Me & my: Microsoft Dynamics NAV PrintVis

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 20 February 2017

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Constantly dipping in and out of an MIS and numerous other disparate workflows and software platforms can prove fiddly and inefficient.

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Donovan: “It makes your IT management so much easier”

Back in 2008, Merthyr Tydfil-based Stephens & George Print Group (S&G) was keen to do away with this type of setup and streamline its processes. The business had been developing its own MIS with a fellow Welsh-based company, but when that operation went bust the magazine printer needed to find a replacement, fast.

It considered a range of existing MIS packages, but what it really wanted to do was manage its whole group with one platform.

Microsoft Gold partner KPMG Crimsonwing came in at just the right time with the answer to its prayers, explains S&G technical manager Michael Donovan.

“They caught us at a point where we were desperately needing to get out of a jam we were in with our current systems.”

Microsoft Dynamics-certified KPMG Crimsonwing, which has offices in the UK and Malta, is a preferred Microsoft provider to the print, media and publishing industries due to its existing knowledge in these areas. It suggested the PrintVis platform to S&G, which enables full enterprise resource planning (ERP) for the print industry.

PrintVis is a vertical, or plug-in, developed by NovaVision that is built directly into Microsoft Dynamics NAV. S&G liked the sound of the technology, as well as its ability to work with the existing Microsoft software suite that the group was already using to run the business.

An off-the-shelf PrintVis system was initially installed and S&G has been building on this ever since, with all existing and subsequently installed equipment having to be built into the platform.

“Previously we had something in the region of seven or eight systems running the business, with multiple print MIS systems, a proprietary system for scheduling and multiple platforms for HR, contact management, quality and purchasing. Everything was extremely disjointed,” recalls Donovan.

The core installation took a number of months and S&G made further tweaks long afterwards. The firm’s first task was to disconnect its old MIS and it then gradually worked its way through switching its other systems across and retiring various old and unconnected software platforms.

“Over the years we’ve dumped all of the proprietary systems and saved a lot of money on proprietary software costs and service contracts. We’ve now got everything running on two servers for the whole business, which makes an extremely efficient IT back-up and data protection,” says Donovan.

The PrintVis ERP runs locally on the servers at S&G though Microsoft’s RD Web functionality enables around 20 external users to work remotely into the system from home or satellite offices.

Complete control

The print-specific MIS functionality within PrintVis can control everything from presses, papers, substrates and inks through to customer proofs and delivery dates. The system’s purpose is to furnish printers with the fundamentals they need to constantly keep track of – such as customers, schedules, production and workers – but to also provide them with the information and data they need to keep their business running efficiently, and to point out any potential issues.

“I don’t think a print MIS really covers our business because we’re more than a print shop; as a group we have two publishing companies, a print management company and a charity. They all work as different kinds of businesses so an ERP package allows us to run simultaneous accounts and processes across all these businesses,” says Donovan.

“It makes us really efficient. When we look at data we’re not analysing it in one system and trying to cross-compare it to another system. Everything is in one system so we can report on anything we do at any point.”

Another advantage of the PrintVis ERP over a traditional MIS is the frequency of updates, Donovan says.

“With PrintVis we have releases probably on a weekly basis, maybe twice weekly, where we update modules and apply fixes overnight, so we’re constantly moving that envelope forwards. With other systems we found that we were taking big jumps forward but we were always waiting and were never content with what we had.”

S&G also regularly requests its own customised updates. Donovan designs these and then explains his request to KPMG Crimsonwing’s team in Malta who produce the enhancement and deliver it within around five days.

“I have two programmers in Malta who I constantly work with on this. They’re amazing, the education standards there are so high and the whole place is like a Silicon Valley.”

S&G currently runs more than 50 licences of the product, having purchased 10 additional licences last summer when it bought out the shareholding of Enfield Printing Company. With the company running on shift patterns 24/7, around 90 of its 220 staff use the system for something at some point.

Donovan says the system’s scalability means it has no trouble coping with any business growth. And with so much scalability and functionality, it’s little surprise that S&G uses PrintVis to complete practically every business task.

“All of our sales management, HR, quality, accounts, payroll and purchasing is done in the system. Anything that we do is all featured in Microsoft Dynamics NAV.”

The firm has reaped numerous benefits since the original install nine years ago.

“We now have joined-up thinking, so when we do analyse what we’re doing, reports can all be run in one go,” says Donovan.

“The speed of production has also improved. Prior to the implementation of the system we probably had around 600 invoices which we would finish invoicing around the fifteenth day of the following month. Now we’re probably doing around 1,200 invoices a month and finish invoicing around the second day of the month.”

Since the system has been in, Donovan estimates that S&G has grown its turnover from £15m to around £28m, all without taking on any extra staff in any part of the business.

“I think the system has aided our profitability because, while we could have got to this turnover anyway, we’d have needed an army of people to do so, with more people in the customer service and dispatch areas.”

