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MIS: Large and in charge

Aug 1, 2004 12:00 AM


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In our April issue, we presented some tips for selecting a management information system (MIS) geared for midsize operations as well as some recent product introductions. This article highlights new developments for larger printers, a segment served by vendors such as CRC, DiMS!, Globe-Tek, EFI, Primac, Prism, Radius, SAP and Streamline Solutions.

Large printers share many of the same MIS requirements as their midsize counterparts, but most also require computer-assisted scheduling and direct-machine interface (DMI) data-collection systems.

Timing is another consideration. Smaller companies often can install an MIS in a few weeks, provided sufficient time has been allotted for training and building databases. Larger companies, particularly multiplant operations or users that require extensive customization, may require months for full MIS implementation. Here's a typical scenario:

  • Month one: Gather data, build initial database and install hardware

  • Month two: Get training, test system(especially estimating)

  • Month three: Initiate installation with internal training; build startup database with work in process, inventory and accounting balances

  • Month four: Do parallel testing, if required.

According to Consultware (Pembroke, MA), scheduling usually isn't implemented until two to four months after a system goes live, because users must get comfortable with estimating, shop floor and job-ticketing modules first. (See “The shocking truth about scheduling,” Oct. 2003.)

Proactive approach to JDF

Although many pundits consider MIS integral to succeed with end-to-end computer-integrated manufacturing, many printers apparently lack a business management system or have opted to create their own. According to EFI (Foster City, CA) data, 53 percent of U.S. printers don't have a third-party MIS. The vendor claims bragging rights for 35 percent of the U.S. MIS installed base — 5,800 establishments are said to use Hagen, PSI, Logic or PrintSmith.

Most MIS vendors are taking a proactive approach to JDF. At Graph Expo, for example, Prism (Plymouth, MA) will demonstrate JDF integration for its PrismWIN MIS as well as its QTMS iQ DMI. Prism is currently beta testing the JDF link with Creo Prinergy and Heidelberg Prinect products and is in advanced discussions with other prepress, press and postpress manufacturers about prospective customer installations.

EFI lets current Hagen users add JDF functionality to their MIS with upgrade “connector” options. EFI is currently working with Komori, MAN Roland and other vendors to finalize JDF connectivity for its Logic MIS.

Legacy equipment can be modernized by adding EFI Auto-Count. Its DMI sensors, combined with data-collection hardware and software, let users monitor speeds and feeds as well as waste data.

E-mail triggers, invoicing options

Hagen 8.0 is said to be EFI's most significant product upgrade in three years. EFI Hagen OA is an enterprise-level MIS solution for printing operations ranging from small commercial printers to multi-plants. EFI Hagen has high-end applications for estimating, job management, scheduling, purchasing, inventory and fulfillment.

Hagen OA's new communication tools include external e-mail functions and special e-mail triggers. Job-management module improvements include a job “ship to” function with a more intuitive user interface, the ability to identify multiple product versions, and the flexibility to control several types of billable and non-billable shipments. Users can also track freight liabilities and post freight costs directly.

The accounts-receivable module has new invoicing functionality utilizing summary and detail invoice line processing. Some new productivity enhancing features include automated routines for creating credit memos; a copy routine for “contract” invoices; a new invoice batch print routine; and an automated sales tax option.

Revision 8.0 includes enhancements to Hagen OA Fulfillment including an automated backorder release program and automatic calculation of fulfillment storage and handling charges.

The system administration module's core functions now include taxability options — users can import sales tax information from CCH tax tables.

Add-on scheduling and fulfillment modules

EFI's PrintFlow is an add-on module for Logic SQL, EFI PSI and Hagen that combines weak-link analysis with dynamic scheduling. Users can instantly see how a single change will affect the whole plant. Version 4.0 reportedly lets users easily display and organize data on Gantt charts. Cost centers can be rearranged, re-sized, filtered and colored individually. Multiple layouts can be saved and filters can be applied to focus on a single job or form.

Users can now schedule in multiple steps, allowing job scheduling in different phases. Multi-step scheduling lets users schedule known bottleneck cost centers first and less critical cost centers later, or to use combination cost centers.

PrinterSite Fulfillment is a Web-based, client-facing add-on module for EFI's Hagen, Logic and PSI systems. Users can order, track and maintain finished good inventories from their desktops. A customizable Web storefront lets clients check inventory levels, place and track orders, and review proofs for print-on-demand items. As orders are placed and new work is produced, inventory updates from the MIS are reflected automatically in the online product catalog. See www.efi.com.

