Digital Skills to Pay the Bills

Technology and digital advancements within the print industry are continuously evolving, creating a competitive culture – but also a cause for concern. A recent article in Print Week by Rhys Handley has put the spotlight back on the digital skills divide within the print industry.

As new applications are developed, they also require the infrastructure, workflows and skills to support them. A recent study by the Open University called ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ states as many as nine in 10 organisations across Great Britain currently lack the necessary digital skills, which range from cyber security and the cloud, to data management and social media.

As they widen, skills gaps can impact productivity heavily, with 56% of businesses saying this has already happened and half expecting profitability to be impacted within five years if the situation is not rectified. Research suggests that digital transformation can make every business in every sector more productive, and most businesses can’t afford to miss out.

With this in mind, it can become overwhelming to deal with these issues on top of your day-to-day running of a printing company. This is where strong links with suppliers of training, education and software become key in overcoming any barriers a printing company may face.

Label converters have been shifting their attention to software applications ranging from pre-press automation workflows, project management, online label ordering and business management systems.

So what can you do to identify and address the digital skills gap in your business?

  • What is your digital strategy? Define a plan of implementation with clear milestones.
  • Do you have buy-in from senior management?
  • Do you need additional people with new skills or is it a matter of introducing new skills to existing employees? Focusing on existing employees is a much lower-cost option – they know your business and they are already committed to your brand.
  • Try to look long-term rather than focusing on short-term gains.
  • Find out what training and support your software and other digital suppliers can offer.
  • Digital training should be continuously evaluate and consistent.
  • Does your organisation have a learning mindset?
  • Don’t be afraid to speak to your customers to see how you can support them on their journey.

Contact Label Traxx if you would like to discuss giving your customers online access to order their labels, prepress automation or workflow optimisation through management software. We’d be happy to help. Visit www.labeltraxx.com or come to see our experts at Labelexpo, Brussels on stand 9A10 during September 24th-27th.

2019 Label Traxx User Conference

Do you have questions about how to optimize your use of Label Traxx MIS? Sign up for the 2019 Label Traxx User Conference May 8-10, in Milwaukee, WI. Label Traxx is offering training on a variety of topics relating to the Label Traxx software.

Check out new modules, hear about best practice and learn from your peers. There will be 15 sessions held over a three-day period covering topics such as digital optimization through JDF, managing and monitoring KPIs with Business Metrixx, custom-report writing, monitoring profits and many more.

Click on this link to download the brochure and sign up now: https://customers.labeltraxx.com/_w0tlJkUxRwtg8R

Can you make business decisions quickly and with confidence?

Do you have the information you need to be able to make business decisions quickly and with confidence? 

You know the figures you need, but somehow they are never at your fingertips – someone has to export data and put into spreadsheets – or you need to find someone who remembers how to build a pivot table for comparison.

The Label Traxx Business Metrixx Module is a reporting dashboard designed to provide management with key information on the performance of their business. It takes volumes of data from a single source and turns it into easy to understand, visual information. The module is designed to provide best-practice metrics on the entire company performance – not just sales – allowing management to clearly see trends, monitor progress, and take action where necessary.

Business Metrixx utilizes a balanced scorecard approach, ensuring one metric does not cause the wrong action, and ensures the entire organisation stays focused, making the right decisions at the right time. It is a cross-functional information centre, providing real-time data to the entire organisation from the following areas of Label Traxx:

Orders
Production
Productivity
Sales
Profitability
Purchase orders
Quality
Estimating
Purchase ledger
Inventory
Cash management
Financial

“Our customers are capturing vast amounts of performance data daily,” says Label Traxx president Ken Meinhardt. “The challenge comes in being able to easily process it and present it in a meaningful way. Our customers want to be able to process information quickly. Business Metrixx enables management to make informed decisions about their business – No waiting around to get data in front of them. It’s all gathered quickly, in real time from Label Traxx. The module identifys areas needing improvement and forms the basis of KPIs that allow companies to manage their business”

Contact Label Traxx for a demo or more information on Business Metrixx.

Label Traxx announces the launch of Siteline

Label Traxx announces the launch of Siteline for Label Traxx – the online self-service solution that labels and packaging customers have been clamoring for. Empower your customers to engage with your print business when it’s convenient for them. Siteline includes complete order history, access to all of their custom labels and relevant stock labels for easy re-order, as well as collaboration tools that will drive efficiencies in your customer service.

Label Traxx MIS presents digital optimisation strategies at Xeikon Café

Label Traxx MIS will be attending the Xeikon Café event in Belgium from 20-23 March 2018. The café presents industry trends, best practices and expert views on current and future digital packaging challenges.

