Why PrintPoint is an ideal print management information system
Most printing, prepress, and creative services firms use management information systems (MIS) to run their operations. However, even in shops that are predominantly Mac based, you’ll often find PCs used for accounting and administrative functions. We have reviewed a number of printing management software offerings, but there are very few that span both MAC and PC platforms simultaneously. In this issue we’ll review PrintPoint 4.0 software. This has been developed in a platform called 4D, which is one of the few true cross-platform operating systems. How would you benefit from this feature? Typically, estimating and production management functions are prepared in a PC environment. However, in the prepress department, Macs rule. Once the estimate has become an order, and the job is underway, now production departments now send back information using PCs.
Many prepress departments have a token PC for staff to complete time sheets, record material usage and read electronic dockets. With PrintPoint, prepress staff can view estimates, see electronic job tickets, submit time sheets and provide other job costing information directly from their Macs. It appears that this is an all-inclusive estimating and management software that should be considered by small- to mid-size commercial printers. Its estimating system is based on the Activity Based Costing (ABC) method of calculations. The ABC method is based on calculating the time required to do a task (or activity), multiplied by the budgeted hourly rate, plus materials and mark-up to determine the selling price. This system is great for small to medium offset shops offering many different products that require custom estimates. It is also good for an operation that has many similar products, where a price list would be suitable. At this point, the new version 4.0 has the fundamentals to address quick copy, digital printing and wide format print estimating requirements. I have not been able to review this feature, however I understand that a little more development is required to make it really user friendly for digital print operations.
Besides the cross-platform advantage, PrintPoint is an economical management information system, with a base price below $3,000, including a three-person license and one-year of technical support. Even with the full package for a multi-user operation it is still surprisingly economical. The company claims that it’s easy to install and use. Based on my experience with the system that I downloaded from the web site, I would tend to agree. However that may depend upon your expectations and requirements.
Another key benefit of PrintPoint is the single screen data entry. Other systems lead the user through many screens requiring them to complete various cells with detailed specifications and information. This takes time and effort to consider and provide data, some of which can be determined in base calculations or from other calculations.
The single screen data entry is a very attractive feature for the user. If more detail is required, simply double click the relevant cell and additional details are available for fine selection. Options are often highlighted in selection boxes displayed to the right of the worksheet. These choices will only appear based on the choices available for the cell you are working on.
Other key features include the flexibility of user customization. Form titles and cells on the screen can be modified by the user. For example, if you call your order form a job sheet or docket, there is no need for you to change your terminology, just change the software.
The system also has time-saving features such as templates. You can define and develop templates or copy estimates to be used for your repetitive quotes. Support typically has not been an issue dependent on your location relative to the vendor. The major issue appears to be accessibility and responsiveness. PrintPoint has a number of full-time support people, located in Canada, New York and Florida. They also have a division offering software and support in Australia. PrintPoint 4.0 also includes a series of over 20 layouts and impositions for various products. The user can also develop custom layouts. This is especially important for communicating details about the impositions for live jobs.
In summary, this is a full-feature system that’s economically priced. Typically this would be of interest if you did not require a great deal of customization for your operation. But, that’s the benefit of a system like this. For more information, explore PrintPoint’s Web site at www.printpoint.com With the recent introduction of version 4.0, this may be a solution that suits your needs if you’re looking for an economical system. If this is your situation, then I would suggest including PrintPoint in your comparison list when reviewing software for your specific requirements. Please share your comments and experience. This column can be an interactive forum for sharing ideas and suggestions.
Bob Dale is the president of Pilot Graphic Management Services Inc., a company providing management consulting and custom training for organizations. He is also on the executive of the Toronto Club of Printing House Craftsmen. Bob can be reached at (416) 410-4096, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.