Simplifying complex transactions

DiMS! (Lisle, IL) offers a Web-enabled, Oracle-based software package for large printing and packaging companies with multiple plants and mixed printing environments. At Drupa, the company highlighted DiMS! 640's extended enterprise functionality.

The new release reportedly simplifies the management of complex financial transactions across organizations. A new setup table lets users link profit centers, company profiles and financial companies to each other. In multifaceted transactions involving multiple plants, contact persons, shipping addresses or inventory items (such as changes in stock quantities or prices), the appropriate information will be extracted and linked to the relevant profit center. Profit and loss sheets can be split for several profit centers within one company.

DiMS!'s contract invoicing functionality allows fixed price ranges to be linked to product components, semi-products or end products, according to contractual requirements. When generating the invoice, users can select those components and products for which pricing contracts are applicable, and their relevant quantities, after which the agreed upon contract prices are calculated automatically. During billing, users also can generate an invoice appendix (or contract invoice) containing elements from the contract, agreed prices and validity periods for easy reference and quick retrieval of terms.

An Estimation desktop tool manages complex alternative estimates, including sales prices in a project. It enables the user to make summaries of the cost kinds. Users can view the price-building process in several ways, in addition to determining the sales price, which can be saved in the database.

For quicker access, users can selectively add, remove and manage favorite orders, relations, etc. Favorite-enabled modules include:

  • Project, estimate, quote
  • Order, periodic orders, finished products
  • Relation, CRM, complaints
  • Purchase, stock
  • Invoice, cost accounting.

DiMS! also has added a papiNet interface and supports versions 1.1 and 2.1 of this standard. See www.dims.net.

EFI connects MIS to Fiery servers

At its recent users conference, EFI (Foster City, CA) showcased integration between its Fiery servers and Hagen, Logic, PSI and PrintSmith management information systems (MISs). The Fiery integration is a two-way exchange between the Fiery print controller and the MIS. EFI technology reportedly facilitates real-time movement of job details, such as job numbers, descriptions, parts information, colors, production counts and start/stop time between the Fiery controller and individual MIS.

Enterprise 32 MIS returns to its MicroInk roots

Prism Group (Plymouth, MA) recently announced some changes concerning its Enterprise MIS.Enterprise, originally developed and owned by MicroInk Systems, has been returned along with its related U.S. business operations (MicroInk/Prism USA), via a purchase and sale instrument to the Andersen family. The Andersens had developed the software and owned the MicroInk business, which marketed and supported the software for 14 years prior to acquisition by the Prism Group in 2001.

Carol Andersen is the CEO and chairman of MicroInk/Prism USA, as well as a member of the Prism Group board of directors. She said the board determined this past fall that it had become too difficult to try to focus on three separate products in four different countries.

“The Enterprise product in particular had focused on a market niche, small to midsized printing companies, that Prism had not been involved in with its products,” said the exec. “This separation was an excellent result for both parties, as it will allow us to focus entirely on the markets that are specific to our development strategies.”

The MicroInk/Prism USA business will be renamed Enterprise Print Management Solutions. Prism has been appointed as a reseller for the Enterprise product in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The entire Enterprise staff has remained intact. See www.entpms.com.

Prism will remain in the U.S. as Prism USA Holdings Inc. Leland Morgan has been appointed general manager for the U.S. business unit.

MIS Tidbits

  • Streamline Solutions' software packages reportedly are in use at more than 120 plants in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Modules include estimating, inventory control, customer support, purchasing, factory scheduling, postage and all areas of financial accounting. The next PrintStream Users Group (PSUG) meeting is slated for Sept. 16-18 in Palo Alto, CA. See www.psug.org.

  • PRIMAC reportedly has more than 100 installations managing over 200 plants, including commercial web and sheetfed publication, free standing insert, book, roll label, flexographic packaging, folding carton, business forms, screen and large in-plant printers. The 2004 PRIMAC User Group (PUG) Conference will be held Oct. 25-28 at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, FL. See www.pugweb.com.

  • Greenville Printing (Greenville, MI), will implement CRC's THE System. Modules will include THE System's Commercial Estimating, Sales Analysis and Raw Material Inventory as well as CRC's core accounting package. See www.crcinfosys.com.