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Commentary & Analysis

Make Data-Driven Business Decisions with Your Print MIS

Your business generates a lot of data; your Print MIS should be the system of record for that data. The data should drive your business decisions based on meaningful metrics/key performance indicators (KPIs). Making data a part of your culture will make you a better leader and help your staff understand how their daily actions impact the business.

By Jane Mugford
Published: August 15, 2014

The best return on your Print MIS investment is without a doubt the meaningful metrics you can draw from it. Data will enable you to run your business more strategically. Metrics should be relied upon in multiple areas to take a regular pulse check on how you are doing and also to set goals and targets that everyone can be engaged in achieving. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) should be second nature in your environment. So often, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day that the opportunity for mining this intelligent data gets overlooked. Data is so important for so many reasons some obvious, some not. Here are a few reasons why it is so critical to make data a part of your culture:

  1. The obvious usefulness of metrics is to look at sales trends monthly, quarterly and annually. The less obvious is to look at ‘in the moment’ real-time data that lets you see how your volume and revenue is tracking this month so you can very accurately predict your month revenue before you close the month. Think of the opportunities that gives you. On the 15th of the month you can predict that your sales are going to come in 15% under budget. This gives you ample time to run a sale, push your sales team hard to close deals a week earlier than planned and so on. Finding out your sales were 15% down on the 15th day of the following month gives you no time to do anything except be disappointed and frustrated with those results.
  2. Remove the ‘panic button’ method of running your business. Whether you call this running the business by “water cooler conversation”, emotional reactions, or commentary based on what you hear your competitors are doing better than you, it easily happens without good data. This method of management is very reactive. Without relevant and useful metrics, it is hard not to let these negative forces impact decisions you may make on how you run and manage your print operation. If this information is accurate, it might be a good decision to lower a price, give production a hard time on their poor quality output or go in to panic mode that your business is in decline. However, if the information is not accurate, you are letting ‘gut reactions’ run your business which can be very dangerous. Good metrics might just tell you those emotional reactions were incorrect – by a long shot. Perhaps the metrics tell you that you have ‘won’ estimate/quote rate of 87.5%, a quality rating of 94.6% and sales are up 8% over the same time last year – these facts can give a much different view than the loud opinions that might be circulating. One other thing good data does is over time, it helps to balance out the water cooler information. As an example, without any data, the conversation from sales might be “production has been screwing up every job lately”. With good data that has been publicly communicated, the conversation might change to “production messed up my job for ABC Company yesterday”. That is a much different and less inflammatory statement – and probably closer to the truth.
  3. Make strategic business decisions – ALL THE TIME. I’m sure you make strategic business decisions. You really couldn’t have survived the last 6 years in this industry without some smart and key business decisions that let you survive in the competitive marketplace through the recession. However, without data that can help you be even more forward-thinking, I bet you aren’t making as many analytical-based decisions as you could. Some overlooked opportunities for decisions that can be based ON data include:

    • The decision to replace production equipment. Your production manager has been telling you for months that she wants to replace the cutter but you aren’t convinced. You decide to pull data from your Print MIS to see if there is any merit to this. You find out that the machine driven rework in the last 3 months has spiked, and that 68% of it is a result of cutter issues. That makes it a pretty strategic decision to replace the cutter now and not hold out for another 3 months until year end.
    • Staffing decisions. That’s right – using the Print MIS to carefully evaluate and make decisions on your full-time equivalent (FTE) head count. After all, isn’t that one of the primary reasons you invested in your Print MIS? You’ve had good data out of your Print MIS for a couple of years and you have the benefit of trends. You can see that your business always spikes the third week of September and then sharply drops off the third week of November. You can make seasonal contract hires based on this. Plan to bring them in for peak and plan to scale them back at the end of the peak. This might be the most critical cost controlling management task for maintaining your businesses overall health. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If you staff for peaks and keep people around – overtime you build a less effective workforce. Applying the appropriate amount of labor is a science that requires accurate, timely, and reliable data. Also a valuable KPI is revenue per employee per month. In other words, what is your expected revenue per FTE? Set that as a target and work with your production management team and tell them that our target is $X/month/employee. If that number is exceeded and staff is feeling the pinch, it will make sense that you are willing to add an additional resource. However, not exceeding that will result in the need to cut back. Involving your production management in this will make them more engaged and willing to work with you on head count.
    • Production shifts. Some facilities run one shift and some run 24/7. You really should be using the data from your Print MIS to help you evaluate how you want to run your production environment. A productivity analysis by shift is a very useful KPI. One disclaimer here – productivity on the day shift and productivity on the night shift shouldn’t be expected to match. That’s not necessarily fair; it can be like comparing apples to oranges (i.e. maybe the complex jobs get ‘saved’ for the night shift and surely the day shift entertains a lot more business interruptions). However, you want to get a sense of how productive your shifts are for the type of work they are doing. Perhaps you find that your night shift during the week is very productive and they churn out the volume big time. However, your weekend day shift is only as 20% productive as compared to the weekday night shift when the workload is similar. If it’s a case of the weekend shift just not having the volume of work available to them, then perhaps it’s worthwhile considering closing the weekend shift down. If it’s a case of less effective staff, a production staff change might be in order.
  4. Make it fun. That’s right – I said, and meant, make using the data fun. I know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 87%+ of the world’s working population generally don’t like data and the thought of looking at it makes them want to crawl under their desk. For those of us that love data in any form, graphs, spreadsheets, charts, we want you to join the bandwagon. For data to really take hold and make your business that much better, you need everybody to be on board. As an example, for production let’s say you set your on-time target as 97% and your rework target as 2%. Tell production that if they meet AND exceed those targets, you will buy pizza for everyone on the last Friday of the month. If they exceed it for 3 months in a row, you will do a draw for a $250 Visa gift card for everyone in production. This makes them feel like they are being rewarded for their efforts and it also helps to build positive team dynamics and gets everyone excited about the data results.

Your Print MIS system is rich in opportunities for your business. Focusing on the metrics it can provide can transition you towards a more strategic and innovative company. Data, when used in a meaningful way, will become your biggest tool in your proverbial toolkit.

Jane Mugford is a contributor at WhatTheyThink’s Print Softwaresection as well the lead print MIS specialist at Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.



By Michael Bradley on Aug 18, 2014

Great article, Jane. Having worked in print finishing for 20 years I can attest to the value of involving the shop floor workers in the daily/monthly numbers and how dramatically such inclusion drives good results. I've been posting a series of articles on ERP/MIS evaluation and how PrintVis with Microsoft Dynamics NAV can provide all the KPIs and other metrics the print businesses need for such decisions as you mention above - whether to invest in new equipment, employees or whether it's time to replace that nearly-broken network of software programs with a single, unifying and dynamic system that can streamline their entire operation. (Readers are encouraged to check out the latest article here: http://cloud.printvis.com/follow-a-roadmap-to-take-your-print-business-forward-with-confidence-2/).

Speaking of fun, wait until you see the new custom report-building feature in the upcoming 2015 release!

Knowing that you are contributing to a successful enterprise does wonders for your motivation as a press operator. Especially when your contributions are recognized. PrintVis puts such intelligence at everyone's fingertips.


By Jane Mugford on Aug 18, 2014

Thanks for your comments Michael. I completely agree, getting different stakeholders from the organization involved in the Print MIS technology does wonders in all areas: improved data, improved compliance and most certainly improved morale. If everyone feels they are playing a part in it and everyone sees that they are contributing to the overall process improvements that are paying off, they are much more likely to be consistently engaged.


By Michael Bradley on Aug 18, 2014



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