What is Print Shop Software?

Print shop software includes on-premise or cloud-based programs that either manage the business functions of a printing enterprise or control the printing and finishing equipment used within the  business.

During the digital transformation of the printing business that began in the 1990s, two major categories of print shop software have emerged: print business management software for business data and print management software for production and quality control.

This post describes the different types of print shop software that have been developed. Then, it explains why Ordant’s innovative approach enables shops to improve operations by consolidating multiple functions on a single, integrated platform.

This category traditionally included four different types of software that are related to storing and managing business data.  

CRM (customer relationship management) software helps salespeople maintain updated information on each customer, including preferences, past orders, and names of individuals who must approve estimates, proofs, change orders, and shipments.

A Print MIS (management-information-system) streamlines print-shop-related tasks such as estimating, planning, scheduling, shipping, and invoicing.

An ERP (enterprise resource planning) program coordinates the procurement of supplies and manages inventories of materials needed for current and future jobs.

W2P (web-to-print) software enables all types of printed items to be designed, ordered, and proofed online without the involvement of a sales or customer service person.  

This category typically refers to software that controls the quality and manages the efficiency of the printing and finishing processes used to produce each printed product.

Print management software includes preflighting software, proofing software, page imposition tools, color-management software, Print management software also includes raster-image-processors (RIPs), digital front ends (DFEs) and workflow automation software that controls finishing devices as well as printers.

Preflighting software was originally developed to help prepress professionals detect any file-preparation errors in customer-supplied job files. The goal was to identify and correct any file-preparation mistakes that would result in visible flaws that would require reprinting the job. For example,preflighting checks for fonts, colors, bleeds, resolution of images and logos,

When file-preparation shifted to standardized Adobe PDF formats, it became easier to automate preflighting processes. Today, common file-preparation errors can be automatically corrected, without the need for specially trained digital prepress experts.  

Automated preflighting is critical to the web-to-print portals through which consumers submit orders for customized items. These incoming, pre-proofed orders are immediately sent to the device that will produce them.  

Proofing software is a type of print management software that enables print-shop clients to approve jobs remotely – without having to wait for a hard-copy printed proof to be delivered or going to the shop to see the proof onsite. Users of color-calibrated monitors and the correct color profiles can see on-screen what the job file will look like when the file is printed on a specific printing device and type of paper.      

A RIP (raster-image-processor) is software that converts job-file data into the instructions that each printing device needs to generate the level of color accuracy and print quality each job requires.  

Wide-format RIPs include “nesting” tools that allow smaller jobs to be printed on the same type of material to be laid out in a manner that fills the full width of the roll. This reduces costly material waste.

The “tiling” features in a wide-format RIP are used to set up jobs that must be printed in multiple panels and accurately aligned during installation. Tiling is used to print easy-to-align panels for large wall murals, building wraps, or window graphics.  

Some RIPs can collect data about how much time each step in a specific job took as well as the actual amount of ink and media consumed. Print shops can use this job data to fine-tune the estimating and scheduling accuracy in their print business management software.  

A DFE (digital-front-end) is a high-powered computer workstation pre-loaded with RIP software and other production-related programs. DFEs are used to quickly process the huge data files associated with grand-format jobs or variable data jobs output on production-inkjet to toner-based presses.  

Color management software was developed to convert data gathered from colorimeters and spectrophotometers into “profiles” that described how a calibrated display or printing device displayed color under standardized viewing conditions. Today many color management functions are included in the RIP or DFE included with each printing device.

Workflow automation programs such as Agfa Asanti or Print Factory process the color management data and other device settings for a mix of printing and finishing devices. Using a single color engine to manage color for multiple printing devices helps ensure that all of the brand or textile colors output from multiple devices will have a similar appearance.

Workflow automation systems can also include tools for color verification. They can detect and correct any shifts in color consistency while the job is being printed.

Ongoing Evolution

First-generation print-shop software was typically geared to users of a specific printing process (e.g. offset printing or screen printing) or type of product (e.g. signs, photos, proofs, or labels).

Today most print shops use a combination of printing, converting, and fabricating processes to produce items as diverse as vehicle wraps, decorated apparel, labels, marketing collateral, trade-show exhibits, or branded retail environments.

So, modern print business owners need versatile tools that can accurately estimate and manage diverse  printing and finishing processes and generate profitability reports for each type of product sold.

Recently, the lines between print business, workflow planning, and prepress software have blurred, so that print shops can accomplish more work in less time without opening multiple types of software. .

For example, preflighting and proofing capabilities have been added to web-to-print programs so that the files for incoming orders can go directly to the appropriate printing device for fast production and delivery.

Print MIS and ERP programs can be easily integrated  so the print-shop managers can always be sure that sufficient supplies will be in stock to produce both current and estimated jobs.  

Ordant’s Modular Approach

Ordant understands the desire to consolidate print shop software for more efficient operations. But switching from one software to another can be expensive and disruptive to daily operations. Plus, each new software used may require extensive training or customized integration.  

That’s why Ordant developed an entirely new, easy-to-use cloud-based platform for all types and sizes of printing, converting, label, sign, apparel decorating, and manufacturing businesses.

The MIS/ERP platform includes 14 modules that can be used independently to supplement the capabilities of your existing software. Or, the modules can be adopted over time to avoid the immediate costs and administrative burdens of replacing existing software all at once.

Ordant modules include: estimating, order management, customer-relationship management, file uploading, email order approval, print proofing, purchase orders and inventory, resource planning, automation, batching, hot folders, connected apps, vehicle wrap production, invoicing and online payments. .

The Ordant  web-to-print modules can be so tightly integrated with the Ordant Print MIS/ERP modules that the prices displayed on a B2B or B2C online storefront will be automatically updated as production costs in the Print MIS change. And, products that can’t be quickly produced due to lack of supplies can be automatically removed from displaying in the online storefront until the necessary supplies are restocked.      

The modules in the Ordant platform can be easily integrated with other popular business software including QuickBooks (desktop or online), Hubspot, Google Drive, Slack, FedEx, and UPS.

The ultimate goal is to enable all departments within a custom-manufacturing business to share a single source of business management and production data. When your sales and customer-service teams use the same data as your order management, invoicing, and shipping personnel, your customers will benefit. Your leadership team will also have the consistent, reliable data needed for decision-making and planning.

With Ordant’s modular software, you don’t have to develop workarounds or invest in expensive customizations as your business expands into new markets, adds new production capabilities, or merges with companies with different brands and locations.

To see how Ordant can help your business evolve and grow more efficiently, visit www.ordant.com to schedule a demonstration.

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