Product Reviews

Print Management Systems

January 15, 2008

Ever evolving to help printers and converters manage the intricacies of their operations, print management systems continue to improve business and production functions in new and useful ways. Some companies design their own systems, while others employ those designed for label converters. For this feature article we invited six developers of such systems to describe their products and what they offer to the printer.

Print Management Systems

Ever evolving to help printers and converters manage the intricacies of their operations, print management systems continue to improve business and production functions in new and useful ways. Some companies design their own systems, while others employ those designed for label converters. For this feature article we invited six developers of such systems to describe their products and what they offer to the printer.

Tailored Solutions Inc.

Most narrow web label producers are small to medium sized businesses in which virtually every employee has contact with nearly every job. Since most of these businesses do not have a dedicated IT department, they need a computer system that works without the fine touch of a technician or programmer. Recognition of this need for simplicity and reliability is what has made Label Traxx — the popular print business management software for flexographic narrow web printers and converters — the most widely used software package in the industry, according to the founders.

Label Traxx was developed nearly 15 years ago by Ken Meinhardt and Dave Porter, both of whom have continued to enhance the product through the years. Today Label Traxx is a full-featured software package, with the customary modules for estimating, order processing, shipping, purchasing, shop floor data collection and costing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger. But Label Traxx has more than the customary features. It provides customers or employees restricted web browser access to system information, and combined with Microsoft BizTalk server customers’ ERP or MIS systems may be used to place orders directly into the system. Converters with more than one plant can use a feature that tracks and reports the profitability, accounts receivables and other financial aspects of different operations, yet aggregates the information to provide an overall picture of the business.

One feature, added only recently, enables printers to order labelstock directly from within Label Traxx. This dramatically reduces order entry time by connecting the printer’s software system directly with that of the vendor, eliminating double data entry and greatly reducing errors. Order confirmations feed directly back to the system, and a convenient Label Traxx bar coding system automatically adjusts inventory upon receipt of the product. Today, Label Traxx interfaces with Fasson, Raflatac, Green Bay Packaging, MACtac, Spinnaker Coating, Technicote, and Acucote, and connections are being developed with other suppliers.

Version 5.1 of Label Traxx, now being shipped, incorporates a number of new features, including a revised stock products module enabling printers to cost inventory based on either purchase price or production costs. Stock inventory also can be aged, and each product ticket can calculate a gross margin, and track shipments to a specific production run. Also included are a number of new features developed for European customers but potentially useful in North America as well. These include the ability to track and report the cores, liner material, pallets, and other packaging material used for each customer.

Product development at Tailored Solutions, the company behind Label Traxx, is driven by customers, who provide constant input and feedback regarding how they use the software and what they like and dislike. An active user forum also enables these customers to compare notes directly and to assist each other with unusual issues or finding suppliers of hard-to-locate materials.

Computer Productivity Services Inc. (CPS)

All of CPS’s Microsoft Dynamics GP based estimating, production, financial, inventory, personnel, shop floor, job costing, web store, and CRM systems are securely integrated out of the box.
The main priorities of the systems are to enhance customer focus, control and retention; reduce collaborative expenses; and consolidate technology.

Unified communications integrates Microsoft Dynamics GP and CRM for outlook, sales management, marketing management, production, and printer service management scheduling with workflow. Plus there are new integrations with phone systems (Cisco, Avaya), email, instant messaging, voice over internet, cell phones, and personal digital assistants.

Microsoft SharePoint Services enables document workflow through the system by showing approval steps, and the conditions of approval. Approvals are exchanged through the system as tasks in Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft SharePoint Services also supports simultaneous searches for unstructured files or Microsoft Office documents, as well as structured ERP data.

Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services provides reporting with live, refreshable data. Users can define and save any format and zoom back into detail in the system from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Microsoft Word allows end users to create ranges of customer, vendor, employee, or applicant letters with live accounts receivable data and editable templates in seconds.

User defined business alerts can notify (by email/report/message) users when any set of defined conditions are met. It features role based home page with live reminders, tasks, to do lists, quick links, reports, metrics (30-plus graphs), and personalized Microsoft Outlook. All addresses are linked directly to Microsoft Virtual Earth Maps.

