Business & Management Software
More than 40 front-end solutions for bettering your company’s bottom line.
Too many companies invest in an array of tools for the production side of their business, but then neglect doing the same for the business and management end of things.
The argument for not doing so typically seems to be: “Most of it is common sense,” coupled with, “We’ve been doing it this way for years,” or the alternative, “Usually, I just write up the estimate on a napkin from this morning’s McDonald’s sack.”
In fact, modern business and management software can help you do a much better job of putting in place systems, tools, and strategies that can help you be more effective when it comes to: costing and estimating, monitoring inventory, creating schedules and tracking jobs, automating shipping and fulfillment of jobs, and much more.
As a result, you’ll not only be more efficient – you’ll likely be more profitable, as you identify up-front any potential problems and bottlenecks. And the back end of a job will similarly be free of any troublesome hitches.
In our annual look at business-management software, we’ve strived to focus on tools or components that are primarily geared toward print providers (not generic business software); nor are we are including software that’s primarily focused upon proofing, PDF, asset management, or variable data or software that’s primarily designed for publication and/or package printing or RIP production. We have, however, included information on a few print-management tools – software that is not a RIP but does address production or workflow efficiencies.
Activity Advantage, created specifically for the signage and graphics industries, allows users to create estimates and work orders; manage inventory, vendors, and ordering information; track jobs; generate accounting and production reports; market to customers; export to Quickbooks; and track customer contacts and notes. Also included are job-profit reports, automatic inventory updates, surcharge capability, and ability to use Art Approval and Estimates online. Its Shop Floor component allows users to track jobs through production, create time and productivity reports, and schedule jobs.
Avanti Computer Systems
Avanti’s Graphic Arts Management System comprises various standard Production modules including estimating (plus a “demand estimating” option for on-demand and specialty print shops); order entry; job costing and tracking; scheduling; inventory control; barcoding; shipping and shipping integration; fulfillment; shop-floor data collection; purchasing, invoicing, point-of-sale, and accounting integration; and JDF integration with plug-and-play or custom-integration options. Also available are Business Intelligence modules (CRM, business triggers/alerts, job manager), Web to print modules, and JDF modules.
Bard Business Solutions
Enterprise Manager, designed for large-format printers, ad agencies, and design firms, is a database management system with modules including: contact management, rates/products, equipment, employees, estimates, dockets, production scheduling, costing, time sheets, shipping, image storage, purchase orders, and invoices. The company also offers Digital Print Manager (for digital printers), Graphics Manager (for trade printers), Graphics Express (for print brokers), and other products.
Flow+, from Caldera, is a business-automation control tool for wide format, integrating MIS, CRM, and ERP tools. It includes these modules: Client Management, Job Tracking, Sales Manager, Warehouse Administration, Finance Viewer, and more. Flow+ is compatible with Caldera’s RIP.
CASper Eazynet Solutions
CASper Sign Business software comprises the following modules: Estimating (including large-format digital); Project Management (including maintenance, billing); Job Tracking (with 10-task Job Board); CRM; Data Mining; Accounting; Inventory Control; Shop Management; Production Scheduling; and more. CASper on the Cloud is now available.
CiberQuote is a quotation system designed for sign making. It allows for quick generation of quotes; materials specification; billable works-time specs (design, printing, cutting, assembly, etc.); payment-methods indication; customizable print-quote formatting; and more. A database manager is included. Seriprix6 is available for screenprinting.
CRC Information Systems
All of CRC’s offerings are geared toward the graphic arts. Its products include solutions for: estimating (including digital printing); inventory (including roll stock and fulfillment); production (job planning, costing, scheduling); accounting; e-commerce; and CRM. Its Dashboards utilize color, graphs, symbols, and charts to help users quickly and easily review data.
Cut-Estimator Pro allows users to predict the cost of cutting/routing projects. The software utilizes material-specific values to define cutting/routing methods, speeds, and tooling requirements specifically for the cutter/router used. Cost, sales price, and number of work hours needed for that project are provide; the software also can give up to six alternative estimates based on different quantities.
Cyrious Control offers Windows-based, customizable business-management systems designed for the sign, graphics, and printing industries. The software includes these tools: sales management; estimate; shipping; invoice; work order; track jobs; manage production; accounting; inventory and POs; marketing; and others. Control v4.6 added a new Price Lock feature.
DataSign is a Web-based solution designed for the sign industry. Modules include customer relationship management, estimating and proposals, sales, service, engineering, shop-floor control, data collection, cost tracking, and accounting. Other features include built-in best practices, template-like estimating, training and support, and industry-oriented reporting.
