Front- and Back-End Tools
More than 30 sources for business-and-management software.
Yes, the production and installation aspects of a job are terribly critical – after all, clients are paying you for top-quality work done within their often-unreasonable time constraints.
But just as important in ensuring that a project is produced efficiently and profitably are the various front-end components – estimating, managing inventory, project scheduling – and an assortment of back-end aspects – warehousing, shipping, invoicing, and so on.
Business-and-management software can help you successfully address your shop’s front- and back-end challenges. The right software puts in place a variety of systems, tools, and strategies that can make your company more effective at what you do. It helps you to take the guesswork out of profitability when it comes to these aspects of your shop workflow.
In our look at business-management software that follows, we’ve focused on standalone tools that are primarily geared toward print providers (not generic business software), and we’ve noted when software is specifically engineered for digital print work and/or specialty graphics. We have not included RIPs that simply have business/management modules or features (but see the sidebar), nor have we included software aimed at production processes.
Created specifically for the signage and graphics industries, Activity Advantage allows users to create estimates and work orders; manage inventory, vendors, and ordering information; generate accounting and production reports; market to customers; export to Quickbooks; and track customer contacts and notes. Also allows for: job-profit reports, automatic inventory updates, surcharge capability, and ability to use Art Approval and Estimates online. Its Shop Floor provides for the tracking of jobs through production, creation of time and productivity reports, and job scheduling.
Avanti Computer Systems
Avanti’s Slingshot incorporates business intelligence (CRM, dashboards, reporting) and production planning (estimating, automated purchasing, scheduling, sales orders), plus warehousing, shipping, and billing. It leverages JDF/JMF and XML to communicate with key applications within the shop, such as Web-to-print, production workflow tools, and post-press and production equipment. Slingshot can be Cloud-based or hosted on-premise. Various print-production modules also available.
Bard Business Solutions
The company’s Enterprise Manager, designed for large-format print operations, 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. Also available: Digital Print Manager (for digital printers), Graphics Manager (for trade printers), Graphics Express (for print brokers), and more.
Flow+ is a business-automation control tool for wide format print work, integrating MIS, CRM, and ERP tools. Its features/modules include an intuitive quotation system, advanced cost visualization (production costs vs. selling price, per job), real-time inventory management (ink, media, and finishing materials), creation of purchase orders, live job tracking (production monitoring), direct information exchange with the RIP, and more.
CASper Eazynet Solutions
CASper on the Cloud is sign-estimating software that offers formula-driven estimating (including custom estimating). Features include: project management (including maintenance and billing); job tracking; CRM; data mining; accounting; inventory control; shop management; production scheduling; and more.
CiberQuote 2.0, designed for sign making, allows for quick generation of quotes; materials specification; billable works-time specs (design, printing, cutting, assembly, etc.); an indication of payment-methods; customizable print-quote formatting; and more. Also available: SeriPrix, a professional quotation system specifically for screen printing.
Cloud 7 Systems
Developed specifically for large-format and specialty graphics, Printmatics features: estimating; cost analysis; inventory management and tracking; invoicing and A/R; production scheduling; shipping and distribution; customer information management; credit-card processing; and more.
CRC Information Systems
CRC has offerings geared toward a variety of graphic-arts specialties, with 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. Its Screen Printing Estimating system comprises tools and features designed to accommodate commercial flat-sheet and graphic screen printers; it can handle a wide variety of substrates and operations, the company reports.
Cut-Estimator Pro enables users to project the cost of cutting/routing projects. The software utilizes material-specific values in defining cutting/routing methods, speeds, and tooling requirements for the cutter/router used. Cost, sales price, and number of work hours needed for that project are then generated; the software can provide up to six alternative estimates based on different quantities, the company reports.
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. Its Cyrious Online allows shops to set up websites for each major customer or customer group.
DiMS! business-management software is aimed at streamlining and automating 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 print businesses with any combination of digital, wide-format, and litho operations. JDF-certified, Pace comprises 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 Vision is business-management software that offers estimating, point-of-sale, account management, production management, receivables, and sales-analysis tools on a browser-based platform. Modules for: estimating/quoting; production scheduling; order management; shop floor data; financial management; management reporting; and credit-card processing. Available in Full and Digital (smaller-scale) versions.
EFI Monarch is a Print MIS and planning solution for large-, single-, and multi-plant operations. Scalable to 5000 users, it offers 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.
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 Android Web devices, iPads, and others.
iCount, by GlobalVision, is an automated counting system for non-contact counting of folded products. Featuring Windows-based software, it can counts inserts, outserts, and cartons; single or multiple rows; shrink wrapped or bundled.
