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Finding and Eliminating Bottlenecks in the Print Industry

By Chris Young
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When you look at a production environment as a whole, timely success is entirely dependent on having the right information, equipment, and supplies available at the right time and in the right place. 

Bottlenecks occur when key information is missing or inaccurate.  

While there has been significant automation in the print industry over the years, many improvements have been specific to a particular process, and the result has been a hodge-podge of side-by-side systems all working independently.  

In this video, print industry veterans Jim Daly and Amy Servi identify several common bottlenecks that typically occur in the print process. Each brings their own valuable perspective to the conversation.  

Jim Daly draws on his extensive knowledge of the print industry, from growing up in his family’s print firm to earning a degree in Printer Management from Western Virginia University, and working at several print shops. “I went through the ranks, like a lot of the old-timers did, and I learned every piece of equipment by doing and apprenticing with a seasoned veteran.” His current employer, Urner Barry, sought out his experience to manage the installation of equipment after an expansion move. He currently serves in a sales capacity. 

He is joined in the discussion by Amy Servi, (ERP Consultant with Clients First Business Solutions). Amy offers an enterprise-wide solution to avoiding bottlenecks. She has 20+ years of experience helping companies grow, streamline operations, optimize resources, and increase revenue. 

What Causes Bottlenecks in the Printing Industry? 

As Jim Daly explains at 5:54 

One of the things with all of the automation processes that have been added to the production area over the years in print, there hasn’t been as much a focus on streamlining that process, especially when you’re talking about how difficult it is to move a project from one location in the shop to another and monitoring as it goes through that and managing properly to make sure you’re maximizing the profits. Currently, there are printers using multiple software solutions to satisfy those needs with inventory control and billing—through accounting processes—but they tend to not talk to one another in a streamlined fashion. You’re never confident that you’re getting all of the information timely [enough] to help not only produce, but manage, and bill the project when it’s done. 

Jim and Amy discuss the impact of different processing systems from the client sale through to billing and order payment. You can see the entire discussion here and read the highlights below. 

Here is a summary of the areas where bottlenecks are most likely to occur in the printing industry: 

  • Client Quotes and Print Estimation [7:35] 
    Clients need fast and accurate quotes, which are dependent on fast, accurate print cost estimation. Print estimators need easily accessible, current, accurate information on supplies availability and related costs. However, this necessary information is often found in multiple sources, such as spreadsheets and documentation, and may not be current.  
  • Approved Quotes and Initiation of Print Jobs [8:50]
    In many companies, the job production system is separate from the quote process, requiring duplication of information—and introducing the possibility of errors. 
  • Tracking Current Job Status [10:45]  
    The inability to know job status makes it difficult to respond to changes and provide info to sales reps on the road, or to clients. Bottlenecks can then occur in response to unplanned downtime or client changes. 
  • Forecasting [15:26]
    Reliability in forecasting is key for materials management. This has been especially challenging with ongoing supply chain issues, with delays for overseas sourced products and significant price increases in supplies, specifically paper and in the cost of shipping 
  • Inventory Management [19:52]
    Bottlenecks occur when inventory updates are not made in real-time. Sales reps need to know what stock is readily available. Ordering also needs current info. But critical inventory information is often not accessible when it’s typically maintained manually or on spreadsheets. 
  • Billing And Payments [21:35] 
    Timely, accurate billing is critical but is often divorced from the production process. Bottlenecks occur because job information is usually entered on separate bookkeeping systems, such as QuickBooks. There is often a mismatch in terminology between production and bookkeeping, and it can be difficult to ensure the billing matches the quotes produced on different systems. 

Moving from Multiple MIS to ERP 

Jim Daly describes the typical single-purpose management information systems (MIS) that most printers are familiar with [at 25:20] 

It represents a concept that information systems manage print operations. Most often, it’s more than one system, and the information is kind of everywhere. Excel, an accounting system, printer-specific systems, design systems, job systems, on and on. I mean, there’s too many layers of touchpoints. So, streamlining it, if there was a way to streamline it, it would just be enormous… 

The solution to bottlenecks resides in creating a “single source of truth” —a coherent, enterprise-wide source of information that is easily accessible and easy to maintain. The enterprise-wide software solution developed by Microsoft for the print industry is PrintVis. 

Amy Servi describes the PrintVis solution [at 28:47] 

It manages the entire quote to cash process. Creating your quotes in a system—quotes are estimates—running that all the way through the scheduling, and the planning, and the production, and the shipping, and the receiving, the warehousing. If there’s the fulfillment side for mailing, we can handle that. We’ve got all the accounting aspects. So, accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchasing it’s all in one, all one application. And, oh, by the way, it’s in the cloud, and, oh, by the way, you have it completely on your mobile device.  

The software is powerful precisely because it touches on so much of the printing processes and, therefore, the implementation requires careful handling.  

As Amy Servi puts it [at 32:10] 

“These projects are not for the faint-hearted. When you’re making a software change, it’s not something people do every 18 months or so, it’s something they’re doing every 7 to 10 years. So, finding a really good partner is key.” 

A good partner has deep knowledge of the printing industry and the software solutions that can support it. They also have a track record of successful software implementations that have improved print company operations and contributed to profitability and company growth. 

Clients First have been working with clients to implement software in production environments for over 20 years and is committed to working with companies in the print industry. They partner with Microsoft, creators of PrintVis and the Microsoft Business Central platform, and use proven project methodologies to help ensure success and mitigate risks. 

Scalable software solutions and pricing programs mean that you can start small, work with Clients First to meet your primary goals, and then grow your software solutions as your company grows. 

Book a PrintVis Demo 

To see how PrintVis can connect all the moving pieces of print production in your company, click on the link below to connect with a Print MIS and ERP professional from Clients First Business Solutions.  

You can expect a response within 48 hours. 

Chris Young

Chris Young

Partner, Clients First Business Solutions New Jersey

Chris Young is your go-to resource for all things Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central at Clients First. Highly skilled in ERP solution architecture and financial planning, Chris has spent the last 30 years helping clients select and implement the right financial, manufacturing, and distribution software for their needs. When he’s not presenting to captivated crowds or sharing his knowledge through product demos, you can find Chris in the garage working on a car or fixing something around the house.