The Other Shop Software
Tools for business and print management
It tends to get far too little attention at shows like ISA and SGIA, and its slice of the pie chart is equally small when it comes to receiving publicity in print. You could easily make the argument that it is the Rodney Dangerfield of the print shop.
We’re talking, of course, about business and management software. The right such software can make your shop not only an efficiency demon but also a more profitable one—helping to ensure smooth workflow, monitor inventory levels, schedule jobs, handle purchasing, and more. And it typically allows you to do so in an intuitive manner—and with as little hardcopy paperwork as possible.
The list that follows is our annual look at business-management software. This year, we’ve also added another software type to the group: print management tools—software that is not a RIP but does address production or workflow efficiencies. Keep in mind that we’ve strived to include only tools that are geared toward print providers (not generic business software); nor are we including software that is primarily focused upon proofing, PDF, asset management, or variable data (although some of the tools in this list do possess some of these features).
Activity Advantage allows users to create estimates and work orders; manage inventory, vendors, and ordering information; track jobs; generate accounting and production reports; and track customer contacts and notes. E-Advantage meshes the Activity database with online business capabilities, allowing customers to approve files online and view orders, order status, estimates, and payment history. With Shop Floor, users can track jobs through production, create time and productivity reports, and schedule jobs.
Avanti Computer Systems
Avanti’s Graphic Arts Management System is designed for digital wide-format shops as well as commercial and in-plant print facilities. The system’s standard modules include estimating (including a “demand estimating” option for demand and specialty print shops); order entry; job costing and tracking; scheduling; inventory control; barcoding; shipping; fulfillment; shop-floor data collection; purchasing, invoicing, point-of-sale, and accounting integration; and JDF integration with plug-and-play or custom-integration options.
CiberQuote 2.0 is a quotation system for sign making. It allows for quick generation of quotations; materials specification; billable works-time specs (design, printing, cutting, assembly, etc.); payment methods indication; customizable print-quote formatting; and more. A database manager is included; advanced retrieval of past quotes is possible.
Express PrintShop for digital print operations connects multiple printers in a mini-cluster; it also supports load balancing, advanced job queues, bi-directional communication to the printing device, and optional variable-data printing.
CRC Information Systems
Nucleus strikes a balance between estimating, production, inventory, accounting, e-commerce solutions, and customer-relationship management. The newest version of Nucleus has a streamlined menu interface as well as new dashboard widgets. Its Web-based, e-commerce software allows users to provide clients with 24/7 customer service. A browser-based, customer-relations module gives users a 360-degree view of customer interactions, sales opportunities, and buying patterns.
Cut-Estimator software allows print providers to predict the cost of cutting/routing projects. The software utilizes material-specific database values to define cutting/routing methods, speeds, and tooling requirements specifically for the cutter/router used. Regardless of project quantity, material type, printing method, or cutting/routing method, Cut-Estimator allows users to quickly generate a project cost-estimate sheet. Specific project data is entered, and the software converts the information and gives a precise cost, sales price, and number of work hours needed for that project.
Cyrious Control offers Windows-based, customizable business-management systems designed for the sign, graphics, and printing industries. The software includes tools for quoting, order entry, tracking, shipping, accounting, marketing, sales management, and more. The company has recently added a Billboard Lease module, to automate the process of scheduling and billing of billboard leases; in addition, it has added a Textiles Printing and Work Order tool for direct-to-garment and screen printers.
DiMS! business-management software streamlines and automates a range of administrative and printing processes. The Web-enabled software features end-to-end integration (including estimating, scheduling, purchasing, production, inventory, shipping, and accounting processes), one-time input of data, multi-currency and multi-language capabilities, product-focused business templates, real-time data collection, and JDF compliance.
PrintSmith is a print-shop management solution designed for small, commercial print shops as well as companies with on-demand and digital environments. Users can create pricing systems, stock-order reports, estimates, invoices, quote letters, and account statements. It also tracks account histories and statements, estimate histories, job tickets, work-in-progress reports, and customer account information. PrintSmith offers a computer-based scheduling module, a paper calculator, an import-stock catalog, an update-prices feature, a pending-documents feature, and daily close-out reports. Optional software utilities and add-ons include PrintSmith Site, an e-commerce solution that makes it easier for customers to order and receive estimates and transmit print jobs online; PrintSmith Multi-User; PrintSmith Copy Shop; PrintSmith Portable; and PrintSmith Scheduler. The company recently introduced PrintSmith Sign, specifically for print and sign providers (see December, pg. 20).
Other EFI print-management solutions include PrintFlow, a dynamic scheduling tool, and Pace, a Web-based, print-management solution comprising modules including e-commerce; estimating; production (job control, purchasing, inventory, job costing, data collection, and job-history tools); accounting; a customization toolkit with elements such as user-defined forms and notifications; and a PaceConnect module, allowing the system to integrate with various industry programs for online order processing and production management. EFI also offers various Web-to-print solutions.