All clients now get access to unlimited web based training for all users. UPS Connect shipping software integration can be paid for with UPS CTP funds. Users of the print management system are eligible for 50 percent off Microsoft Dynamics GP user licenses and annual maintenance. CPS’s zero percent financing program has been extremely popular this year.

Radius Solutions Inc.

PECAS Vision is a fully integrated ERP/MIS system developed to manage the complex operating environments of packaging and printing companies worldwide. With more than 30 years of industry experience and development, Radius Solutions has designed PECAS Vision to encompass process management from sales estimating, through to cash receipt. It incorporates industry leading best practices as well as Lean Manufacturing principles.

Specifically designed to address the specialized processes involved in flexible packaging, labels, folding cartons, and commercial print, PECAS Vision offers complete integrated ERP functionality without costly and risky customizations. It is flexible, highly scalable and developed to address the needs of organizations operating in multi-site, multi-currency, multi-language, and multi-product environments.

By providing up-to-the-minute business intelligence within single plant, multi-plant or global operations, PECAS Vision helps the user gain access to critical information for business decisions. Significant continued investment in the product ensures that it remains a leader in capabilities while being founded on the most current, proven, open technology available. PECAS Vision supports best practices for packaging and printing in the following areas:

PECAS Vision Estimating — designed specifically to help streamline and automate estimating processes while helping the user find the best sales price for the company and the customer.

PECAS Vision Order Handling — provides complete flexibility in the sales order to production process to meet the needs of the user’s organization and to allow for the most efficient and cost effective method of production to be found for each job.

PECAS Vision Production Scheduling — designed to streamline and automate the scheduling process — eliminating manual entry, reducing errors and helping production planners generate optimal work schedules for the plant.

PECAS Vision Shop Floor Data Collection — allows shop floor operators to see up-to-date work-to lists and work instructions right on their screen. It allows for schedulers to see potential scheduling conflicts and solve them immediately.

PECAS Vision Procurement and Materials Movement — designed to save time, reduce errors and save money on the procurement of goods for the company and streamline operations and get the right materials to the right place as they are needed for each job.

PECAS Vision Job Costing — meant to automate job costing processes, improve job cost accuracy and enable users to quickly access their total job cost information.

PECAS Vision Financial Management — designed to integrate, automate and streamline core financial and accounting practices and help the organization address financial accounting and budgeting, asset management, costing, payroll, cash and credit management, as well as provide reporting and analysis.

CRC Information Systems Inc.

CRC Information Systems has offered fully integrated business management software solutions to the graphic arts industry since 1983. THE System is a full suite of business management software designed to address the specific needs of the label industry.

At the core of the solution is the Label Estimating module, a comprehensive tool that not only integrates with but also drives the rest of THE System. This powerful decision making tool is capable of calculating the most efficient and cost effective methods of label production by evaluating all feasible choices then presenting the top options to the user. Label Estimating checks die-to-press compatibility, sheeter/perf compatibility and print cylinder compatibility. It can suggest the best press/die combination or users can force their preferences. The Label Estimating module supports multiple printing processes such as flexo, letterpress, screen print, offset, hot stamp, and rotary letterpress. CRC’s solution provides integrated processing of quote requests from sales reps, CSRs or customers via the web, through its decision-making estimating system and quote production into automatic job creation and production of a job jacket. Work orders can include bar codes for simple, accurate entry of data from the shop floor.

The fully integrated Production Scheduling modules include a drag-and-drop scheduling board, automatic alerts related to low stock, open purchase orders, customer changes, and more. THE System also includes Automatic Data Collection for tracking and collecting costs from the shop floor utilizing bar code technology to ensure accuracy and is compatible with touch screen technology for ease of use. Production Scheduling and Automatic Data Collection work with Raw Material Inventory, Roll Inventory and Job Costing to provide a complete tracking and costing solution. CRC is also a member of CIP4 and is committed to providing JDF integration to all of its customers.

A fully integrated suite of financial modules provides the means to seamlessly and effectively manage the financial well-being of the company. Beyond AP, AR and GL, THE System provides Payroll, Bank Reconciliation, Financial Ratios, and 10 other accounting related modules. Time-saving features like the automatic emailing or faxing of invoices to customers are included and full credit card processing is built in.

