Shanti Kumar, Quote & Print’s CEO says optimising MIS and web-to-print will deliver rich rewards for hard pressed printers in today’s tough economic climate
Print is in a period of transition and this fact is undisputed. Many names have fallen by the way, including some big ones, many are struggling, and some are just getting by, while others seem to be laughing all the way to the bank.
It’s often said that it takes an outsider to shine light on an entrenched industry and Shanti Kumar is certainly that, having spent his entire working life with some of the largest IT companies such as IBM, NCR, AT&T, Ericsson and others, before taking the reins at Australia’s biggest MIS supplier, Quote & Print Software about four years ago
Kumar has his views of the print industry, which he says seriously lags behind other industries in the investment and implementation of MIS solutions, processes and staff training. He states, “Generally, well-managed companies in any industry should invest about two per cent of their annual turnover in systems. It is clear that without a good MIS system, properly implemented by a reputable supplier, and without an integrated web-to-print solution to look after the printer’s key customers, most printers will struggle to survive today”.
When a customer calls a printer he generally asks just two questions, “How much, and when can I have my job”. Kumar says, “Knowing your current costs, being able to get quotes out promptly, being able to inform your customer when you can deliver their job, making it easier for your customers to do business with you, defending your current business with your customers, knowing exactly what is happening in your business at all times, especially your cash flow – these are some of the key essentials in managing a profitable print business (or any business) today. Information is power and without this any printer is going to struggle to survive, let alone thrive, no matter how good they are at putting ink on paper.”
According to Kumar the print business is contracting annually with the shift from offset print to digital at about 20 per cent annually. In Australia, according to the PIAA there is about seven per cent annual attrition in printer numbers. The over-capacity of print available today is more than 30per cent. Kumar asks the question, “If the market is contracting, then how do you grow your business? By taking business from your competitor and by offering more services to your customers! If the sales price is set by the market, how do you make a profit? You manage your costs and productivity.
It is this focus on the craftsmanship in print that Kumar says is holding back many printers. He says, “Printing is a business first, of which the print craft is but one part. The fact is that most Aussie’s are really good printers who can produce print that will win awards here and overseas. But if you focus only on that aspect of producing fine print then you are not going to make the cut, because your customers almost take that as a given now. What they want to know is that you are coming up with new solutions for them in reaching out to their customers and potential customers. They want your quotes as soon as they ask for them. They want to go onto their desktop and order or even design their print in much the same way they buy their airline tickets. In fact, they want printers of today to be an active marketing partner and not just an order-taking manufacturer.”
With more than 600 Aussie print businesses using Quote & Print ERP Systems in Australia, New Zealand and in Asia, Kumar is in a good position to assess the state of play in the domestic print industry. He says, “The more that printers use the potential of their IT (MIS and web-to-print) the better they are positioned to take advantage of the market.” Quote & Print’s clients are generally not the biggest printers, but those small to medium sized businesses that make up over 80 per cent of the printing industry.
The Quote & Print ERP solutions come in over 40 modules, designed to enable any printer to profitably manage their business. Quote & Print in conjunction with the PIAA launched their “Start-Up” solution in 2008, designed specifically for new users with 1-3 staff concurrently using the system.
Kumar says, “One of the reasons Quote & Print has been so successful is that it was created by an Aussie printer, Dave Bell, for Aussie printers.”
Testimony to this comes from the recent deal with major print franchise operation Worldwide Online, which has just ordered some 70 systems for all its outlets. Kumar says, “Key to winning the business was the fact that Worldwide is aware that they can call me at any time and we can locally give them what they want, without any delay or sending the work to another country. They also know that Quote & Print is the only MIS supplier in Australia that has experienced staff in every state to provide local training and support.”
Web to print
Quote & Print offers Q Print Pro as the web-to-print Solution. It is integrating OPS, another popular Australian web-to-print Solution. Kumar says, “Q Print Pro is a turnkey ecommerce and job management solution that is designed for print. It is an integrated web based system that improves printers’ customers experience, reduces costs and increases competitive advantage in any B2B or B2C environment.”
According to Kumar Q Print Pro has user friendly workflows, which enable printers’ customers to manage their new print jobs and re-orders with ease, including cost estimates, request for quotes, quantities, stock type, shipping costs and scheduling. It also provides online graphic design, file uploading and management, proofing, pre-flighting and order tracking.
Kumar says, “Q Print Pro empowers your customers to use your company’s website as their own custom service centre for ongoing and new jobs, automating many previously time and service intensive tasks. It eliminates mistakes, maximises efficiencies and locks in your customer. And it is completely customisable, with the Administrator function allowing you to create your own product line-up.” Q Print pro is marketed as applicable to any type of print form from business cards to billboards, for the budget conscious printer. Systems begin at $8000, which should mean it is a no-brainer for most printers.