PressWise is a browser-based print-workflow system that includes: print-estimating and quoting tools; order management; production management; shipping and fulfillment; Web-to-print storefronts; and optional mail processing. Available Cloud- or self-hosted.
DiMS! business-management software is designed to streamline and automate a range of administrative and printing processes. Modules include: Sales/CRM; Estimating (its Estimating Wizard integrates job ticketing and cost accounting); Order Management; Planning; Purchase/Inventory; Scheduling; Production; Shipping; Accounting; Finance; Management; Plant; Customer; Supplier; Carrier; and others. It’s JDF-compliant.
The DynamicsPrint solution handles various aspects of a print job, from estimating and scheduling to shop floor and fulfillment. Print-specific modules include Advanced Estimating, Sales Order Generation, Automated Scheduling, Shop Floor Control, and Workflow Management. Financial-management modules include Financial Accounting, Assets Accounting, Personnel Management, and Value Added Revenue Calculation. Other modules are: Purchase Planning, Logistics Planning, Fulfillment, Marketing, and Contact Management.
EFI Pace is a browser-based print-management system for mid- to large-sized printing businesses with any combination of digital, wide format, and litho operations. JDF certified, Pace includes modules for: estimating/quoting, job control/scheduling, production/costing, shop floor data collection, inventory management, purchasing, CRM/sales management, financial management, and business analysis.
PrintSmith is a print-shop management solution designed for small commercial print shops as well as companies with on-demand and digital environments. Users can create pricing systems, stock-order reports, estimates, invoices, quote letters, and account statements. It also includes estimating, pricing, Web-to-print, order management, scheduling, shop floor data collection, inventory, point-of-sale, invoicing and reporting tools. Available in Full, Copy Shop, Lite, and Portable versions, as well as Estimator.
EFI Monarch is a Print MIS and planning solution for large, single and multi-plant operations, and it scalable to 5000 users. Offering capabilities for the efficient management of projects ranging from basic to complex, its core modules include: Acquisition, Estimating, Planning, Scheduling, Production, Inventory/Fulfillment, Financial, Business Intelligence, and Custom Support Services.
PrintFlow is a dynamic-scheduling tool engineered to reduce waste and bottlenecks. Integrated to EFI Print MIS solutions, it links a shop’s entire print-production workflow.
PrintStream is a customizable fulfillment solution that can address: kitting/assembly, P-O-P displays, product and literature fulfillment, special events/conferences, and more.
In late 2011, EFI acquired Prism (prism-world.com), the Australian software company. Prism’s product offerings include: Prism Win MIS, comprising 20 modules, for medium-large printers; Win SBE, 14 modules, for smaller businesses; and QTMS iQ, for job tracking.
Enterprise Print Management Solutions
Enterprise 32 is a PC-based print-management system. Modules include data collection, invoicing, purchasing, financials, inventory control, job costing, scheduling, finished goods inventory, and estimating/order entry; users can also create custom reports. Also available is an Accounting Suite (receivables, payables, a general ledger, and a cash manager). Enterprise.net is a Web-based suite that manages internal and external e-commerce activities, allows customers to request quotes, place orders, track orders, view status of finished-goods inventory, and proof in PDF format.
Specifically geared around signage estimating and pricing, EstiMate is a pricing and management system with features including instant quotes; an hourly rate estimator; open-estimate manager; job conversion reports; job tracking; automatic customer deposits using Quickbooks; invoicing; inventory management; and more. Available in Professional and Enterprise editions (Enterprise adds shop-management features including purchase orders, job tracking, invoicing, work orders, etc.).
Estimator Cloud is designed for wide-format operations as well as digital and commercial presses. Standard reports include: estimate, job ticket, internal detailed costs and profit, paper and services POs, workflow production scheduling job locator, and invoice and shipping labels. Wide-Format Estimator adds features such as Square Foot Pricing, Variable DPI, 2-Side Printing, Finishing, and others. Estimator Remote Access (ERA) is standard, allowing for remote access from Android Web devices, iPads, Apple, and PC computers.
Franklin Estimating Systems
Franklin offers several print- and signage-specific tools. Franklin Estimator generates detailed estimates, custom job tickets, invoices, and corresponding reports; rates can be adjusted and customized (a QP version for quick-print operations is also available). Franklin Anywhere includes CSR Manager, JobScheduler, RFQ (for quotes/estimates), and TimeLog. Also available are Web2Print, DigiGuides/DigiGuides QP, and a QuickBooks module.
