The process of getting your Print MIS into a “trusted state” can be difficult, but the effort is well worth it. Printers who 100% trust the data in their Print MIS move faster and are more profitable than those who are constantly questioning the data.
“We never updated the manufacturing specifications for our presses when we migrated from Print MIS #1 to Print MIS #2 15 years ago because we were used to seeing the data in a certain way. So we’ve been handicapping our estimates ever since.”
This is a real quote. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this quote. This is a hard quote to start writing about. I’m going to resist my fast twitch reaction to this quote and first explain why it happens. People are busy, and people are under pressure to deliver on the immediate emergencies of getting estimates and jobs out the door for the customer. People get “comfortable” with software performing in a certain way, especially software they use everyday to accomplish their work. With that perspective you can see why a person working in a very busy estimating department at a printer who is going through another Print MIS transition might say they want to not update the press manufacturing specifications again—keep handicapping the estimates moving forward. It’s important to understand their suggestion from their perspective; now it’s time for leadership to step in and make the right decision.
The print estimating process can be the fulcrum on which the profitability of your entire print business rests. I would venture to guess that the best-run estimating departments in the print industry are inside the most profitable printers.
What does a great estimating department do?
They produce accurate estimates based on trusted data—FAST.
There is no guessing, there is no handicapping, there is no “we always have to add more in this area because the calculation for this press time is off by 20% when we run this kind of stock.” If you have a bunch of “we always have to…” scenarios being used every day in your estimating department, you are slow, inaccurate, and are not basing your estimates on trusted data. If you follow that logic, you are also probably not running one of the most profitable print businesses in the industry.
Trusted data is not simple to get at; it takes work. It takes detailed work to look at your presses and make sure you have the math right. It takes concentrated thinking by the team to come up with an agreed upon cost based on accurate specifications. This kind of thinking is hard to squeeze into a day that is interrupt driven. You can’t think about this in the ten minute breaks you get between production emergencies. This is one of the reasons Print MIS implementations drag on far too long and produce less than optimal returns on the investment. The busy print manufacturing plant is a difficult place to do concentrated and uninterrupted thinking.
The obvious advantages of making the time to get your Print MIS into a state of “trusted system of record” is that you basically do this upfront work so that you remove many minutes from every single estimate and greatly increase their accuracy. You also move the intellectual property (your business expertise) from the humans into the system. When the Print MIS is the holder of the intellectual property, your business doesn’t stop when an estimator gets sick. When your estimating team is holding all the “we always exceptions to estimating…” you can’t do business without them. When the Print MIS is accurate because it’s based on trusted data, you can do business as long as that Print MIS is running. The other advantage of getting to a “trusted data” state is that the reports coming out of your Print MIS are actually accurate without any adjustments.
The process can be painful. There usually is disagreement about costs. The answers aren’t obvious; it requires discussion and then there is resistance to making decisions because people are worried about being wrong. Funny thing is that we accept making human-based decisions every day where we’re making mistakes all the time, yet we resist codifying a decision in software that will prevent a lot of labor and a lot of mistakes. It’s easy to recognize the resistance; these tasks get talked about but not done. These tasks linger. Then these tasks get ignored and the Print MIS implementation goes forth with out-of-date, inaccurate data because there is business pressure to launch. The transition of Print MIS solution is the optimal time to do this; if you miss this window, it won’t get done.
Your Print MIS should be the trusted system of record for your business. When every employee in your business trusts the data in the Print MIS, real magic happens. We’ve seen it. The business transforms because now there is alignment around one version of the truth. With one version of the truth that is persistent (doesn’t retire, doesn’t get sick, doesn’t go on paternity leave)—you are able to scale your business profitably.