CRC offers a full suite of web based applications that allow customers to request quotes, create jobs, release finished goods inventory, review account status, and even reprint invoices. Online images can be attached to products allowing customers easy identification of the correct item.

THE System also provides Executive Notification, a module that automatically alerts key individuals within the company of any events they have deemed significant so they can proactively respond.
Advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) features are inherent in the software, including integration with Microsoft Outlook, MapQuest, UPS, and FedEx online, along with the ability to fax or email any relevant documents directly to contacts from within the application.

DiMS! organizing print

DiMS! contains all the functionality in a single software package to fully cover the complete range of management, administrative, converting and printing processes. Eliminating the need to integrate multiple servers or employ add-ons, DiMS! streamlines and automates key business processes across the enterprise, from end to end. By allowing printers to harness valuable information on a centralized, web enabled database, DiMS! provides the ability to link internal information systems, instantaneously track production data and measure results, and integrate operations with key clients and suppliers.

• End-to-end integration — From estimating to planning and scheduling, pre-press to production, shipping to invoicing and financials.

• Web enabled — A single system, accessible over the web anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

• Multi-plant solution — Integrates processes internally and across the entire enterprise.

• One-time input of data — Customer, job and all material information is only entered once, dramatically decreasing the chance for error.

• State-of-the-art software — By making use of cutting-edge technologies, DiMS! provides advanced tools to manage businesses.

• Multi-currency and multi-language capabilities — A truly global ERP solution enabling clear communication of data across every location.

• Label business templates to match the business — Product-focused templates significantly decrease setup times, allowing for greater efficiency while minimizing rollout times.

• Integrated with Microsoft Office products such as Word and Excel — Exports data and management reports to programs users are already familiar with, thereby saving training costs.

• Real-time data collection — DiMS! connects directly to production (presses, rewinders) equipment meaning you always have current tracking and planning data, which makes it possible to act quickly and accurately.

• Valuable reporting capabilities — Solid management reporting allows ease when making strategic decisions.

• Prepared for interfacing — Built on an open architecture, DiMS! is JDF-compliant and bridges the communication gap between prepress, production and post-press through the use of standard XML language. Thus, DiMS! users can be assured of integration with new and existing systems.

• Optimized supply chain management — Enables cost effective stock control, decreasing paper, raw materials and finished goods inventory and eliminating costly waste.

Developed in collaboration with label converters who are leaders in the industry, DiMS! incorporates the elements of label printing (including product specifications, production requirements, stock control, inventory management issues, etc.) in order to streamline processes and improve companies’ efficiencies.

EFI Inc.

PSI Flexo is the name of the print MIS solution developed and marketed by EFI. The product and services portfolio of EFI includes end-to-end systems that help the user manage the entire process from idea to delivery.

EFI is a world leader in digital imaging and print management solutions for commercial and enterprise printing. Our servers alone are installed in over one million locations worldwide. Our print management solutions are used by more than 8,000 printing and publishing companies.

PSI Flexo combines Windows based print management technology with powerful print management tools built from the ground up for flexography. PSI Flexo offers the information gathering power of Crystal Reports, providing the user with hundreds of report templates and the tools to customize them to meet every need.

Users add functionality with EFI’s suite of add-on modules. These fully integrated, interconnected add-on modules enable a seamless flow of data throughout the printing operation, connecting key people and processes, from sales to the shop floor. They include:

• PrintFlow. The scheduling application operates on a network linked directly to your management system, allowing the user to identify bottlenecks, minimize downtime, reduce change over time and ensure the best possible delivery schedule.

• Auto-Count: The shop floor data collection module links the EFI print management system directly to the presses to eliminate manual processes and to provide production data directly from the pressroom and finishing.

• PrinterSite Internal: This module gives salespeople, CSRs and estimators a web based portal where they can request quotes, review and submit quotes, place and monitor orders, review job history, and re-order.

• PrinterSite Fulfillment is an internet based, client-facing fulfillment desktop designed to assist customers and the printer’s staff with managing finished goods inventories.

In addition to its estimating, job planning, job costing, purchasing, and inventory management capabilities, PSI Flexo offers full integration with Macola, a leading accounting industry package from Exact Software. Macola provides the efficiency, flexibility and reporting power needed to meet the accounting demands of print management, and PSI blends it with high performance print management.
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