For a young David Lewis, the question 'what do you want to be when you grow up' may have been slightly tricky. When your dad has named his printing business after you and your sister Ruth, you probably feel at least slightly obliged to go into print.
Luckily for both Lewis and his father Paul, taking over the family print business was something he was more than happy to do. Twelve years after Daru Graphic was founded in 1971, 15-year-old Lewis junior joined the company, and eventually took the helm in 1998.
While still boasting the same personal name and feel, the company has evolved considerably since it was established. Originally a mono-only litho operation, the company "dipped its toe" into colour work in the mid 1980s before fully taking the plunge six years ago in response to the changing needs of its customers.
But keeping up with an ever-evolving marketplace entails more than just migrating from mono to colour work. As a company specialising in fast turnarounds, Daru Graphic also needed software that would enable highly automated job processing.
"We first realised we needed to invest in an MIS in 2006," says Lewis. "We were using FileMaker to estimate jobs, which was time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate. So we decided to invest in Tharstern’s SmallPrint."
Whereas before, staff had to physically retype details from a job bag to accounting software before estimates could be sent out, SmallPrint automated this whole process, eradicating any duplication of work.
"In a small company, it’s important that you don’t waste labour on lengthy jobs," says Lewis, "and installing an MIS also eliminated the possibility of human error."
The SmallPrint system was perfect for the size of the company at the time, says Lewis, but soon something more powerful than estimating software was needed. The next upgrade, Tharstern’s SmallPrintV4, was installed in 2008 and enabled Daru and its customers to start tracking jobs throughout the whole printing process.
Soon the company was well and truly hooked on Tharstern and signed up for the next edition, Primo, as soon as it was launched at Ipex 2010.
For Lewis, this latest upgrade has brought Daru well and truly into the 21st century. "Now I can really immerse myself in Tharstern and effectively run the whole business through it," he says.
"As soon as we start a job with an estimate, every document, such as the first email, PDFs and RIP proofs that we might supply, is contained within that system," he explains. "At the click of a button, you can open a job up and there are all your emails and artwork in the same folder. So we don’t have to go searching through archives looking for artwork anymore."
This is particularly helpful, explains Lewis, when it comes to some of the blue-chip clients Daru caters for, who often ask for proof of purchase and POD details a year after a job was printed.
"With the market as it is now, any edge you can get over other printers is crucial," says Lewis. "Being highly organised and efficient gives you an edge."
As well as tracking incoming jobs, Tharstern’s Primo upgrade also helps Daru manage its outgoing costs. Whereas previously the company had to manually input paper prices into its estimating system every time they were updated, now Lewis is sent an email informing him that updates are available to download to the Daru server. He just has to hit the ‘update’ button when he goes online.
This again, says Lewis, saves time and money, and eradicates the chance of errors occurring.
Another way the Primo system aids transactions with suppliers is through an inbuilt online ordering system.
"All I have to do is raise the order online and that gets despatched straight through to Howard Smith, Robert Horne or PaperCo," says Lewis. "It saves a lot of time. And it goes straight through to the warehouse so we can place orders out of hours."
It is this ability to manage both ends of the business in a precise and automated way that Lewis feels is the main benefit of the Thartsern MIS.
"I became a heavy Tharstern user as the recession bit, and the amount of reports it gave me meant that, rather than just sticking my finger in the wind and hoping I was getting the price right, I knew exactly what I could offer," he says. "That’s really important when you’re having to cut your prices."
Another aspect of the system that Lewis has been impressed by is its user friendliness. "What Tharstern has done with Primo is make it very Windows-based," he says. "So if you’re used to Windows it won’t take long before you’re able to do some basic functions within the software."
"Even back when we invested in SmallPrint, it was a very logical system to use," he adds, citing this as the main reason Daru opted for Tharstern over other contenders Optimus, Shuttleworth and Prinect. "You felt at home with it as soon as you looked at it," he explains.
Receiving good-quality training from Tharstern has also been key to Daru’s employees feeling "at home" with the system, says Lewis. The team were given 10 days of training on the new Primo system, with a top-up day thrown in as a goodwill gesture, and any queries quickly answered on the phone.
Service support has also been readily available. "Tharstern’s back-up has been very good," says Lewis. "There have been occasional problems, but then any software will have its moments. Nine times out of ten, it will be a small glitch, a tiny issue. But that will usually be fixed within 20 minutes or half an hour of placing the call."
Lewis says that, because Tharstern invested so heavily in the latest update of its MIS, another upgrade probably won’t come along for a few years. But he has had discussions with Tharstern, he says, about a new module that would further integrate overnight delivery prices into the system.
"That is definitely something we would be interested in," he reports. "At the moment, we have found a work-around for the fact that a different overnight courier price will not be automatically factored into a job by the MIS. But it would be great if that carriage banding was automatically integrated into a quote."
Aside from this, Lewis is satisfied that Tharstern’s software has pretty much all avenues covered. "Without wishing to sound sycophantic, I don’t think there’s anything much we wish it could do that it doesn’t," he says.
And so Lewis would wholeheartedly recommend the software to all other printers no matter what their size. "Even if you’re a small printer like we were in 2006, SmallPrint allows you the chance to start small and then upgrade," he says.
So to small family businesses considering MIS software, Lewis’ message is: invest and then grow.
Daru Graphics was founded by Paul Lewis in 1971 and was named after his two children David and Ruth. Today David Lewis is managing director of the company and it has evolved from a mono litho printer, to a printer occasionally "dipping its toe" into colour work, into a fully fledged colour brochure printer. Daru shares production facilities with Kingsley Print & Design, which boosts both companies firepower and means it can specialise in quick turnaround work for a range of trade, blue-chip and print management clients.
Why it was bought…
The company originally invested in Tharstern’s Smallprint MIS in 2006 to reduce the manual intervention needed for estimating. Daru upgraded to SmallPrint V4 in 2008 to further automate estimating, job tracking and deliveries, and then Primo last July. This latest upgrade has further enhanced the automation of the system and is particularly useful in ordering stock from suppliers and automatically updating supplier prices, says Lewis.
How it has performed…
Lewis has been very impressed with the speed, traceability and service support provided by Tharstern. "Without wishing to sound sycophantic, I don’t think there’s anything much we wish it could do that it doesn’t," he says.
Clarification: The Heidelberg XL75 five-colour press mentioned in the original version of this Me & My... is owned by Kingsley Print & Design, not Daru Graphics. The two companies share production facilities and some press capacity, but the pre-press and post-press equipment is also owned by Kingsley.blog comments powered by Disqus