Finding a Business-Software Solution
More than 40 solutions for the management side of your shop.
Behind every great graphic is a skilled print shop, and behind every skilled print shop is an array of productivity-enhancing tools. In addition to the often flashy wide-format printers and other state-of-the-art hardware exists the slightly less-glamorous (but equally as essential) side of a shop’s toolbox: business and management software that helps bring jobs in and get them out.
Business-and-management software offers myriad capabilities–commonly including monitoring inventory to ensure there’s no delay from the time the order is taken; pricing and estimating jobs to earn the highest profit margin; producing production and employee schedules to be at your most efficient; automating the shipping and fulfillment of jobs to help ensure customers become repeat business; and much more. All in all, using business-and-management software can help turn an ordinary business into a well-oiled, productivity machine.
The list that follows is our annual look at business-management software. Keep in mind that we’ve strived to include only tools that are primarily geared toward print providers (not generic business software); we are not including software that’s primarily focused upon proofing, PDF, asset management, or variable data (although some of the tools in this list do offer some of these capabilities). And note that we’ve also included information on a trio of print-management tools—software that is not a RIP but does address production or workflow efficiencies.
Activity Advantage version 8.6, 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. Additions to the latest version include job-profit reports, automatic inventory updates, surcharge capability, and ability to use Art Approval and Estimates online. Its E-Advantage meshes the Activity database with online business capabilities, allowing customers to approve files online and view orders, order status, estimates, and payment history; its Shop Floor component allows users can track jobs through production, create time and productivity reports, and schedule jobs.
Avanti Computer Systems
Avanti’s Graphic Arts Management System comprises various standard modules including estimating (including a “demand estimating” option for on-demand and specialty print shops); order entry; job costing and tracking; scheduling; inventory control; barcoding; shipping; fulfillment; shop-floor data collection; purchasing, invoicing, point-of-sale, and accounting integration; and JDF integration with plug-and-play or custom-integration options. The system is designed for digital wide-format shops as well as commercial and in-plant print facilities.
Bard Business Solutions
Enterprise Manager, designed for large-format printers, ad agencies, and design firms, is a fully integrated 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), and other products.
CiberQuote 2.0 is a quotation system 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; advanced retrieval of past quotes is possible.
Express PrintShop for digital print operations 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.
CRC Information Systems
CRC’s Nucleus strikes a balance between estimating, production, inventory, accounting, e-commerce solutions, and customer-relationship management. The newest version of Nucleus has a streamlined menu interface as well as new dashboard widgets. Its Web-based, e-commerce software allows users to provide clients with 24/7 customer service. A browser-based, customer-relations management (CRM) module gives users a 360-degree view of customer interactions, sales opportunities, and buying patterns. The scheduling module provides advanced Gantt charting, enhanced drag-and-drop scheduling manipulation, color “alerts,” and more.
Cut-Estimator Pro software allows print providers to predict the cost of cutting/routing projects. The software utilizes material-specific database values to define cutting/routing methods, speeds, and tooling requirements specifically for the cutter/router used. Specific project data is entered, and the software converts the information and gives a precise cost, sales price, and number of work hours needed for that project; it also can give up to six alternative estimates based on different quantities. In addition, it provides production planning sheets and order sheets for printout when the estimated projects are ordered.
Cyrious Control offers Windows-based, customizable business-management systems designed for the sign, graphics, and printing industries. The software includes tools for quoting, order entry, tracking, scheduling, shipping, accounting, credit card processing, target marketing, sales management, and more. Also included is the Billboard Lease module, to automate the process of scheduling and billing of billboard leases; in addition, a Textiles Printing and Work Order tool for direct-to-garment and screen printers.
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 with end-to-end integration offering features including unlimited Web-to-print storefronts, estimating and quoting tools, order management, production management and automation shipping and fulfillment, and mail processing (optional). Available cloud- or self-hosted. The Web2Ship Storefront is also available as a standalone solution.
DiMS! business-management software streamlines and automates a range of administrative and printing processes. The Web-enabled software features end-to-end integration (including estimating, scheduling, purchasing, production, inventory, shipping, and accounting processes), one-time input of data, multi-currency and multi-language capabilities, product-focused business templates, real-time data collection, an Estimating Wizard (integrates job ticketing and cost accounting), and JDF compliance.
