Automated workflow solution accelerates printing and fulfillment
Workflow portal becomes the “life blood” of PSP’s print production process
To help PSP meet increasingly complex customer orders within ever tighter scheduling windows, TwinEngines developed a custom workflow management solution that:
- Manages changing requirements for an infinite number of job variables,
- Tracks jobs from initial estimate through the job floor to shipping, and
- Integrates with an existing Quickbooks-based financial platform.
Speed-to-market drives the Point of Purchase (POP) printing business. When a job goes out the door, the printed piece must fit into a tight promotional time window.
To meet these scheduling demands and achieve a marketplace advantage, PSP, a leading POP printer in the Southeast, sought to streamline their entire production process. PSP serves the grocery, convenience, home improvement, retail, and quick-serve restaurant sectors – all which require time-sensitive, tightly-scheduled promotions to drive business. What’s more, retailers today create custom graphics for each market segment and often for individual stores. The degree of customization introduces an infinite number of variables into each project.
The Need to Automate
In the past, printers managed projects with job jackets. “You would start with two pieces of paper detailing the job requirements,” explains Ronny Bryant, PSP Production Manager. “Then you would add proofs, blue lines, print out the emails, and change orders. By the time you finished, you had a stack of printouts and a logistical nightmare.”
This manual workflow management system grew increasingly complex. ”Each plastic job jacket was color-coded by department, so there were multiple copies in the building,” explains Robbie McDaniel, PSP President. “In addition to tracking all this information, you never really knew that you were working with the latest copy.”
The Trouble with Off-the-Shelf Software
PSP looked at several ready-to-run applications. “We realized that we would need to staff three or four additional positions just to run the software,” explains McDaniel. “I couldn’t justify having to adapt my business just to work with the software I need – which should be working for us.”
TwinEngines Inc. offered an alternative to canned software – a customizable manufacturing solution.
TwinEngines performed a complete strategic and operational review of PSP’s processes and systems. TwinEngines helps manufacturers and product service companies improve their workflows and visibility of operations by aligning business processes and line-of-business systems.
TwinEngines modeled PSP’s business workflows and captured a long list of print production variables at each stage. “We looked at PSP’s entire process: Orders, estimating, printing, inventory, kit packing and shipping,” explains Kevin Seefried of TwinEngines. “PSP wanted to automate the system in a way that mirrored their production process. This meant building a new system that worked like an intelligent checklist. The system knows what variables to present based on your choices.”
Working with Quickbooks
PSP had built its business using Quickbooks for its financial platform. The key question was whether to move to a full-fledged ERP system. “As is typical in this size organization, PSP built its financial platform using Quickbooks,” explains Seefried. “Even though it was a small-to-mid-sized company, PSP made the right decision to avoid the expense and turmoil of transitioning to a new ERP. There would have been no real benefit to the organization.”
TwinEngines extended the life of Quickbooks at a time when the company needed to focus on operations management. “Quickbooks is not an open database,” Seefried continues. “We synchronized much of the data, pulling down vendors, parts, customers and sales orders into our custom-developed system. PSP would have had to spend twice as much as they spent with us just to upgrade to Great Plains. As a result, PSP achieved visibility across the enterprise without having to make a game-changing ERP investment.”
Shipping at a Glance
With thousands of packages going out each day, PSP set a pragmatic goal to guide development: To generate a day’s worth of shipping documents and labels by pressing a single button.
PSP’s “Personal Service Portal” has up to 400 orders in the system at any one time. Each order contains up to 25 jobs, or up to 1000 individual jobs. Whether one store gets 250 items or 500 stores each get 50 unique items, this dynamic workflow is tracked and managed effortlessly.
“The Portal is absolutely the life blood of PSP and how we operate,” explains Richard Ellis, VP of PSP Operations. “Starting from estimating, how a job is activated, how we schedule that through our process, how orders interact with purchasing, raw materials; all the way through kit packing, shipping, and ultimately the invoicing – the TwinEngines system moves orders and materials through many hands and countless changes.
An Evolving Platform
PSP maintains its competitive edge through continuous improvement. Adding new functionality to the Portal experience is ongoing. “Our customer expectations are increasing,” explains Ellis. “We are now developing new ways to query past projects and make better decisions as well as extending portal access to our customers.”
“PSP used to manage 5000 emails per month,” explains TwinEngines’ Seefried. “The bulk of these were status updates, job changes, vendor responses and customer queries. All of these went away. Now, when you have a new piece of information, you put it in the system and it’s available to everybody.”