Label Traxx MIS is exhibiting at the event and will be available to discuss strategies to help digital label converters gain a competitive advantage. In a digital environment, turnaround times and accuracy are pivotal to success. Label Traxx MIS software provides label converters with the tools to support and enhance digital workflows. It allows label manufacturers to reduce waste and non-value added tasks, paving the way to more profitable work.

“Label Traxx MIS has a number of digital-specific tools to integrate with key partners and help label converters increase productivity and profit,” explains business development manager Chris Spooner. “Multi-SKU orders can be created within seconds and our file-planning tool enables printers to gang these jobs as efficiently as possible. Further integration with prepress software such as Esko Automation Engine and Hybrid Cloudflow means that artwork tasks such as step and repeat are automated, reducing pressure on the art department.”

Label Traxx provides a single system of record for your data which means you avoid time-wasting double-entry of data. The program helps to group together similar label products, to increase production efficiencies and speed up turnaround times. It will also manage job timings to help optimize planning and production. Label Traxx monitors job cost information in real time, so you can analyze how profitable your digital jobs are and Xeikon press users can also receive data on toner usage from the press as part of this analysis.

Café attendees will also be able to see Label Traxx’s newly launched Siteline module – a web interface, which is fully-integrated with Label Traxx and enables end users to place repeat orders online, see previous order history and track projects through milestones. Siteline also handles new artwork being uploaded online.

Visit Label Traxx at the Xeikon Café in Belgium for more information.

ABOUT LABEL TRAXX

Label Traxx is an end-to-end management software system designed and built specifically for the label and packaging industry. The company continues to release cutting-edge software to help label converters streamline their operations and increase profitability. Label Traxx is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and supports customers across the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

For more information visit www.labeltraxx.com, or contact Chris Spooner at +44 (0161) 261 7405 or email chriss@labeltraxx.co.uk.

Lead times, people’s time and the good times

By Chris Spooner, Label Traxx Business Development Manager

A recent article from FINAT’s Jules Lejeune says that recent research states;

“Apart from customers’ price reduction pressures, the demand for shorter lead times is creating a significant day-to-day challenge that their businesses face today”.

Short lead times are not a new concept to our fast-paced industry, but nonetheless they still exist and apply pressures to all businesses of varying sizes. One of the key questions to ask yourself is knowing how busy you are today, what would happen if several customers order large orders today? Your first thought would be fantastic as it’s revenue for your company. Your thoughts will then quickly turn to, can we deliver on-time? What capacity do we have? Do we have enough stock? Can people cope with this extra workload on top of existing projects? How can we do it all? We all want to keep our customers happy and deliver a quality product, on time and at the right price.

A key area of focus in your business are your employee skills and harnessing them to your advantage. You need them to be focusing on their strengths to help grow your business whilst providing them with enough stretch and challenge to satisfy their professional appetite. The last thing you need skilled people to be doing is copious amounts of duplicated administration work and to be ‘going through the motions’ which can be very demotivating. Instead you want them focusing on projects, working in collaboration with clients to improve products and drive growth.

So, how can this be achieved? By removing waste from your workflow but remember, not all waste can be removed. Some waste is essential waste that your customer expects but doesn’t necessarily want to pay for such as checks and internal processes. So, you need to target on the added value elements of every job and speed up the elements in-between.

Management of your workflow can be a time-consuming process and from my experiences can be easy to maintain during quiet periods but then fall down once you reach capacity. It’s at these moments you realise you turn from being a printing professional to a metaphorical firefighter, putting out internal process fires related quality issues and mistakes due to rushing tasks and cutting corners. Processes need to work when pressure is applied in all cases to ensure repeatability of tasks time and time again. This would reduce reprints, credit notes, damaged reputation and of course stress on your employees.

This is where a business management information system such as Label Traxx can really support your internal workflows and processes. It allows you to reduce and eliminate certain administration tasks and duplication of time. Tasks such as converting estimates to tickets; planning a multi-sort digital job; ordering material; inventory management; quality checks; to sending out an invoice and bringing money into your organisation. At Label Traxx we work in collaboration with you and your business to ensure that you maximise your workflow and maximise your employees’ strengths. We can create a closed-loop of information that can feed and improve your business by providing you with real-time and accurate data. This allows you to make improvements and focus on those 20% of issues that give you 80% of your problems.

In an ever-changing, customer-led world, you need to be able match their expectations and give you the best possible chance to succeed and grow. Label Traxx will work with you to meet your business objectives and carefully constructed mission statements and company ethos.

Professional management information solutions created by label experts for label experts.
Come and visit us at Labelexpo 2017 stand 9A10 or contact us here today to see how we can support your business and keep your internal and external customers satisfied.

What’s the key to MIS implementation success?

Watch this great video from Web2Print Experts‘ Jennifer Matt about how to get the best from you label print MIS software investment. She believes that there is a single characteristic in every implementation that will “make or break” the project. The key? Use your new MIS program how it was designed to be used by the developers and exploit your supplier’s expertise in your market. Trust their experience.

