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Systemizing your print business part 5 –  How to digitize your Systems using software technology

Amanda Newman
15/04/22 11:14

In the last article, we talked about the cycle of Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration and what’s involved in each step. For our last article of the Systemization series, we’re going to tell you about how using technology to automate manual Processes and Procedures is one of the best ways to carry out the innovation part of continuous improvement.

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Let’s take the sales process as an example here. You could automate many sales processes by investing in a modern CRM application that allows you to automatically track leads and clients and communicate regularly with both. They will also let you create automated workflows triggered by events that take place in your CRM. For example, when a contact’s lifecycle is updated to indicate they are now a customer, it can trigger a sequence of events that includes: sending an email to the new customer, updating segmented marketing lists, or creating new clients folders on Google Drive.

Connecting your System together through automation

Once you’ve digitized your Processes using technology, you can connect them together to save even more time. Many software applications offer some form of integration these days, either built into the application, through an API or via third party middleware such as Zapier or automate.io. So the technology is definitely out there to achieve this!

Integration

Your MIS solution is one of the most powerful tools you’ve got to digitize your Systems

MIS software is the most important System in a manufacturing/service company.” - Philip Paul Beyer, author of System Busters.

A print MIS solution is the most important piece of software a printing company can implement to help with Systemization. It will sit at the heart of your business, allowing you to digitize Processes throughout the whole company, including:

  • The initial customer engagement
  • Working out an estimate
  • Creating a quote
  • Creating a job
  • Purchasing
  • Stock management
  • Scheduling
  • Invoicing
  • Delivery
  • And more.

There’s also another reason why an MIS is such a powerful tool for Systemization - the raison d’être for an MIS System is to provide Management Information about your business, and this is extremely useful for your Continuous Improvement program. You can use your MIS to measure and then report on all the different areas of your company, and use this data to identify areas you want to improve, digitize and automate.

Make technology part of your System

At Tharstern we believe that the key to navigating the technological evolution of the printing industry, lies in being a Bionic Business - one that’s made up of both ‘technology’ and ‘humans’ in equal parts. There’s also a third part to this formula that acts as a glue to bind these two areas together, and that’s ‘Process’. If this part is left out, the whole thing falls down - you need to have Processes in place to ensure that people learn how to collaborate and work well with technology.

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The best way we’ve heard of doing this, comes from a brilliant TED Talk by Nadjia Yousif, MD & Partner at The Boston Consulting Group. She suggests a simple change that has a big impact - start treating your technology like an employee and include it in your organizational chart. We explored this idea further in a previous article, which you can read here.

A working example of all the above

We’d like to leave you with an example of how you could use technology to digitize and then connect disparate Processes and Procedures together.

  • Step 1 – Digitize the estimating and ordering Processes for your less complex, more common jobs by implementing a web-to-print System such as those from Vpress, Flex4 or XMPie. Now orders can be placed by the customers themselves using an online portal.

  • Step 2 – Digitize the optimization Process by implementing imposition and ganging software such as IMP or Metrix.

  • Step 3 – Integrate the new web-to-print solution, with your MIS solution.

  • Step 4 – Integrate your MIS solution with the new imposition and ganging software.

At the end of these four steps, you will have created an automated Process where orders are placed online, are processed by the MIS and then optimized for production, all without any human intervention. This is a great example of how Systemization and automation can be combined to streamline repetitive tasks, freeing up your people to run the System and continuously improve it.

You might think all of this seems like a lot of hard work, and in our experience, that’s not too far from the truth. There is a lot you will need to do to Systemize your business, and we at Tharstern are still working on this – we know that we are not yet a Turnkey business and that there is still plenty of opportunities for us to improve our System. And that’s what we’ll continue to do!

The good news is that, according to Philip Paul Beyer, once that System is up and running, it’s pretty easy to maintain. So we know it will be worth the time and hard work.

We wish you the best of luck in your Systemization journey.

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