Tools to help better manage each job.
Running a graphic-arts business is much more than just the tools and technologies you use on the production floor. You also need to be fluent when it comes to managing all the entry points of a job and its client: the creative aspects, if applicable; the job-estimating and order-entry side of things; the job-tracking process; fulfillment; billing; and much more.
Here, we provide a sampling of software tools that can help you with each of these tasks. We"?ve given priority to those companies whose products focus on the graphic arts, although more generic software is available for tasks such as basic project management. Listings are alphabetical, by company; prices are supplied when available.
Activity offers Windows-based business-management software for small- to medium-sized graphics companies; it can also accommodate the needs of larger manufacturers.
Activity Advantage facilitates estimating and converting estimates to work orders, inventory and vendor management, production and business management, and customer-relationship management. E-Advantage features Web order and business online capabilities as well as a Web-based approval center for customers. Shop Floor allows for the tracking of jobs in progress, time reporting, materials usage, and scheduling.
FastTrack Schedule 9 from AEC Software is project-management software that allows users to take control of projects, assign"?ments, deadlines, budgets, and people. It features customized project reporting, illustrated timelines and charts, project tracking, resource management, consolidation of projects, and automated scheduling. Price: full version, $349; Concurrent versions for 5, 10, or 25 users are also available, starting at $2995. The system is Windows and Mac compatible.
RoboHead, from Aquent, is a Web-based project-management tool that focuses on three key areas: project and resource man"?agement, communication and collaboration, and digital library storage. The latest version, RoboHead 3.0, includes new or updated capabilities in time/resource tracking and freelance payroll-management areas. In addition, RoboHead now also tracks non-project time, resource activities, and budget versus actual expenses; users can also associate billing rates with activities so that jobs can be accurately invoiced or charged back to a client. The software itself is free to download; companies are charged a monthly fee based upon the number of users or company clients that have access to the system.
Avanti"?s Demand Print Management System is designed for digital printers, on-demand printers, service bureaus, prepress houses, and reprographics shops. Its modular design allows users to choose the functions that are best for a particular shop. The system includes estimating, job costing and tracking, order entry, shop-floor data collection, purchasing, and invoicing features.
CRC Information Systems
CRC"?s flagship product, THE System, contains more than 100 modules for printing companies, including many industry-specific estimating modules that allow it to be customized for each user. Features available include: automatic data-collection modules for both the shop floor and machine monitoring; job quoting; executive alerts, notifications, and reports; accounting that requires only inputting job information once; inventory; online ordering and approvals; and more.
Creative Manager Pro is project-management software with collaborative tools designed for the front end of the graphic process. The software streamlines company workflow, from developing new business, to staffing, managing, and executing projects, all the way through to accounting and financial reporting. The Web-based program includes sales contacts and tracking, project management and staff scheduling, job estimating and billing, client Extranet for collaboration with customers, and creative-industry metrics to keep projects on track. Creative Manager Pro starts at $370/month for 10 users.
Cyrious Software offers Cyrious Control, a customizable estimating and business-management system for digital printing, sign, screen printing, commercial printing and more. It estimates jobs; generates work orders; tracks production, invoices, and bills; offers customer relationship and sales management systems; does A/R tracking; and creates business reports. In late 2005, Cyrious released Control 3.0, which includes increased estimating speed, a more user-friendly interface, Next Generation Pricing for faster pricing, advanced shipping and scheduling capabilities, as well as additional reporting options.
DiMS! is an end-to-end Web-enabled, multilingual, multi-currency soft"?ware solution that integrates administrative and printing processes for a variety of printing and graphic-arts companies (it"?s particularly suited to large-sized printing and packaging companies with multiple plants and mixed-printing environments). It allows users to manage and integrate planning, purchasing, inventory, sales, marketing, finance, and human resources into a management information system.
Effexis Software offers project-management software, Achieve Plan"?ner. By combining project-management functionality with a weekly schedule and hierarchical to-do lists, this Windows-based software allows users to capture, organize, and manage projects; schedule; prioritize and plan; and track projects, tasks, and schedules. Price: depending on edition, $49 to $99.
EFI"?s PrintSmith print-shop management solution for the on-demand and quick-print markets helps small- to medium-size print companies take control of their pricing, estimating, pro"?duction, invoicing, and accounts receivable. PrintSmith comes equipped with accounts receivable, customer lists, work-in-progress reports, automatic stock order functions, account history and aging, point-of-sale management, up-to-the-minute sales analysis, sales summaries, statements, management reports, and more. Other modules include an estimator, job tracking, data management, networking, and more. The recently announced PrintSmith version 7.2 upgrade includes: stock inventory to show the available stock; an employee time clock; a delivery-ticket generator; and an estimator check list.
