Me & my: Vism project management software
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
For the past year large-format print specialist Service Graphics Swanley has been using a project management system developed by UK start-up Vism to handle the complex tasks of organising delivery and installation of its products at their destination sites.
Vism enables Service Graphics to contact outside contractors, enquire about availability, hire them, then track delivery, installation and sign-offs across what may be many sites in the case of big retail rollouts.
Service Graphics Swanley was originally set up in 2016 as a completely new wide-format operation by Kingswood iOptus, a commercial litho and digital printer in east London. Originally called Kingswood Display, it was sited separately in a modern industrial unit in Swanley, about 15 miles south-east of central London. It’s very close to the south end of the M25 Thames crossing and the M20 leading to the Channel ports. This is obviously handy for deliveries.
After Kingswood iOptus fell into administration the Clifton Street and Swanley operations were acquired by Paragon Group in May 2018. This was one of a string of acquisitions by Paragon, including the Service Point chain of 27 branches in 2014, which are now branded as Service Graphics with 22 ‘local print centre’ sites across the UK.
Last July Kingswood Display was rebranded as Service Graphics Swanley, to give a common identity to the wide-format service providers in the group. The others are in Glasgow, Skelmersdale and Taunton, with sales offices in Nottingham and Wimbledon. The Service Graphics local print centres can also refer large-format enquires to the relevant production sites. “We do a lot of inter-company work for all of our branches across the UK,” says production manager Justin Richens.
Service Graphics’ large-format print has applications in exhibitions, events, museums, luxury brands, retail, sports and property. It takes in anything from posters up to building wraps, in quantities from a single item up to a large multi-national, multi-site campaign. The group can produce posters, light boxes, tension fabrics, window, wall, floor and pavement graphics, banners, building wraps, interior and exterior stands, forecourt displays and more.
“We do not really have a main product that we produce; every day is different,” says Richens. “It can be anything from a few A1 boards through to football stadia. We have a great relationship with Arsenal FC and Millwall – we have a sponsorship package with Millwall and appear on the sponsor boards.”
The main large-format printers are a pair of EFI UV hybrid printers for roll or rigid media up to 50mm thick, a 1.6m H1625 LED and a superwide 3.2m Vutek GS3250lx Pro LED. GMG colour management software is used. There are also a couple of HP Latex roll-fed printers and an HP Z6200 aqueous roll-fed model. There are two Neschen thermal laminators and cutting is handled by large-format Esko Kongsberg and Zünd tables, plus a Summa cutter for vinyl.
A lot of the finished work has to be delivered, assembled and installed at its final destination. Service Graphics doesn’t handle this part itself, so it hires outside contractors to do it. In the case of a large multi-store simultaneous campaign rollout this means a lot of planning to get it there, and finding a small army of contractors to do the job. Vism now handles all this for service Graphics Swanley. Not all jobs are handled end-to-end by Service Graphics, says Richens. “A lot of our customers are in the trade so do take care of their own installs, but Vism is still used in this case as we use it for delivery tracking instead.”
What is Vism?
Vism is a software system designed to pool all job information into a single place for all team members, with live links to outside contractors via their smartphones. It was originally launched at Fespa in 2018. A lot of the original development work was carried out in collaboration with Macroart, a large-format specialist based near Huntingdon, which had looked at other solutions for project management before approaching Vism’s founder Dan Tyler. He had previously worked with Macroart’s commercial director Michael Green.
Vism automates and streamlines complex project management. Although developed specifically for the complexities of large-format print installation, it could be adapted to anything with similar requirements for organisation of complex tasks shared across numbers of people, for instance shopfitters or events and exhibition companies.
It comprises a main dashboard accessed by web browser, plus a smartphone app accessed by anyone involved in the projects, including outside contractors.
The user interface is designed to resemble familiar spreadsheets, calendars and instant messaging apps. It only takes a few on-screen clicks with drag-and-drop upload to send multiple job invites with briefs to installers. Complex projects such as multi-site rollouts can be set up too. Vism maintains a list of installers with search filters for location, speciality and so on. It creates a group chat for the job and adds the installers who are chosen. Progress is tracked through the calendar. Clients can be given their own portal so they can track jobs too. Everything is archived.
The installers’ smartphone app speeds up job notifications and can send instant updates or changes, then takes care of job sign-off. The installer takes a photo of the completed job and obtains digital signature from the client on site, then the job is automatically marked as complete by Vism on the dashboard and the job calendar is updated.
Richens describes its actions from the user point of view: “We all have logins to an online app. I also have the mobile project manager app installed for reading on the move. We all update it with our own projects/deliveries and the in-built calendar shows if someone else has booked a fitter for the time that you need one.”
“We use a custom-built FileMaker system for our MIS but it is not connected to Vism. However it doesn’t really need to be – as long as we put a job number on each entry into Vism, then that is our search point.”
Why was it chosen?
Having learned about Vism from its founder Dan Tyler, Richens said he didn’t need to look elsewhere. “I didn’t look at another app, this did all I needed. Before I would make lots of calls! At first I was sceptical how it could benefit our business, but once I had a video demo with Dan I saw the advantages it could bring: no more calling around for installers, I can now click once and send the job to all of them. Also the main thing for me is being able to go back at a future date to find the signed-off job and pictures just by typing in our job number.”
How did the adoption go?
The Vism app has now been in action in Swanley for a year and Service Graphics Swanley has recently renewed it for another year. It’s all gone pretty smoothly, says Richens. “The Vism app is constantly being improved with each update, and Dan and his team listen to users and add/remove things to suit them.
“Installers’ feedback has been good, they have an app on their smartphone, so instead of having to answer their phones whilst up a ladder or on other jobs, they can simply look at the notification and tap to accept or reject a job.”
Any issues? “I had a few glitches in the early releases and Dan and his team were on the live chat within minutes helping me and all was rectified.”
What does he like most about Vism? “The best thing would be keeping all the pictures/sign-offs in one place under the relevant job number. Before this app it was very hard to find old job details.”
Anything negative? “I’m struggling to think of a grumble, if I’m honest,” says Richens. He has a few ideas for future features though: “I would love it to have a social media section whereby I could share my jobs to LinkedIn or social media, maybe even a template case study document. I have mentioned this to Dan so who knows what the future might bring?”
Would he buy it again? “I would and have recommended it to others. I think Dan has created a fantastic product that any company, not only print, could utilise.”
Vism is an app for automating and streamlining project management. Although developed specifically for the complexities of large-format print installation, it could be adapted to anything with similar requirements for organisation of complex tasks shared across numbers of people, for instance shopfitters or events and exhibition companies. It comprises a main dashboard accessed by web browser, plus a smartphone app accessed by anyone involved in the projects, including outside contractors.
Price Monthly fee based on number of dashboard users (unlimited installers)
Contact Vism UK 0203 026 3593 www.vismapp.com
Service Graphics Swanley is a large-format specialist, producing signage, display graphics, wallcoverings, building wraps, stands and the like for exhibitions, events, luxury brands, retail, sports and property. It has UV-LED, Latex and aqueous printers up to 3.2m wide and a range of finishing kit.
Why it was bought...
Working with outside contractors requires a lot of organisation, planning, scheduling, tracking and sign-off. The Vism project management software organises all this.
How it has performed...
It has simplified the process of organising large-scale jobs and freed up time to concentrate on other things. “Anything that brings me more time could in turn bring us more sales,” says Richens.