If you try and bend your new MIS software to match the workflows you are using now, you could be introducing your business to ongoing complications. Your frustration levels will be higher, you might ending up paying for more professional services to get the program running how you want it and ultimately you might need customisation which deviates from the core program. And deviations from the core program can make future upgrades more complex.

Click here to watch Jennifer Matt’s video on the print website WhatTheyThink.com

Who should do your label estimating?

Looking back at my many years of working with label converters, I have seen a number of different people performing the estimating function in our label estimating software. Some work better than others. First let’s look at the task. It is one of the most critical jobs at a label company. If it is done incorrectly, you risk losing money or making very little. In some cases, money can be left on the table that will affect profit.

Who have I seen using label estimating software?

• Owners

• Sales people

• Customer Service

• Reception

• Dedicated estimators

For the estimating function to be fulfilled successfully, it is imperative to have a very knowledgeable estimator. Many shops have a number of different printing processes and equipment that can run many jobs. The estimator must be able to select the appropriate press and then calculate an accurate cost.

What are the main factors that need to be considered by the label estimator?

• The type of artwork

• Customer’s expectation

• Available tooling or cutters

• Run length

• Material used

Estimating should be broken down into specific stages:

Planning

What details has the customer provided us with? We need to select the equipment and materials that we are going to run and consider the finishing details. How does running the job on a different press affect cost and sell price? Could we buy a more efficient tool? Would it be more cost-effective to run the job digitally?

Review

Examine the production numbers calculated. Does it reflect realistic actual production times and materials needed?

Mark up and margins

This is where estimating becomes a real art form. How much do you mark it up? This assumes, of course, that you estimated the real cost of the job. The last thing we want to do is sell the job below cost. As most people know, the mark up can vary based on a number of factors, including market niche, material used, who the customer is, etc.

Estimate presentation

Today, creating a PDF and emailing it to the customer is the best option. Your MIS or label estimating software should be able to do that with ease. The MIS should be able to format the letter and allow you to customize it. There should be no need to waste time rekeying the information into Word to send it.

Another recent innovation is enabling your customer to log on to your web site and review their entire order history. This becomes your customer’s file cabinet of estimates and gives them easy access to the information 24 hours a day.

So, who should do the label estimating?

I have discussed some of the key knowledge requirements and because of the complexity of the estimating task, I would suggest a dedicated estimator whenever possible. The estimator can focus on the task and become very good at it. Good salespeople may not have the detail-oriented personality necessary for estimating. They should be focused on closing the sale, and because of that focus, they may not be watching job margins closely. Many owners and key managers make good estimators, but their time may be better off used for other tasks. Customer service reps should be great at entering order details, and that is what they should focus on. With a good estimator handling the job engineering, CRSs can focus on servicing customer needs.

Contact us if you would like more information about our label estimating software.

by Label Traxx President Ken Meinhardt.

Tax savings on label print MIS installs in 2016

Don’t miss out! You have until the end of December to install Label Traxx label print MIS and claim significant tax savings in the US.

Section 179 deduction

  • Section 179 deduction – eligible companies are entitled to deduct up to $500,000 as an expense when buying off-the-shelf MIS software in 2016

Bonus depreciation

  • 50% bonus depreciation for 2016 – businesses of all sizes will be able to depreciate 50% of the cost of the MIS software acquired and put into service in 2016

Your software system can be leased or purchased, but it must be in place by December 31, 2016. Speak to your CPA or tax professional to confirm your company’s position, then give us a call.

Label management software integration speeds up digital finishing

A customer came to us with an interesting problem this year – Innovative Labeling Solutions (ILS) of Hamilton, OH, has a very busy digital label printing division that is growing fast. ILS has been using the JDF integration between Label Traxx and Esko Automation Engine to streamline their prepress department for several years. With productivity optimized in prepress, the volume of job changes required in their digital department wasn't a problem on press, but it was creating a bottleneck in the finishing department.

ILS started thinking about laser die cutting technology, but realized the laser technology was only part of the picture in optimizing finishing. If you visited the ABG stand at Labelexpo in Chicago, you will have seen the latest Digilase laser die cutting technology. We worked alongside ILS, Esko and ABG International on a project with the aim of speeding up job changeover and increasing throughput through the company’s digital finishing department.

The integration enables the Digilase die cutter to pre-process the job in advance so that when a barcode printed on the web is scanned, the digital finisher knows which job it is running, is ready to cut the correct die line and the slitting knives are positioned automatically. Job changeover is much faster and downtime on the finishing machine is minimized. The integration uses data that is passed from Label Traxx to Automation Engine and then the Digilase. It uses Label Traxx's new API module which available in Version 8. Check out our video to see the digital laser finisher in action and click here if you would like to read more detail on the integration.