Taking Care of Business Software
In business and production software, there's no such thing as old reliables. Suppliers tally tell-tale signs an upgrade is in order.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
Lack of integration
A singular, self-contained management tool is the key element of today's efficiency-plus software packages. printCafe's Flexo Products Group Manager Clay Horsley explains a high percentage of printers currently use a mish-mash of spreadsheet estimating, database job entry, and pen and paper to handle job costing/tracking. Capitalizing on the virtues of integrated software, printCafe's redesigned Flexo Quotation System feeds data directly to all modules, including Job Planning, Scheduling, Purchasing, Shipping, and Invoicing.
Inefficient data collection
John Knowlton, executive director, marketing at PRIMAC Systems, points out the limitations of gathering production data on small shop stations with bar code wands. "These devices do a decent job of collecting time and material transactions," he asserts, "but are incapable of feeding online information back to the plant staff." PRIMAC's Shop Floor Information System employs touch screens to collect labor and material information, display online job jackets, and provide inquiries into the schedule, inventory, and other parts of PRIMAC.
Once the data has been collected, ideally it should be utilized as an analytical management tool. Horsley counts the recent adoption of Seagate's Crystal Reports as the primary reporting tool in print management systems an important step forward. He observes, "Without a doubt, the number one request for customization is reports."
Manual data entry
An unmistakable mark of past-its-prime production software, according to MagnaPlan's VP, Marketing Mark Spraggett, is the manual entry of report data into some other system. The human element is prone to creating mistakes, and time lost in manual entry also equals money lost. MagnaPlan's The Planner computer scheduling software operates like a planning board, but can automatically duplicate work (with amendments) or recall it from a library of templates or repeat orders.