InView business-management software, designed for professional photographers, features the following modules: Contacts manager, Correspondence manager, Invoicing, Licensing, and Accounting. The software can share and synchronize files across a private network or the Internet.
Its GoDigital is a comprehensive system for estimating, quoting, and integrated production ticketing for wide-format and other digital-print operations. It can be tied into existing MIS systems or stand alone; it can also integrate with the company’s GoProof and StorePortal. Hybrid also offers FrontDesk OLM, a Web-based print-management portal for streamlining customer interaction.
TQT software is designed to be unique to each user’s individual business model. Created for custom-manufacturing companies using standard PCs, including those in signage and the graphics arts, the software allows users to build a database of sales leads and customers, create job quotes, production schedules, invoices, and accounting reports; generate and track job tickets; and customize automatic alerts. Other business-management functions include human resources, e-commerce, and inventory.
Meta Communications’ Workgroups 2011 is a collaborative process and productivity-management software suite for marketing, creative design, packaging, and prepress workgroups. It comprises four main modules: Virtual Ticket (for project and workflow management); Approval Manager (for online proofing and review); Digital Storage Manager (for DAM); and Job Manager (for financial management). Its fully integrated with Adobe CS tools.
MyOrderDesk is a Web-to-print storefront solution for print providers. Modules include: ezMerge personalization; PDF2U for auto PDF files/proofs; DocMart inventory management; QwikPrice pricing module; HighVolume advanced tools; PrintNewz marketing system; and others. MyOrderDesk integrates with the major social networks, the company reports.
Prestige Scheduler is a production planning and tracking system designed to track jobs through to completion. The program can stand alone or connect with other production-order and shop-floor systems and can be used in monitor mode or as a Web browser. Components include a Work List, Job Browser, Variable Labor Scheduling (support complex labor constraints such as multiple shifts, automatically adjusting a shop’s plan and resources based on available operators and skills). Prestige Scheduler’s terminology can also be customized to match that of the shop using the program; it can warn about inventory shortages in advance.
The company’s PixtaFlow cloud-based ERP system includes its TrueEstimator tool, engineered for quick and accurate quotes for large-format digital printing. Other PixtaFlow features include: job management, QuickBooks integration, a digital storefront, Web-based large-file transfer, and more.
Track-it time- and job-management software features time management of jobs in production; management of production resources; cumulative-time reporting; automatic creation of job data; historical search functionality; and more.
E Pro Enterprise, a print-management solution, is designed for digital, commercial, and litho print providers. E Pro Core comprises several modules including sales enquiry, estimating, order management, delivery, invoicing, customer and supplier management, inventory, finished goods, CRM, and management reports. E Pro Enterprise adds modules such as shop-floor data capture and stock control. E Flo Expedite is a storefront module. E Flo Discovery is an on-demand estimating and design tool for corporate and public print buyers.
The company’s Presidio print-management solutions, for commercial and in-plant print operations, can stand alone or be integrated in any combination. Available modules include: Estimate, Job Control, Schedule, Shopnet (allows users to capture production data in real time), Accounting, Inventory/POs, eCommerce, and Finished Goods (inventory and fulfillment).
Visual printLeader is a PC-based, modular, print-management solution designed for small to mid-size printing, copying, and graphic-arts businesses. Standard modules include Estimating, Sales Order Entry, Work Order Tickets, Automatic Job Scheduling, Job Tracking, Work in Process & Production Reports, Invoicing, Accounts Receivable, and Cash Receipts. Optional modules include Accounts Payable/Check Writing, General Ledger, Purchase Order, and Bank Reconciliation. Also available is the Premier Bar Code System for shop-floor data collection.
PrintPoint 6 estimating and management software is a customizable, print-management solution designed for small and medium-sized commercial, in-plant, large-format, and digital print operations as well as prepress shops. The latest version includes 50 new features: a redesigned interface, time- or unit-based estimating, a prepress estimating module, data history, accounting links, post-press tracking (cutting, packing, etc), a new fulfillment module, and more. PrintPoint Deluxe includes the core software with any two estimating modules; an optional Large-Format Module is available.
PrintStar allows users to create a customer-contact database; track inventory, job costs, and profitability; generate estimates; assign, schedule, and track jobs; create purchase orders and invoices; and warehouse, track, and ship finished goods. Version 4.6 also features dashboard statistics, Web-press module, jobs from templates, estimate attachments, improved security, enhanced Quickbook integration, and more. A wide-format module is available.