The DynamicsPrint solution handles various aspects of a print job, from estimation to scheduling, shop floor to fulfillment, and is JDF/JMF certified. Modules include advanced estimating, sales order, generation, automated scheduling and planning, shop floor control and data collection, workflow management, financial management, supply-chain management, customer-relations management, and e-business. An Internet portal is included to allow for online trade and file exchange. DynamicsPrint utilizes the Microsoft interface, providing a look and feel similar to MS Office and Outlook.
EFI Pace provides end-to-end, integrated management for mid- to large-sized printing businesses with any combination of digital, wide format, and litho operations. Browser-based and JDF certified, Pace includes: estimating, production management, inventory, purchasing, data-collection, integrated accounting, shipment, variable data, and e-commerce solution modules.
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. The PrintSmith Site eCommerce optional package includes PrinterSite Exchange, PrinterSite Fulfillment, and PrinterSite Internal.
EFI Monarch is a Print MIS and planning solution offering capabilities for the efficient management of projects ranging from basic to complex.
As this issue was readied for press, EFI acquired Streamline Development, the maker of PrintStream (printstream.com). PrintStream is a customizable business-management solution for the graphics, direct mail, and fulfillment industries. Its various modules include estimating, fulfillment, inventory, scheduling, purchasing, job costing, shop-floor data capture, production tracking, customer support, postage accounting, and job-creation. EFI reports that PrintStream will continue to be supported but will no longer be offered to new customers.
Enterprise Print Management Solutions
Enterprise 32 is a PC-based, scalable, 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. An Accounting Suite of modules (receivables, payables, a general ledger, and a cash manager) is available. Enterprise.net is the company’s Web-based suite that manages both internal and external e-commerce activities, allows customers to request quotes, place orders, track orders, view status of finished-goods inventory, and proof images of an order in PDF format. The system can connect with many third-party applications.
Specifically geared around signage estimating and pricing, EstiMate is a pricing and management system with features including instant quotes; watermarked images that cannot be scanned, an hourly rate estimator to ensure profits; open-estimate manager; job conversion reports, which shows the percentage of estimates converted to jobs; job tracking; automatic customer deposits using Quickbooks; invoicing; inventory management, and more.
Estimator is a print-estimating and management software designed for wide-format operations as well as other 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. Also available are: Networking Custom Report Writer, ODBC (to connect to other existing management tools), Data Mining with detailed queries, and Web applications for remote access and job estimates.
Franklin Estimating Systems
Print- and signage-specific, the Franklin System is an SQL database with several facets that can be used on their own or integrated with other modules. DataManager offers real-time tracking of job time, cost, material, and labor, as well as employee and sales tracking and management and stock summary reports. Estimator generates detailed estimates, custom job tickets, invoices, and corresponding reports. Accounting adds accounts receivable and payable, sales and purchase orders, inventory, and payroll functions. Also available: JobFlow, Web2Print, QuickBooks module, and more.
InView, designed for professional photographers, centers around a contact manager featuring in-depth searching capabilities, Internet links, and multiple viewing modes. The software can also create, print, and store invoices, estimates, and job and budget reports. In addition, InView features accounting, licensing, scheduling, and correspondence functions. The software can share and synchronize files across a private network or the Internet.
TQT software is designed to be unique to each client’s individual business model. Created for custom-manufacturing companies using standard PCs, including those in signage and 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 2010 R2 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 document review and approval), Digital Storage Manager (for storage management), and Job Manager (for financial productivity management). Also included is a Document Organizer, an optional browser-based proofing tool, and Spark!, a browser-based tool to facilitate collaboration between content creators and clients. This latest version includes the Advanced Workflow & Scheduling (AWS) Solution Library, which includes tools for trafficking or scheduling staff to manage jobs interactively, built-in to-do lists, Gantt charts, production schedule, and resource-allocation reports.