Another improvement has been the impact on the firm’s stock management. With this system the business gives everything a unique ID and can analyse its stock levels at any point.

“When we do that they’re normally within less than £1,000 out of probably half a million pounds’ worth of stock, which is extremely accurate,” Donovan reports.

“We can monitor how long all the stock has been in the business, we can find reels that we know are maybe coming up to 18 months of age and we can inform whoever owns them – as we keep a lot of customers’ stocks as well – and we make sure that we rotate that stock well. With this we get improvements of runnability on the presses.”

He adds that at any point in the month the company can now see where it’s going to be at the end of the month and look at the theoretical profitability of all of its jobs.

“So we can see how we’re buying and selling on each job against materials, labour, overheads and external services and we can analyse where we’re making our money. We can also see where we’re maybe uncompetitive and get a feeling of where we are with our pricing, per client.

“Additionally, we can look at any potential scheduling and labour problems as we can see how much stitching, binding, mailing and printing we have going forward at any point and we can plan in whether we stop selling into areas or whether we put on more labour.”

Up-skilling

Any PrintVis training required is usually undertaken periodically in Malta by Donovan or other senior S&G staff and they then feed the knowledge back through their teams when they return.

Donovan says KPMG Crimsonwing has provided excellent service and support ever since the installation.

“Their response time is pretty instant. If I was to raise a call now then I would tell them what the level of urgency is on it and if it’s urgent then I would probably have a response and somebody looking at that problem in 15 minutes,” says Donovan.

“In the UK, KPMG Crimsonwing have employed print specialists so they’ve got people that can work with you and the developers and can see both points of view to give you guidance.

“Often I’ll have something I want to develop and won’t go straight to the developers but maybe take it to one of the UK-based print consultants and ask them how they feel about it. They might give you some advice that they’ve learnt from doing things a bit differently at another installation in the UK.”

Overall, Donovan says he would 100% recommend both KPMG Crimsonwing as a service provider and the PrintVis platform, which he feels could suit practically any print business.

“Any company, no matter how small they are, is going to need to be able to purchase and do their payroll, accounts and HR. If they want to do quality control or quality management then all of this is in one system,” he asserts.

“It may sound like it’s more expensive to start with but once you’ve started getting rid of all of the legacy equipment and legacy contracts it makes your IT management so much easier. Everything is backed up and really controlled so I just think it wins.”

Donovan says his favourite PrintVis features are the reporting and flexibility, the ability to have joined-up thinking and the constant upgrades. Armed with the additional capability to develop his own updates for the system, Donovan does not feel anything is missing from the product and has no niggles or issues to report.

“It’s fantastic, it controls our whole group of businesses. I don’t know how we’d cope without it,” he concludes.


SPECIFICATIONS

Base technology Microsoft Dynamics NAV

Modules used by Stephens & George Estimation and Quoting, Order Processing and Management, Inventory Management, CRM, Scheduling and Job Planning, Job Costing, Purchasing and Invoicing, Complete Financial Management, Analysis and Reporting, JDF Integration and Microsoft Dynamics CRM & Office 365 Integration

Other modules Shop Floor Management & Data Collection, ESCO ArtiosCAD Integration and Web-to-Print Integration

Price Microsoft Dynamics NAV can be licenced in a number of ways. Subscription-based licence pricing is available from £25.35 per month for a full named user if hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud (hosting not included). An on-premises concurrent licence starter pack – which includes three full users – is available from £3,354. Additional full concurrent users are available from £2,012 (concurrent prices quoted are for the first year’s purchase, reducing to a 16% enhancement plan thereafter). Limited-access user licences are also available. These costs reflect starting packages only and do not take into account additional licences, customisation or consulting services.

Contact Gavin Tye, head of Dynamics NAV/PrintVis Practice at KPMG Crimsonwing 07500 864523 www.crimsonwing.com/industries/print-print-management


Company profile

Merthyr Tydfil-based Stephens & George Print Group (S&G), which was established in 1912, specialises in producing short-run B2B magazines. The business has a turnover of around £28m and employs 220 staff. It runs five Heidelberg presses, including one 10-colour and three eight-colour XL 106s and a five-colour XL 106. The firm’s bindery was substantially boosted last year with investment in two Muller Martini Primera stitching lines and two Bolero perfect binders as well as two MBO LeMans folders.

Why it was bought…

The company had been running an MIS and numerous disparate workflow and software systems and it wanted one integrated platform to streamline its processes and increase its accuracy and efficiency. The Microsoft Dynamics NAV PrintVis ERP, supplied by KPMG Crimsonwing, proved to be exactly what it was looking for.

How it has performed…

The PrintVis system has completely overhauled the way S&G runs its business on a day-to-day basis. “It controls everything we do. We really feel that we’ve got a unique edge on maybe what our competitors have,” says S&G technical manager Michael Donovan.

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