ASU Enjoys the MIS Advantage
Since implementing a print management system, Arizona State University's Print and Imaging Lab is enjoying lower costs, additional business and much more efficient use of its time.January 2014 By Bob Neubauer
Like many in-plants, Arizona State University's Print & Imaging Lab used a home-grown, Excel-based estimating and job tracking system for many years. Though this eventually migrated to a Google Doc, to give staff better access, it was still cumbersome, and the job list was never completely up to date.
"We had to manually do the billing and then manually enter in the shipping information," remarks Cathy Skoglund, manager of operations and business development. None of the in-plant's various functions—estimating, job submission, invoicing, shipping—were tied together, so rekeying data was a common, time-consuming activity.
When Avanti Systems began testing a new cloud-based MIS solution called Slingshot, tailored to digital print providers, ASU's in-plant eagerly signed up for the project. The shop provided feedback, which Avanti used to tweak its system, before unveiling it at PRINT 13 last fall (where it earned a Must See 'Ems award).
Skoglund was blown away by how much simpler everyday processes became once the shop started using an MIS.
"It's awesome having a database now of our customers," she enthuses. "You don't have to enter in their information every single time." Account numbers and shipping addresses are all stored, for easy retrieval.
The Print & Imaging Lab's job board monitor now shows the exact status of each job, as employees update job information from laptops on the shop floor.
"When customers call, we can immediately tell them what the status is of their job," she says. "We're just able to make better decisions because the information is right at our fingertips."
This is a lesson in-plants everywhere are learning. Print MIS systems can save your in-plant time by ending inefficient, time-wasting processes and letting you concentrate on producing high-quality work for your customers. Most find these systems invaluable.
At ASU's in-plant—which functions mostly as a learning environment for ASU students, who make up 23 of the shop's 25 paid employees—having an MIS that was easy to learn and use was crucial. Slingshot filled that need. It has an intuitive graphical user interface, with built-in intelligence to guide users through the workflow.
"We trained everyone here in about five minutes," she says.
Avanti invested heavily to reduce the level of effort and amount of time required to get the system up and running. Slingshot was built to support multiple lines of business including offset, digital, wide-format, fulfillment, mailing and marketing services, most of which ASU's Print & Imaging Lab provides. Inside its 6,500-square-foot facility the in-plant operates a seven-color HP Indigo 5500 digital color press, a two-color Heidelberg QuickMaster 42, a Halm envelope press, a PSI digital envelope printer and HP Designjet wide-format printers, including a new HP Latex 260. Thanks to Slingshot, Skoglund can quickly see which equipment is available for more work.
"We can drive more print volume without adding more staff," she notes. "It definitely drives down the cost of doing business."
It can also help bring in new business, she points out. She can generate a report showing how much each customer is spending and on which products. So if she sees that one department is not doing any wide-format printing, she can market this to them.
"The reporting is awesome," she says. "That's something I've never had before."
Slingshot captures all of the Print & Imaging Lab's costs, keeping Skoglund aware of the margins so she can price jobs better. She can use this to create reports that show the in-plant's savings compared to outside printers with similar equipment.
"Our costs were 30 percent lower than theirs," she proclaims—a fact she can now back up with a report.
Skoglund particularly enjoys the benefits of Slingshot's cloud-based architecture, which allows her to create estimates while in a customer's office, using a laptop or tablet.
"I no longer need to be tied to my desk in order to manage effectively," she says. "I can run the shop with fewer resources."
The inventory process also has been automated, alerting staff when an order for paper should be placed. And once the shop's existing Bitstream Pageflex iWay online ordering system is linked, Skoglund will be able to monitor all Web-to-print jobs in the Slingshot system, instead of having two separate tracking systems.
Another advantage since adding the MIS is that the in-plant now gets paid faster, she says. Because customers' account information is stored, once a job is delivered, the in-plant can go right into that account to get the funds.
Adding an MIS has certainly made it easier for Skoglund to effectively manage her in-plant.
"It just is an efficient way to run your business," she says. "It's the right way to run your business."