FileMaker Pro 8 allows creative pros and small businesses to manage client details, organize digital assets, track projects and tasks, access job status, produce timesheet reports, create and print invoices, manage design workflow, organize products and inventory, and schedule resources. FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced also includes custom tool tips, debugging and troubleshooting tools, file-maintenance tools, and more. The company also offers FileMaker Server 8 software for teams of FileMaker users (for up to 250 users) and FileMaker Server 8 Advanced with Web-publishing and external connectivity options. Compatible with Mac or Windows, FileMaker Pro 8 is $299; FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced, $499; FileMaker Server 8, $999; FileMaker Server 8 Advanced, $2499.
TimeFox from FunctionFox is a Web-based time- and project-tracking system for small to mid-sized creative companies. Users can record time, expenses, and billing information over the Web, as well as create reports (client, projects, and personnel) on-demand. TimeFox is compatible with Windows and Mac systems. Cost: $35/month for one user; additional users, $5 each.
InView is HindSight"?s business-management software for the individual creative professional. It features options designed for larger graphic-arts companies including a contact manager, scheduling, invoicing, and accounting into one system. Price: $395.
TQTracker, from iSystems, is a business-management system for large-format shops, photo labs, pre-press houses, screen printers, designers, and digital-printing companies. The system handles quotes, orders, job tracking, client-database management, job scheduling, job costing, accounting, and more.
JobOrder is business-management software that targets design and advertising companies, as well as engineers and archi"?tects. The software allows users to plan, estimate, and track jobs; manage schedules, assignment, and budgets; produce reports, invoices, and purchase orders; integrate full double-entry accounting; handle workflow issues; and automate routine tasks. The number of users and modules determines the price.
Job Manager 3.5, from MetaCommunications, is a production-management system that enables job estimates, quotes, and costing; job tracking; data collection; invoicing; reporting and analysis; accounting integration; and customizable forms.
PagePath"?s MyOrderDesk system is an e-commerce solution for graphic-arts service providers. The online system is an order-entry, file transfer, FTP server, and job status system that auto"?matically keeps all parties notified. It also works with back-end costing systems and provides customers with online proofing and re-order capabilities.
Printable Technologies"? Printable Dashboard is an online job-management tool that permit users to request quotes; place new orders and job specs; check on order status; transfer files; proof jobs online with ICC support; preflight files; check on shipping and billing; and pay bills via credit card or purchase order. In addition, it features lead and sales management, file-management tools, production management, exportable reports, and detailed job-ticket creation and management.
PrintPoint is a cross-platform graphic-arts management program. PrintPoint 5 Deluxe includes estimating and quoting; automatic conversion of estimates to jobs; job tickets; job tracking; data collection; purchase orders; shipping; invoicing; links to popular accounting and/or chargeback systems; and complete customer history. It also includes password control and built-in reporting.
Optional modules include: copy-digital and large-format (users calculate prices based on coverage or on their own pricing tables or include custom pricing for specific customers). PrintPoint is available as either single user or multi-user systems. PrintPoint Deluxe starts at $3995; Large-Format Module, $495.
PrismWIN is a management information system designed spe"?cifically for the printing and graphic-arts industries. The system includes a full accounting suite, estimating and jobbing, job cost"?ing and tracking; inventory and purchasing; scheduling; sales management; and sales ordering. In addition to the standard software there are also two browser-based modules: eService Desk (online quote request and sales ordering) and Browser Time Manager (online production time and materials capture). A recently released Prism-WIN SBE (Small Business Edition) edition is also available.
Job Pro Central is a FileMaker Pro-based business software designed for printing and creative companies as well as graphic designers. Customizable to the user"?s need, Job Pro Central fea"?tures contact management, project management, job manage"?ment, budgeting, job costing, scheduling, time management, inventory control, quotations, sales orders and invoices, ship"?ment tracking, and reports. Price: $1083 for one user.
Curio 3.0 is the latest version of Zengobi"?s brainstorming and document-management application for creatives. Its collecting and sketching features allow users to create freeform collages of checklists, images, text, and more; images can be grabbed from the Internet or a data file and embedded anywhere within the brainstorming document; its brushes and pens allow the user to doodle and draw. Curio"?s Project Center allows users to categorize projects; offers an advanced Search, project properties, and instant Web archive creation. Curio Professional edition is $129. Compatible with Mac only.