Enterprise Print Management Solutions
Designed for small to medium-sized printing companies, Enterprise 32 is a PC-based, scalable, print-management system. Modules include data collection, invoicing, purchasing, financials, inventory control, job costing, scheduling, finished-goods inventory, and estimating/order entry; users can also create custom reports. An Accounting Suite of modules (receivables, payables, a general ledger, and a cash manager) is available. Enterprise.net, a Web-based suite that manages both internal and external e-commerce activities, allows customers to request quotes, place orders, track orders, view status of finished-goods inventory, and view images of an order in PDF format.
SignUp is a RIP-independent nesting application designed to efficiently match graphic designs with the available substrate. It nests jobs based on size, shape, and ordered quantities, placing designs as tightly as possible onto the substrate, minimizing waste and production costs. SignUp can accept jobs from a variety of design and publishing applications; the program delivers a PDF file to the selected printer or press, and can simultaneously send finishing instructions to any selected machine as well (such as a cutting table). Also available is SignUp Auto, an automatic nesting solution designed for companies that wish to more completely operate their workflows. It offers the ability to understand and process XML and JDF files as prepress input; nesting and tiling; and complete workflow automation.
Estimator is a print-estimating and management software designed for wide-format operations as well as other digital and commercial presses. Standard reports are: Estimate, Job Ticket, Internal Detailed Costs and Profit, Paper and Services POs, Workflow Production Scheduling Job Locator, and Invoice and Shipping Labels. Also available are: Networking Custom Report Writer, ODBC (to connect to other existing management tools), Data Mining with detailed queries, and Web applications for remote access and job estimates.
Franklin Estimating Systems
DataManager offers real-time tracking of job time, cost, material, and labor, as well as employee and sales tracking and management. Estimator generates detailed estimates, job tickets, invoices, and corresponding reports.
Accounting adds accounts receivable and payable, sales and purchase orders, inventory, and payroll functions.
InView centers around a contact manager featuring in-depth searching capabilities, Internet links, and multiple viewing modes. The software can also create, print, and store invoices, estimates, and job and budget reports. In addition, InView features accounting, scheduling, and correspondence functions.
The Inca Print Run Controller (PRC)
software module, designed to run on a variety of Inca machines, lets users automate the scheduling and collation of versioned jobs in addition to reducing operator error and post-print collation requirements. PRC also can assist in the production of orders incorporating different sizes or languages. The software can cut job changeover times with its ability to RIP once/output once or RIP once/output several times. Job scheduling can be managed in the studio before entering the shop. It is also fully compliant with PPML 2.10.
TQT software utilizes a process-based approach designed to be unique to each client’s individual business model. Created for custom-manufacturing companies, including those in signage and graphics arts, the software allows users to build a database of sales leads and customers; create job quotes, production schedules, invoices, and accounting reports; generate and track job tickets; and customize automatic alerts.
Meta Communications’ Workgroups 2010 is a collaborative process and productivity management software suite for marketing, creative design, packaging, and prepress workgroups. It comprises four main modules: Virtual Ticket (for project and workflow management), Approval Manager (for document review and approval), Digital Storage Manager (for storage management), and Job Manager (for financial productivity management). This latest version includes a Document Organizer and an optional browser-based proofing tool. The company recently released Spark!, a browser-based tool designed to facilitate collaboration between content creators and clients.
PrintMetryx JobView is a tool for tracking printing costs. Each print job contains a thumbnail image, detailed information about the print job, and costs for ink and media; users can also track production trends. PrintMetryx JobView is available at no cost with a subscription to Onyx Links service option plus the latest version of Onyx RIP software version 7.3.2 packages. PrintMetryx In-House is a Web-based subscription service designed to show the value of in-house printing by delivering proof of production and reports on printing costs. The PrintMetryx In-House visual dashboards display work and cost information, and users can quickly find a job and view details.
Onyx also offers PrepEdge Pro and PrepEdge. PrepEdge Pro v2.1 addresses all job-preparation issues prior to print processing and includes features specific to large-format prep such as: one-click grommet placement; size, crop, and positioning tools; bleed and fold tools; complex tiling and template tools; fast contour-cut path generation; and a raster image-to-vector tool. The software also has built-in color-correction and management tools as well as a professional PDF editor. PrepEdge is an entry-level, job-preparation tool developed specifically for shops without access—or with limited access—to a professional designer to prepare print jobs.
MyOrderDesk is an online, order-flow system for print providers. At its core, the program is an order-entry, file-transfer, ftp-server, and job-status system that also can work with a back-end costing system to provide customers with online proofing and re-order capabilities.
Prestige Scheduler graphically tracks each job through to its completion and warns about inventory shortages in advance. The program can stand alone or connect with other production-order and shop-floor systems and can be used in monitor mode or as a Web browser. Changes can be made to the offline design board, allowing users to add new jobs or adjust the schedule without taking the active board down.
Track-it time- and job-management software features time management of jobs in production; management of production resources; cumulative-time reporting; automatic creation of job data; and more.
