaller shops to:

Beyond these tasks, you also need to on-board your customer’s jobs (ideally through a web storefront) and the jobs into a workflow before each can be printed, finished, and delivered. These connections that point upstream to a web-to-print solution and downstream to the workflow are needed to automate your processes. Until recently, print shops had to purchase a more expensive print MIS with integration capabilities and pay for professional services to setup the connectivity to the other software solutions. That’s changing.

Enter Skinny Print MIS and Web-to-Workflow Solutions

Smaller print shops are an attractive market for software solutions providers. While they do tend to spend less annually on software, smaller shops vastly outnumber large ones. Based on the latest US government data (NAICS), there were slightly less than 70,000 print shops with less than 9 employees while there were roughly 3,000 shops with more than 50 employees.

Software vendors realize they need a different approach to reach smaller shops, from how print MIS solutions have traditionally been sold and installed. To keep the costs down, vendors are creating lightweight solutions that can be quickly implemented (weeks instead of months) and delivered over the cloud via subscription. These skinny print MIS and web-to-workflow solutions are operated within a web browser, the user interfaces skew modern and simplistic, often centered around a customizable dashboard for each user. You can also receive orders over the Web and automatically route them to your workflows since most of these solutions include or have pre-built integrations for web-to-print and workflow automation. Several solutions use the costing capabilities of the MIS component to dynamically generate pricing for storefront products which eliminates the administrative task of maintaining static price lists and reduces the risk of providing an inaccurate price. Canon’s PRISMAdirect is an example of a web-to-workflow solutions with many of these capabilities that can take in orders from various entry points and push them downstream for more workflow automation.

Big Benefits for Small Print Shops

The increased vendor focus is a win for smaller print shops. The solutions are providing more MIS sophistication and integration capabilities (web-to-print and workflow) at price points that are better aligned with the average software spend of smaller shops. Since these solutions are cloud-based, you can redistribute time previously spent on securing and maintaining the computing infrastructure.

Odds are high that your MIS solution has been in place for many years (research suggests the average life is around 7 years). The long lifespan of a print MIS provides many opportunities to not install current versions, avoid database and cost maintenance, and find creative workarounds for any functional shortfalls of the solution. If this sounds familiar, it is time to re-evaluate your business needs and ensure your print MIS solution is up to the task of today and the next 7 years.

Sponsored by Canon Solutions America