How to find the right software for managing your print business?

Investing in new software is always a critical decision. This is especially true for solutions that form the backbone of all business processes. Management Information Systems (MIS), including solutions for end-to-end printing business management such as Keyline, undoubtedly belong in this category – after all, the entire business operation depends on it. 

The challenge of digital transformation 

MIS has gotten very important as the printing industry becomes increasingly digitized. In the past, IT was typically no more than a necessary evil for print businesses; today it is an important prerequisite for a sustainable business. 

As for any business, it is also crucial for printing companies to be clear about how they want to master the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of their digital transformation.

 Aligning software with business strategy

When evaluating software, its functionality must conform to the company’s goals. The application must not only meet current requirements, it must also reflect the company’s future strategy. This can include, for example:

  •  the launch of an online business

  • the extensive automation of the production processes

  • the interlinking of several locations

  • digital collaboration with partners such as finishers

  • moving processes to the cloud, for example, to ensure easy scalability

  • hosting corporate printing portals for customers

A holistic approach is essential

Hosting printing portals was the challenge for digital printing company Longo Deutschland in Augsburg, Germany. Longo’s team operates portals for 30 customers through which they can order a wide variety of print products online. “The print runs are getting shorter and shorter. Sometimes just a single copy is ordered. Such orders cannot be handled economically without the highest possible degree of automation,” said Longo Managing Director Helfried Prünster.
 
The existing system was too slow to keep up and manual entries required a high amount of effort. Moreover, the entire value chain, from order acceptance, production and further processing to logistics and shipping, could not be mapped.
 
Although Longo Deutschland was not initially focused on a cloud-based solution, the printing company was excited about Keyline’s general approach.
 
The situation was different at Schätzl Druck & Medien GmbH in Donauwörth, Germany. The company already had a locally installed MIS and had been processing large parts of its production processes in the cloud for some time. But Managing Director Ulrich Schätzl wanted to bring all of the company’s business and production processes into the cloud.
 
“We were looking for a solution that follows the best-of-breed approach: software with an open architecture that allows us to integrate it very easily with our existing and future environment,” Schätzl explained. Such an application focuses on a specific area. In the case of Keyline, it’s print business management in a holistic manner. Keyline works flexibly with specialized programs or even machines, takes data from them, interprets it and controls further processes.
 
Schätzl is pleased about another advantage of a cloud-based solution: It can be scaled without having to invest in additional hardware.

Test it “live” straight away

The goals of introducing new software vary from company to company. Once the requirements for the new solution have been determined, the short-listed applications can be tested.
 
During the evaluation period, it is advantageous to use the software immediately with full functionality under live conditions, so to speak, as a digital twin of the current environment. This is the only way to test the suitability of an application for a company’s individual needs.
 
This is where cloud-based software has a clear advantage over applications installed on site, which are also often very complex. With a cloud-based solution, the company simply creates an account and the full range of features is available instantly. 

Testing the system under live conditions allows to immediately assess the application and the benefits of the software in day-to-day operation. "With Keyline, we had a real ‘wow’ effect,” Helfried Prünster of Longo Germany remembers. “After only two days we had functioning processes. Keyline is really easy to use.” 

Put maintenance and support to the acid test

The evaluation period is also an opportunity to consider whether additional modules must be purchased for specific requirements, increasing the costs of the system. The intervals and costs for updates should also be clarified. Finally, you should observe how the developer responds to questions or problems you experience during – after all, the success of your entire order-processing system, from calculation to production and delivery, will stand or fall with this software.