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The search for the right MIS
By Alison Stieven-Taylor

In May’s article, “Why bother with MIS? A UK case study”, UK signage and display company, KGK talked about its experience with Optimus dash and how investing in MIS (Management Information Systems) can deliver productivity benefits which filter throughout the company to improve cashflow and performance.

The most significant benefits KGK has realised in the short term is a reduction in quoting time and invoicing daily instead of monthly, which improves cashflow. But it is early days yet for the business and KGK anticipates even greater improvements as they bed the system in.

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Hearing about others’ successes is definitely beneficial in understanding how particular businesses use MIS in their operations, but what are some of the keys questions you need to ask when assessing your own options?

We went ‘shopping’ for a MIS solution for the wide format market. We asked a number of MIS companies to provide information for this feature, however only PRISM and OPTIMUS found time to answer our request. We asked each vendor the same questions, that are designed to help you understand the benefits and to get a feel for what MIS can deliver. Their answers are below.

Q: What MIS product/s do you have for the wide format market? Are there different packages for different sized businesses?

PRISM:  Prism develops and markets Prism WIN for the wide format market. We have installations in digital as well as screen shops. WIN is best suited for mid-sized to large printers.

OPTIMUS: Optimus dash was launched at Ipex 2010 after three years extensive research. Previously Optimus had been designed for offset printing. The company concluded that trying to fit a ‘square peg in a round hole’ was not giving the digital printers the functionality they really needed.

Optimus developed Optimus dash in conjunction with a number of companies in the UK, one being KGK. Since the launch Optimus dash has been very well received by wide format, screen printing and sign printers, and the motto ‘if you can produce it, Optimus dash can manage it’ has been proven in these environments. Equally Optimus dash is able to perform incredibly well in mixed house environments.

Optimus dash is completely scalable from one to 100+ users.

Q: What are the benefits to signage businesses in employing MIS – from a production workflow perspective and also from a business management viewpoint?

PRISM:  The benefits of an MIS, and Prism WIN in particular, is the ability to significantly reduce the time it takes to quote and process orders as well as providing management with exceptions-based, proactive information to drive the highest possible margins and provide the best possible customer service. Prism WIN in particular offers tools to automate the quoting and jobbing process. We call these wizards. The ‘wizards’ can be written for multiple workflows and multiple product types giving printers the ability to eliminate the complexities of wide format quoting and jobbing.

OPTIMUS: Management information is incredibly important. Optimus dash has a wealth of reports and analysis to ensure the business has a complete real time overview of what is happening. This includes the ability to produce fast, accurate and consistent quotations with minimal estimating skills; real time job tracking – giving insight into exactly where the job is in the production process, as well as collecting the costs of the job as it progresses; capturing of all extras that should be billed to the client once the job commences to ensure no charges are missed; and invoicing on a daily basis ensuring the all important cash flow is improved.

Q: How difficult is it to implement MIS into an existing business? Can you just buy a solution off the shelf, or do you need to tailor it to your own business?

PRISM: There are off the shelf solutions and configurable solutions available. Prism WIN is a configurable solution that is tailored to the specific business where it is installed. Implementing an MIS is generally an opportunity to re-engineer business processes for greater profitability and quicker turnaround times.

OPTIMUS: Optimus dash is an off the shelf product and the secret to success is in how the system is set up to cater for the customer’s business and their rules. For example, customer agreed price lists can be input so that when quoting the agreed prices automatically populate the quotation. And generic prices can be input for other customers.  

Q: What does a business need to consider when looking at MIS solutions in terms of data collection?

PRISM:  Data collection can be put into three categories:- (1) a handwritten time sheet that is keyed into the MIS at a later time; (2) computer or keypad terminals on the shop floor where operators key their production information; (3) or the automated collection of shop floor information directly from the equipment. These options can provide various levels of accuracy in data collection and labour saving through automation. Choosing the most appropriate option for data collection is driven by the return on investment (ROI) of cost versus labour savings, and the value of accuracy. Most MIS solutions do not offer automated data collection. Prism WIN has offered this for over 25 years with its Prism QTMS module.

OPTIMUS: Optimus provides data capture of time taken on each job to ensure the costs of production are accurate. Optimus Connect can also collect good/bad quantities produced via a device, which can ‘read’ a pulse or sensor. We would strongly urge anyone considering MIS investment to collect time on each job to ensure accurate costings.

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Alison Stieven-Taylor is the creative director of Reality & Illusion Productions a B2B Media Communications Company. She is also an author, journalist and photographer. To find out more visit: