Commentary & Analysis
From MIS, JDF and CIP3 to I-COM
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: January 11, 2007
--- Special Feature From MIS, JDF and CIP3 to I-COM Why Web-to-Print is Important for Your Business By Terry Nagi January 11, 2007 -- The new world of print requires the printer to constantly reduce costs. The entire process of request for estimate, ordering print jobs, scheduling jobs, handing and confirming changes, detailing shipping, mailing, fulfillment actions and outcomes, billing and receipt of fund's, is what this writer refers to I-COM (Internet-Customer Order Management). This designation is much better than the MIS phraseology often used today, because it directs its attention to one of the most important changes in the print automation process. Printers' who adopt I-COM will realize cost savings while their competitors who do not will imply become less competitive and ultimately be viewed as not up-to-date in our computer driven business world. Before much longer, transfer of order information via the Internet will be as common as sending files via PDF is today. If you visited GraphExpo 2006, you probably spent time at the Kodak, Heidleberg and Xerox booths, learning about their digital (as well as traditional) printing technologies and capabilities. Each of these industry giants featured Web-to-Print solutions (utilizing the Internet and customer friendly templates for clients to enter orders resulting in variable, personalized digitally printed materials. Web-to Print, the driving force for personalized digital print, is the first major computer software tool to involve the print customer in an Internet based order entry process. Printers' simply must reduce costs, and one of the last remaining areas for cost reduction is a printers' administrative costs. The reasons for having the customer do more of the administrative work in the entire process of estimate to out-the-door are numerous. Most importantly, printers' simply must reduce costs, and one of the last remaining areas for cost reduction is a printers' administrative costs. It is estimated the cost of preparing an estimate (even with computer estimating) is in excess of $60.00 per estimate. The estimated cost of entering a print order is in excess of $160. The cost for a customer service representative to work with an order and track it thru the plant has not been calculated, but is certainly significant (not only in costs, but also in time). Buyers of print and their administrative staff are quite familiar with utilizing the computer to speed transactions with their vendors, and many prefer a computer communications system versus the previous generation of typed materials and numerous phone calls. Finally today's' fast paced economy, especially in the reduction of time from receipt of test file and graphics to finished print product, simply does not allow for manual operations. Waiting for a sales representative to pick up an order is a costly waste of time. And from a business owner's perspective, it is time that could be better spent prospecting for new clients. A well-executed I-COM solution provides greater accuracy, faster turnaround, lower costs--and higher customer satisfaction. The objective: using an off the shelf I-COM solution, have clients complete as much of the administrative work in the estimating , ordering and order communication process as possible. The result: greater accuracy, faster turnaround, lower costs--and higher customer satisfaction. In addition, by reducing the administrative demands on the printers' internal staff, they now can concentrate on prime customers' print needs and direct their attention to difficult orders. Specific functions that can be performed by the customer can include: * Requests for estimates on new print projects * Request for estimates on previous orders * Entering an order for a previously produced print job * Entering an order for a new print job based information on their original request for estimate * Automated confirmation of the receipt of the order (printer confirmation to customer via the Internet * Scheduling system or manual reply to customers on expected date of delivery * Automated information to customer if the schedule date changes * Internet transmitted requests for changes to order * Automated confirmation by the printer of receipt of changes * Printers' information of date of completion of an order * Information on shipment * If mailed, confirmation of mailing * If fulfillment is involved, confirmation of entry into inventory and current inventory levels * System to release inventory in the fulfillment process and confirmation of shipment, worth links to shipper (ex: FedEx tracking number), and change in inventory levels * Internet invoice from printer to customer * Payment to printers' bank via direct electronic payment, with electronic confirmation of payment from the bank * And more The typical MIS system used by a printer does not provide a capability to perform these functions, as most MIS software is accounting oriented. The typical printing industry MIS system is normally computer based software for a printers' staff to enter requests for estimate, enter orders, provide information on order costs, create sales reports, inventory of paper and consumables reports, typical accounting information, profit and loss statements, balance sheet information, etc. I-COM, integrated to the MIS system, is client focused versus printer focused, and generates information on the fly versus providing historical information. Many of the well established print software companies, which have long provided excellent MIS software to our industry, are also the leaders in creating I-COM software that integrates with a printers' MIS system, and is also user friendly for customers and their computer systems.. The necessity and opportunity in building an I-COM system in a printers' organization will be fully investigated in coming issues of OnDemand Journal to include: 1. The importance of an I-COM system to a printing companies 2. Responses from two of the leading providers of I-COM programs as to how they work and why they are important to a print provider. 3. Real world of experiences of printers implementing I-COM systems. 4. A look at the major providers of I-COM solutions, what they provide and their position in the marketplace. Stay with us we review one of the major change agents in the printing industry.