Sign Tracker, originally designed as an Excel-based program design for sign shops and graphics producers, is now being offered as an online Web application. Recent updates include improved sales tracking, project wizard, additional estimating tools for custom signs and service, and expanded dashboard with a "help and how-to" section. It allows for customer management, estimating, accounting, inventory, project management, sales, scheduling, designing, and more.
Onsite 7 is a business-management tool designed specifically for digital-print operations as well as screenprinters, embroiderers, promotional product distributors, and award manufacturers. Built on the Filemaker platform, Onsite addresses: sales functions, accounting functions, and production functions, plus shipping and purchasing. New features include improved navigation tools; attachments of any files to records; no file-size limits; custom order and design status; improved general-ledger accounting, and more. Also available is ProofStuff, a Web application that allows for managing of proof generation, approval, and follow-up.
Printer’s Plan allows print shops to prepare estimates, enter work orders, and schedule, invoice, and collect receivables. Components include: Scheduler, TimeTracker, JobTracker (a visual presentation of where each job is in the shop), ShippingLabels, Barcode Support, and more. Its e-business tool allows customers to place orders, request quotes, proof artwork, send receive files, track work in progress, and view job history.
Wasatch Computer Technology
Wasatch SoftRIP 6.9 includes the Wasatch Cost Estimator, designed to provide an accurate estimate of a job. Users can estimate costs for media, inks, and any additional post-production charges (media lamination, finishing sprays, grommets, etc.).
These tools are not traditional front-end business-and-management tools, but they can help you make your shop more efficient and, hence, profitable:
Express PrintShop from Compose Systems (www.composeusa.com) connects multiple printers in a mini-cluster; it also supports load balancing, advanced job queues, bi-directional communication to the printing device, and optional variable-data printing.
EskoArtwork’s (www.esko.com) i-cut Suite is a collection of pre-production software for users of large-format digital printers and/or digital finishing systems. The various i-cut Suite modules include: i-cut Preflight, which preflights incoming PDF data (corrections to the PDF file can be made without accessing the native design application); i-cut Layout, which builds and edits sheet layouts (for minimum waste, different jobs are grouped on one sheet for optimal material use); and i-cut Vision Pro, which ensures that die-less cutting contours match the printed images. Users can upgrade to advanced modules, including structural design, graphics preparation, and true-shape nesting.
The Inca Print Run Controller (PRC) software module from Inca Digital (www.incadigital.com), designed to run on a variety of Inca machines, lets users automate the scheduling and collation of versioned jobs in addition to reducing operator error and post-print collation requirements. PRC can assist in the production of orders incorporating different sizes, text variations, or languages. It can also be used when a large number of images need to be output in varying quantities with variable elements to a large number of recipients. The software can cut job changeover times with its ability to RIP once/output once or RIP once/output several times. Job scheduling can be managed in the studio before entering the shop. It’s fully compliant with PPML 2.10.
Onyx (www.onyxgfx.com) offers PrepEdge Pro and PrepEdge. Both addresses job-preparation issues prior to print processing and includes features such as: size/crop/positioning; grommet placement; contour-cut path generation; white ink; raster image to vector; and color-correction and management tools. The Pro version adds PDF/Postscript editing tools. Its SmartApps Sign&Banner plug-in tool for Adobe Illustrator software allows users to prepare all aspects of a sign or banner directly in Illustrator. Its SmartApps PitStop Pro plug-in for Adobe Acrobat is a wide-format PDF preflight, auto-correction, and editing tool within Acrobat. Both of the SmartApps tools are independent of the RIP and Onyx RIP software is not required to use them.
In addition, various RIPs also offer features that address production- and workflow-efficiencies, and even some front-end business modules. Here’s a quick list of RIP companies that do not also appear in the main text (you can also check out bigpicture.net for a list of 40 third-party RIPs with detailed specs in our current Printer Sourcebook):
• CadLink: www.cadlink.com
• Caldera: www.calderagraphics.com
• ColorBurst: www.colorburst.com
• ColorGate: www.colorgate.com
• DigiFab: www.digifab.com
• Eisfeld Datenechnik: www.posterjet.com
• Four Pees: www.proofmaster.net
• Fusion: www.fusionsystems.com
• Onyx: www.onyxgfx.com
• SA International: www.saintl.biz
• SCP Software: www.scp.de
• Valloy: www.topazrip.com