Me & my: Imprint Direct Mail Business Control System

By Simon Eccles, Tuesday 03 May 2016

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December last year was a busy time for CitySprint Document Solutions (CDS). It adopted a new name, moved to a modern industrial park in Dartford, installed new computer systems throughout and added two new Konica Minolta 1070 digital presses to its existing fleet of three. A month later it started implementing a new MIS which is the focus of these pages: an Imprint Direct Mail Business Control System.

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Hayes: “Imprint showed that it understands the print side well but also understands fulfilment, direct mail, personalisation and data”

CDS is the printing operation of CitySprint, which is a very large logistics company offering courier and related services internationally. At the end of 2014 it acquired CYC, another logistics company, whose print operation was a year later rebranded as the current CDS. This was based in Greenwich and retained its name and location until the move to Dartford at the end of last year. 

“The sectors we deal with are financial services, leisure, retail, asset management, communications, automobile and aerospace,” says CDS general manager Nicky Hayes. The primary output devices are the five Konica Minolta digital presses, with finishing and envelope enclosing systems for the direct mail side. Fulfilment is handled by CitySprint’s logistics operations where needed, and the Imprint system may link to that in future, Hayes believes

Hayes says the Imprint system is the operation’s first MIS. “It is being used purely in the Document Solutions side of the business,” he says. “Initially it was a request from the finance side with regards to reporting and capturing multiple reports on what we do on a daily basis, such as processes, labour costs and staff utilisation, that was the driver. Really we’ve got so much more than that now, all the way from estimating, live production boards, integration with MIS and web-to-print, shop floor data capture, and obviously the reporting at the back end.”

The Imprint system links to CDS’s existing CRM and accounts systems, plus its Vpress Coreprint Pro, a high-end modular web-to-print system. 

Imprint Business Systems is based in Chelmsford and is one of the longest-established UK MIS developers. It designed computer estimating systems in the 1980s before broadening these out into the wide-ranging Imprint MIS, now at version 18. This is a modular system that can be configured for different industry sectors, with a choice of general purpose and specialist functions. The configuration chosen by CDS is based on the Direct Mail Business Control System (BCS), modified to its requirements.

As part of the move to Dartford, CDS installed all-new computer systems, with off-site servers for security. A pair of 50in monitors are used to display live production data from the MIS into the production and customer service departments. The Imprint implementation was the first time CDS had installed an MIS. “There was nothing before, though all the guys here have used MIS before,” says Hayes. 

“We went through an evaluation process and selected five potential candidates for our system. We had a presentation day from all five. From that we did a deep dive into the presentations and the businesses and came up with two suppliers, Imprint and one other. 

“Once we got down to the final two players we gave them another half-day each to go into more detail about their systems, what they could do and how they could work with us to take the software where we wanted it to be.”

Top scorer

So why did Imprint win? “We had set up a management committee with regards to bringing it to fruition. There was a scoring basis and we went through it as a group. It was quite an easy decision at the end of the day, mostly in favour of Imprint – not to say there’s anything wrong with the other system.”

Imprint’s adaptability was a major reason for the final choice, says Hayes. “For me, the most important factor was that the competitors were mostly focused around print only. It felt like there was something lacking from their understanding of our total market and the terminology used. Whereas Imprint showed that it understands the print side well but also understands fulfilment, direct mail, personalisation and data. It is all captured in one product. The industry-wide terminology for everything we do was being used in the module.”

The Imprint system started to go live in January. “The adoption process was really led by us, over a three-month period from January to fit in with our workflow peaks and troughs,” says Hayes. 

“It has gone as expected. There was a clear agenda prior to commencement and everything in there has been adhered to, and on time. So there’s nothing that has failed in that respect. 

“We’re still working on parts of it, but we pretty much knew that would be the case. One of the reasons why we chose Imprint was so we could to some extent develop it to fit our operation. Parts of it are under construction so to speak, but that is just us as a company getting it right and exactly what we want as best we can with an off-the-shelf product.”

Clear goals

Having set out very clearly what CDS wanted the MIS to deliver has ensured that there have been no nasty surpises following implementation: “We haven’t had any problems at all,” Hayes says. 

“You need to go into a project like this with the understanding that you will need to tweak it. Not everything is going to look how you want it to look from day one. It’s really building that relationship with the guys at Imprint, and them taking it away and bringing back a solution. 

“We’ve had a number of things we wanted doing and at no point have they ever said to us ‘no you can’t have that’. It has always been ‘we’ll go away and look at it and come back with a solution’. 

“There are some compromises to be made, you’re not going to please every member of staff – they’ll all want something, such as estimating, to be different, so you have to streamline that and say ‘there’s one version and this is how it’s going to look’. You need to be open-minded, to take it on board, because it really will improve the working process.”

“If I was to have a slight moan, it’s not the best looking of dashboards,” Hayes feels. “When you look at some of the competitor products, I think they look better. The alternative system visually looks cleaner, fresher, more modern. But Imprint does what it says in the tin! Do you need an all-singing, all-dancing can if the paint inside is black?”

As a result, Hayes has no hesitation in recommending the system to others, provided they have the same sort of requirements. “If you are a company that is predominantly – or even solely – involved in print, then there would be other products that would compete more strongly. But if you are a company that diversifies from within that marketplace I’d say yes absolutely, Imprint is a product that would work for you.”


SPECIFICATIONS

Imprint DM BCS The Imprint DM Business Control System (BCS) is believed to be the only dedicated direct mail MIS available. It includes specialist features such as an estimating module for multiple items and components of differing run lengths, including data handling and processing, and works instructions that make it easier to enter and control direct mail orders, including those with multiple cells with individual mailing target dates, within one order. Shop floor data capture feeds live data back to the MIS and allows real costs to be compared to estimates 

Price Price from £40,000 for an entry level system, considerably more for a complex multi-seat configuration

Contact Imprint Business Systems 01245 231670, www.imprint-mis.co.uk


COMPANY PROFILE 

CitySprint Document Solutions (CDS) is primarily the printing operation of logistics giant CitySprint, though it also offers non-print items. It employs 18 staff. 

CDS runs five Konica Minolta 1070 digital colour printers as well as inline finishing and perfect binding technology. The Imprint MIS, links to the Vpress Coreprint Pro web-to-print system. This is an important part of the operations, currently offering some 1,500 products that can be ordered and customised. Sales are all B2B at present. Hayes plans to get into the online consumer market, “but not in the next 12 months”.

CitySprint UK as a whole reported a £129m turnover for its financial year to 31 December 2014. Hayes said the aim is to push up CDS’ turnover by 25% this year.

Why it was bought...

The decision to install an MIS was initially driven by a desire to get a more accurate idea of production costs and asset utilisation, but CDS is now using it much more widely – from estimating, live production boards, integration with web-to-print, shop floor data capture, as well as back-end reporting.

How it has performed...

“It’s certainly helping reporting with regards to the type of work we have coming in,” says Hayes “We can drill down into each job and see what was or wasn’t profitable. We can benefit from the production control and integration into the pre-press system so we can be much more efficient from a production point of view.”

There’s a ‘lights-out’ aspect too. “We have a number of international clients, in different sectors. Wherever they are in the world they can order variable products, posters, letters, whatever, or they can order stock items. Once ordered it goes into our system and straight down to the presses. So we can be utilising out-of-hours from someone ordering 50 posters from New York at 10pm GMT.

“It’s making us more professional, more efficient, so it should drive increased turnover and increased profits while improving the experience to our customer.”

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