PrintMetryx JobView is a tool for tracking printing costs. Each print job contains a thumbnail image, detailed information about the print job, and costs for ink and media; users can also track production trends. PrintMetryx JobView is available at no cost with a subscription to Onyx Links service option plus the latest version of Onyx RIP software version 7.3.2 packages. New PrintMetryx JobView Pro is a subscription-based service that offers additional features including interactive dashboards, ink coverage reports, custom filters and job tagging, and the ability to look at all of a shop’s RIPS or focus on a single printer.
MyOrderDesk is an online, order-flow system for print providers. The order-entry, file-transfer, ftp-server, and job-status system can also work with a back-end costing system to provide users with online proofing and re-order capabilities. Recently, the company partnered with Intuit to offer QuickBooks invoice generation; and also partnered with Onpoint Connect Shipping to offer shipping via UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS, company truck, and local courier from a single, Web-based interface.
Prestige Scheduler is a production planning and tracking system that graphically tracks each job through to its completion and warns about inventory shortages in advance. 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. Its Variable Labor Scheduling feature is built to support shops with complex labor constraints (such as those over multiple shifts), automatically adjusting the shop’s plan and resources based on available operators and their skills. Its terminology can also be customized to match that of the shop using the program.
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 with a wide spectrum of digital, commercial, and litho print providers in mind. E Pro comprises several modules, including estimating, job production, purchase orders, stock control, scheduling, delivery notes, invoicing, accounts, stock fulfillment, customer and supplier service, CRM, direct-mail marketing, and management reports. The company’s E Pro Core solution includes several modules including sales enquiry, order management, customer management, finished goods, supplier management, and more.
The company’s Presidio print-management solutions are designed for commercial and in-plant print operations; they 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. Modules include pricing, order entry, accounts receivable, accounts payable, system manager, purchase order, bank reconciliation, and customer manager. The company recently added a Web-based online order-entry system.
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 printers as well as prepress shops. The latest version now boasts 50 new features, including 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.
PrintStar allows users to create a customer-contact database; track inventory, paper supplies, 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.
Prism Win MIS features a Sales Order Processing module that provides automated control throughout each stage of the sale, including information on stock levels, requirements analysis, order status, and delivery dates. The Jobbing feature automatically converts successful quotes into active jobs, producing work tickets and job folders with bar-coded job IDs. It can monitor deadlines and considers job prerequisites such as proof OKs, available shifts, and more. Users can even switch variables, such as adding a shift or changing a job order, to test “what-if” scenarios. Users also can manage the shop floor, and Prism Win can collect actual times and costs for individual jobs. PrismWin SBE offers the same integrated modular functionality, scaled back to meet the needs of the smaller print business. Prism QTMS iQ offers a set of machine monitoring modules and custom developed sensors that automatically record and collate accurate shop-floor information.
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 an integrated business-management tool designed specifically for digital-print operations, screen printers, embroiderers, promotional product distributors, and award manufacturers. Onsite addresses sales functions, accounting functions, and production functions; new features include improved navigation tools, white-paper comparing; more user access control, attachments of any files to records, no file-size limits, custom order and design status, improved general-ledger accounting, and better workflow management.
Printer’s Plan is designed to allow print shops to prepare estimates, enter detailed 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. The e-business tool allows customers to place orders, request quotes, proof artwork, send receive files, track work in progress, and view job history.
Wasatch SoftRIP 6.7 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.). Results can be exported to either a database-friendly format or directly to an HTML Web page.
Three tools of note are not traditional front-end business-and-management tools, but they can help you make your shop more efficient and, hence, profitable:
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), referenced in the main text, also offers PrepEdge Pro and PrepEdge. PrepEdge Pro v2.1 addresses job-preparation issues prior to print processing and includes features specific to large-format prep such as: one-click grommet placement; size, crop, and positioning tools; PDF editing tools; bleed and fold tools; complex tiling and template tools; fast contour-cut path generation; and a raster image-to-vector tool. The software also has built-in color-correction and management tools as well as a professional PDF editor. PrepEdge is an entry-level, job-preparation tool developed specifically for shops without access—or with limited access—to a professional designer to prepare print jobs.
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; search under “directories” in the main nav bar):
• 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
• SCP Software: www.scp.de
• Valloy: www.topazrip.com