As in all other aspects of our daily business life there is no rest for management in their pursuit of optimisation – it is an ongoing task! One of the key benefits of having a solid technology core is that it can support your processes by providing end-to-end visibility and the opportunity to create improvements over time in response to changes to your business.
Below are 4 key areas that we’ve seen businesses address challenges by leveraging their ERP/MIS systems to become more streamlined.
Build templates to speed up the quote process
In the point and click world, customers are sending more and more jobs out for quotes – and small price differences can make the decision for them. Consequently, this is driving the quote-to-order ratio down. For estimators, this means more work with less likelihood of landing the job.
How to address it
To address this challenge, printing companies realise that software can help them be successful in quoting at a decent speed: They build templates. With proper setup, a template can reduce the time spent on a product estimate by a significant amount without endangering the pricing precision (improving it, actually) and with less error in production specs. Elements can, of course, be changed per job, however, the gains from having a better starting point are still worth it.
PrintVis templates can define the production options allowing less technically knowledgeable users to create complex estimates and orders with ease, while smart filtering and estimation automation will provide a preferred production route across a range of machinery with an easy view of available production capacity.
Integrate to customer’s purchase ordering system
Corporate customers often prefer a direct link to their vendors instead of a Web2Print solution. In fact, successful printing companies benefit from having direct communication with their larger customers. A major reason being that once this integration is in place, the loyalty rises significantly.
How to address it
Typically, this integration is made with an XML import – coming as a direct file from the customer’s own purchase ordering system. In good installations, this can match some individual SLAs and pricing structures prepared in the system.
The effect for the printing company will be that orders flow in automatically and in some cases go directly to the digital printers – or to the prepress department for plate making. Additionally, several automated events can occur, such as having the invoice and delivery note already in the printer when the job is registered. The time saved is notable.
Track unplanned time in prepress
Most employees in prepress want to deliver great work and keep customers happy, however, the classic case of expecting a print-ready PDF and instead getting a shoebox of photos with sticky notes still has some truth in it – and will cost printers who aren’t careful.
How to address it
Keeping a keen eye on what time is spent on jobs – and specifically the unplanned time through systematically monitoring deviations – can make a difference in your bottom line. Typically it starts with being clearer with the customer on the service expected. This includes a more explanatory quote, an automated letter of milestones and/or other explicit information to the customer about the conditions for a quote and conditions for files to be submitted.
When this is done well, prepress departments can be very clear in their quotes to customers which keeps control of costs and can also impact customer satisfaction by managing their expectations.
Closely monitor substrate stock
Stock inventory is usually a much larger cost than companies care to admit. The perfect balance of on-hand inventory levels versus delivery time to get stock in house is a struggle.
We see that successful companies have a clear strategy to minimise the stock levels in a way which keeps them flexible on their production through more effective internal analysis.
Forecasting and bulk purchases can benefit substrate costs and transportation fees—these things can make a monetary difference if the estimators and production people are also aware of the company initiatives.
How to address it
If you can get estimators to use some set of central stocks (and if you can get your customers to, then even better) you can eliminate the random purchases and remnant inventory that haunts most companies.
A lot of focus should be put on substrate usage and waste – no news there. The real value comes in when we start weighing extra cost for waste against costs of ordering a special size material for a job – including the actual time we spend for this– in production, in extra price, special delivery, unused stock if we used less, expensive extra delivery if we need more, etc. For example, analysis may reveal that using a different (“incorrect”) size material with 20% wasted space will be more effective than placing a special order.
Software that can allow analysis of those changes or a system of calculations you can do internally before sending jobs to the production floor can be a great area to see your profits increase and your raw material costs decrease.
For printers looking to make significant shifts in terms of their operational efficiency, we’d advise against the big-bang approach to change and instead focus on getting the right platform in place that connects your departments with the ability to make improvements per department backed by a solid core foundation and quality information.