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.
Hybrid’s FaceLift is a tool for entering, tracking, and interacting with production data, including real-time scheduling. FrontDesk allows a shop’s customers to place, track, and manage all of its orders. PipeLine maps data between all of a shop’s system, acting as a translator to integrate platforms.
Created for custom-manufacturing companies using standard PCs, including those in signage and the graphics arts, TQT 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.
KeyedIn Sign Edition is a Web-based business-management solution for the custom-sign industry. Modules include: Estimating, CRM, Advanced Accounting and Cash Management, Reports/Analytics, Service Calls, Supply Chains, Sales, Cost Tracking, Shop Floor, and Project Management. KeyedIn Solutions acquired the former Datacom in 2012.
MetaCommunications’ Workgroups DaVinci is a process and productivity-management software suite addressing four major tasks: project management (CRM, workflow scheduling, workload indicators); online proofing and review; digital asset management (auto track, organize, and share assets); and financial management (estimates, quotes, proposals, time tracking, procurement, job-costing, accounting integration, and more). Can be installed on-premise or in the Cloud. Standalone products are also available: Job Manager, Virtual Ticket, and others.
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.
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 be customized to match that of the shop.
The PixtaFlow cloud-based ERP system includes its Estimator tool, engineered for quick and accurate quotes for large-format digital print work. Other PixtaFlow features include: job management, QuickBooks integration, a digital storefront, Web-based large-file transfer, and more. Its PixtaStudio, formerly a standalone product, has also been rolled into PixtaFlow, and includes PixtaFlow Job Management and PixtaCatalog Digital Storefronts.
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 Lite, a print-management solution, is designed for digital, commercial, and litho print providers. Capabilities include: estimates; order management; purchase orders; inventory; production scheduling; packing slips; delivery scheduling; and invoicing. E Pro Core and E Pro Enterprise add accounts integration; E Pro Enterprise also adds finished goods and data capture.
The company’s Presidio print-management solutions, for in-plant and commercial 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).
PrintPoint 6.5 estimating and management software is a customizable, print-management solution for small and medium-sized large-format and digital print operations (as well as commercial and in-plant, plus prepress shops). The latest version includes 50 new features: a redesigned interface, Visual Scheduler 2, RFQ, updated estimating and quote capabilities, invoicing (by unit and job), Web to print, and more. A 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. Other features include dashboard statistics, Web-press module, jobs from templates, estimate attachments, enhanced Quickbook integration, and more.
RealTimeDesigner is an e-commerce solution for sign, print, and promotional products. Its several modules can be integrated into an existing website or as a standalone Web solution. Users can configure it to handle an array of customizable products including banners, signs, shirts, promotional items, etc. Features include Catalog Builder, Pricing Matrix, Shipping Options, PDF Generator, Artwork Templates, and others.
Onsite 7 is a business-management tool designed specifically for digital print operations as well as screenprinters. Built on the Filemaker platform, Onsite addresses: sales functions, accounting functions, and production functions, plus shipping and purchasing. Also available is ProofStuff, a Web application that allows for managing of proof generation, approval, and follow-up.
SignVox is a Cloud-based, comprehensive business-management system aimed at the sign industry. Features include: quoting and invoicing; sign pricing; purchase orders and material requisition; online proofing; QuickBooks integration; business intelligence; employee and customer management; vendor management; and more. Add-on modules include: Vehicle Wraps; pocketVox (for smartphones); and Customer Feedback.
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 in Cloud- or self-hosted versions.
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.
Midnight Fulfillment is designed to allow a shop to implement a Web-based solution that addresses warehousing/warehouse management; postage and freight tracking; order entry and management; kit assembly; management reports; Web storefronts; and more.
A RIP Solution
Some RIPs also feature business- and/or management functions or modules. Here’s a list of companies producing third-party RIPs that do not also appear in the main text; you can peruse their RIP products to determine if they have the business and management features you’re seeking:
• CadLink: www.cadlink.com
• ColorBurst: www.colorburstrip.com
• ColorGate: www.colorgate.com
• DigiFab: www.digifab.com
• Eisfeld Datenechnik: www.posterjet.com
• Ergosoft: www.ergosoftus.com
• Four Pees: www.fourpees.com
• Fusion: www.fusionsystems.com
• GMG: www.gmgcolor.com
• Onyx: www.onyxgfx.com
• SA International: www.thinksai.com
• SCP Software: www.scp.de
• Serendipity Software: www.serendipitysoftware.com.au
• Valloy: www.topazrip.com
• Wasatch: www.wasatch.com
• Xante: www.xante.com
• Xitron: www.xitron.com