Press-Sense Manager is a print-management system designed for print-on-demand shops as well as small, commercial printers. It merges front-end CRM capabilities with back-end billing and integrates offline business procedures with Web-based front- and back-end systems. It offers complete handling of on-demand workflow—from job entry, estimating, and quoting to ordering, file management, printing, and delivery. iWay is a Web-based, end-to-end, print-on-demand workflow and management solution; key features include enabling users to link media files with other job data; allowing employees to enter and access customer information and manage tasks and follow-ups; automatically adjusting to existing pricing models; improving billing capabilities; and monitoring online communication with customers. Omnium is a comprehensive business-flow tool that automates the customer service, sales, planning, production, shop operation, delivery, ordering, and billing processes.
E Pro Enterprise, a flexible, print-management solution, is designed with a wide spectrum of commercial, digital, and litho print providers in mind. E Pro comprises several modules, including estimating, job production, purchase orders, stock control, scheduling, delivery notes, invoicing, accounts, stock fulfillment, customer and supplier service, CRM, direct-mail marketing, and management reports.
FusionPro is a Web-services solution that automates online ordering, production, fulfillment, and more for print providers and their end users. The Product Suite provides a range of services, including job submission and tracking; development of customizable storefronts and template design; variable data publishing (VDP); mailing list management; automated data management; inventory control; and integration with production workflow.
Printer’s Software offers eight print-management solutions designed for commercial and in-plant printers of various sizes that can stand alone or be fully integrated in any combination. Available modules include: Estimate, Job Control, Schedule, Shopnet (allows users to capture production data in real time), Accounting, Inventory/POs, eCommerce, and Finished Goods.
Visual printLeader is a PC-based, modular, print-management solution designed for small to mid-size printing, copying, and graphic-arts businesses. Modules include pricing, order entry, accounts receivable, accounts payable, system manager, purchase order, bank reconciliation, and customer manager.
PrintPoint 5.1 is a customizable, print-management solution designed for small and medium-sized commercial, in-plant, large-format, and digital printers as well as prepress shops. The software can be purchased in either single-user or multi-user systems and includes the following modules: estimating, quoting, automatic conversion of estimates to jobs, job tickets, job costing and tracking, data collection, purchase orders, shipping, invoicing, and customer history.
PrintStar’s Print Management Solution allows users to create a customer-contact database; track inventory, paper supplies, job costs, and profitability; generate estimates; assign, schedule, and track jobs; create purchase orders and invoices; and warehouse, track, and ship finished goods. Customers also can access jobs online, and users can attach, link to, and retrieve unlimited documents and e-files to the customer. Version 3.8 also features improved estimating, the ability to soft proof online, a view of estimates and jobs linked to a customer, and automated proof and shipping e-mail notifications to customers. A wide-format module is available.
Prism Win has a Sales Order Processing module that gives printer and staff automated control throughout every stage of the sale, including information on stock levels, requirements analysis, order status, and delivery dates. The Jobbing feature automatically converts successful quotes into active jobs, producing work tickets and job folders with bar-coded job IDs. Jobs can also be created by copying old jobs, parts of old jobs, or using templates. It can monitor deadlines and considers job prerequisites such as proof OKs, available plates, available shifts, and more. PrismWin SBE offers the same integrated modular functionality, scaled back to meet the needs of the smaller print business.
Sign Tracker is a “pay as you go” online management system at sign.com for sign shops and graphics producers. It allows for customer management, estimating, accounting, inventory, project management, sales, scheduling, designing,
The latest version of OnSite features improved navigation tools; easier tracking of shipped orders; faster processing of Web orders into data-entry modules; expanded capabilities to generate custom reports, exports, and forms; faster location of information through its new Saved-Finds feature; and faster storage of digital documents or design files with a new attachment feature for embedding computer files for transactions performed.
Printer’s Plan allows users to prepare estimates, enter orders, schedule jobs, track job times, create invoices, and collect receivables. The software also offers an e-business solution so that customers can place orders, request quotes, proof artwork, send and receive files, track jobs, and view job histories online.
PrintStream is a customizable business-management solution featuring dozens of fully integrated modules that can be purchased together or separately, including estimating, fulfillment, inventory, scheduling, purchasing, job costing, shop-floor data capture, production tracking, customer support, and job-creation.
The latest version of Wasatch SoftRIP includes the Wasatch Cost Estimator, designed to provide an accurate estimate of a job. Users can estimate costs for media, inks, and any additional post-production charges. Results can be exported to either a database-friendly format or directly to an html Web page.
Many RIPs offer tools that go beyond the pure RIP function, of course, providing production-/workflow-efficiency functions and features similar to some of the tools in the main text. You can find 40 of these third-party RIPs with detailed specs in our current Printer Sourcebook on bigpicture.net (search under “directories” in the main nav bar). We list the companies below with their websites for quick reference (see our main list for other RIP companies as well):
• CadLink: cadlink.com
• Caldera: calderagraphics.com
• ColorBurst: colorburstrip.com
• ColorGate: colorgate.com
• DigiFab: digifab.com
• ErgoSoft: ergosoft.net
• PrintFactory: print-factory.net
• SCP Software: scp.de
• Serendipity: serendipity-software.com.au
• Shiraz Software: shiraz-rip.com
• Valloy: topazrip.com
• Xitron: xitron.com