Clarity Software has – quite frankly – an absurd amount of uses and benefits, so it can be tricky to explain it all without droning on.
Flicking through Print Solutions recently (always an informative read – I highly recommend it), I came across a fantastic article on management information systems (MIS). It’s a great introduction to what a huge impact the right MIS could have on your business.
The ‘management information system’ is aptly named. Management decision making, control, analysis, efficiency and good organisation are all enhanced by using an MIS.
Put simply, if you use your management information system correctly, it will make your business run like clockwork. But, more than that, it will help you to drill down into your company and transparently see the state of play of your business and where your sweet spots and weak spots are. It will arm you with the right information and ammunition to make investment decisions, strategy decisions, new market decisions, even staffing decisions. It will allow you to organise what you do and work to your most efficient and productive. It can become the engine that drives your whole business – from order in, to order out, and beyond.
Now, whilst most print companies today will run some form of MIS, or certainly elements of a management sytem, there are still many that are using bolted together ‘bits’ from various vendors, or things that they have developed themselves, rather than one integrated system that works seamlessly in an end to end flow. And, it is here that you can make extra savings, for a well running system in turn helps you to run your business more successfully.
Each MIS comes with core modules, but many have extra options depending on what you need for your particular business – and an MIS should really be used for far more than estimating and a bit of production planning. A streamlined MIS is an ideal tool for helping you to maximise what you get from your production processes, but also for automating workflow, minimising errors, taking out waste, time and cost, and generally making your business better.
The system you choose will either come directly off the shelf with all the basic tools you need (and many of these are modular so you can expand them as you grow), or bespoke built for the specific needs of your business. It will contain a whole variety of modules and applications to help you run your business in a better way.
A standard set of tools within an MIS will include estimating and order taking through to planning, production and invoicing. Most will also provide some sort of data feedback and real time analysis and control. Others will include links to web to print, or data management, or handling cross media, or add to your customer relationship management. As such, these are powerful tools that can really help you to be more successful (the box out (page 31) shows some of the benefits of the individual elements, which may appeal to any business looking to save time and costs, yet be more efficient).
I don’t think you can overemphasise the importance of an MIS within a print business. It simply makes good sense if you want automation, control and efficiency.
Overall, you will enjoy some critical contributions to your business from this end to end workflow. Perhaps one of the most vital is the ability to see where your business is now and to plan for the future. An MIS, through its monitoring and reporting elements – the analytics that it provides – will allow you to make strategic decisions based on solid information rather than guess work. You will be able to plainly see where there are bottlenecks in your business. You will be able to see where things run smoothly. In some cases you will even be able to see which machine, and which operator, runs to the best of their abilities.
By analysing your production strengths and weaknesses you will be able to see where you need to invest in new equipment, what is redundant, where you have room for expansion or more capacity. This all makes the business planning process for the future more easy.
As data is collected, you will systematically build up a picture of your business and how it works. And, there are lots of different kinds of information that you can get from your MIS, all of which will help you to manage your business in a better way – everything from key indicator reports to daily schedules.
Many companies also use their MIS to provide a daily schedule of works – rather than just scheduling production time and jobs to press. This enables them to structure each day in terms of staffing, resources and machine utilisation.
There is also a lot of waste and cost that you can remove from your business simply by knowing the actual facts rather than estimating how much you use. A good MIS will allow you to take better control over your business and streamline areas such as inventory levels and stock control, ordering of raw materials, invoicing and administration, and delivery.
Being in better control of your stock flow will increase machine uptime as well and let you get the best from existing machinery.
Efficiency will be increased in a number of ways. Simple things like day to day planning and scheduling will become easier and more organised and changes can be made more quickly – essential in the quick turnaround world of today. Your business will move from being reactive to proactive. The majority of errors made in business today have their beginnings with the humble human being. Yes, computers do make mistakes but a lot of these originate with the person that inputs the information, or changes it, or rekeys it. If your employees are not putting in data correctly, or ensuring that the information is up to date, things can go wrong. With an MIS, especially one linked to an e-commerce or web to print site, most of the data will be collected automatically.
With an MIS, you should be able to cut the human touch points of a job by half. There should be no re-keying. There should be less human error. You will be able to control just when those mistakes happen and stop them before they become costly. You will see your business working openly and transparently, so you know exactly what is happening every minute of the day if that is what you want.
Less errors also mean less waste, less time spent correcting jobs, less raw materials and energy used, quicker turnarounds and more satisfied customers. The more you use your MIS, the more helpful it can be. I don’t think you can overemphasise the importance of an MIS within a print business. It simply makes good sense if you want automation, control and efficiency. It simply makes good sense if you want to save money. It simply makes your business run well – like clockwork!
Order taking and estimating:
- Fewer errors and mistakes
- Quicker and much more accurate estimates
- Improved resource utilisation
- Up to the minute data
Accounts and financial:
- Improved cash flow
- Faster invoicing
- Less admin
- Better stock control
- Better cost control
- No over ordering
- Transparent overview of resources
- Better machine utilisation
- Less waste
- Better use of man hours
- Streamlined workflow
The sales team:
- More time for customer care
- More data available
- Less administration and paperwork
- Faster turnaround
- More information
- Better service
- More satisfaction
Management and data collection:
- Better decision making
- Forward planning abilities
- Measure, control and manage the business
- Transparent view of ‘everything’
- Enhanced knowledge