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Build Your Business: Management
A Business Software Roundtable — Part 1
What is the one tool every shop needs to connect all the dots between taking an order, producing it on the shop floor, shipping it and getting that order invoiced and paid? Simple. It’s a shop operating system.
Most companies in the decorated apparel industry use a shop operating system currently. As the majority of shops aren’t large enough to employ a full-time programmer to meet their system needs, using an off-the-shelf system is the way to go.
So what’s the future for these systems as technology and needs change in our industry? As part of this three-part series, Impressions spoke with four companies about the general direction they feel shop operating system technology is going. Those companies included:
Shop Cal: A licensed software package that is installed on the user’s workstation and is licensed per computer, more than 400 shops use Shop Cal as their operating system. The software can be installed for $20-$80, depending on choices used; with $25 per additional licenses on qualifying software versions.
Printavo: This subscription-based shop operating system is used by more than 3,000 shops worldwide. A $49 per month plan includes unlimited features and additional users on the account are free with unlimited features as well.
Impress: Impress is shop-management software designed specifically for the apparel decorating and ad specialty industries and its flexible design allows you to configure Impress to fit any sized business or budget. It can be licensed as a subscription service for as little as $200 per month or purchased and installed on your server. The cost of the software is based on number of concurrent users and optional modules selected. Precise Software, the developer of Impress, has been providing business-management solutions to apparel decorators for more than 20 years.
Shopworks: Shopworks offers its core product, OnSite, as a subscription-based cloud product, or the customer can purchase and host it on a local network. Currently, more than 750 shops use Shopworks as their operating system, with the bulk of the installations in the United States and Canada. The cloud version starts at $400 per month and the “buy” version starts at $6,500. Jay Malanga, president of Shopworks provided the answers to our questions.
Use the information in this series to determine which of these shop operating systems will work best in your decorated apparel business.
Impressions: What direction do you think software platforms are going? What’s new with your software?
Shop Cal’s Preston: Hard question. Small shops are less likely to pay subscription fees for cloud-based applications. They want mobility but do not want to pay the cost of it. They also want to feel secure that their data will remain in their hands, even if they stop paying for a subscription. It all boils down to if they see a ROI in subscription-based applications and how hard it is to start over if they cancel a subscription. Because of cost, most prefer a desktop application with a one-time payment, even if it means the lack of mobility.
Our Quick Quote line of software continues to improve and add features. It is the only software that I am aware of that prices all sizes from XS to 5XL on the same line item. It also allows the ability to separate and apply different decoration methods on the same quote and to automatically figure quantity price breaks levels based on total items, regardless of decorating method or calculate discount levels based on each decorating method on the quote.
Quick Quote 4.0 now prices screen printing, direct-to-garment printing, embroidery and heat-transfer vinyl. It is also network-ready without the need to purchase additional development platform licenses for each computer it will be installed on.
Printavo’s Bruce Ackerman: We targeted smaller and medium-sized print shops when we were initially building Printavo. Over time, larger shops have come onboard because their employees enjoy the simplicity Printavo creates. We think software platforms are all going to the web, allowing shops to access their information anywhere they’re located without having to maintain the software and deal with upgrades, maintenance or databases. Printavo now has the ability to price jobs, which helps shops move faster with quoting customers. We also released an API, which allows shops to build their own features on top of Printavo. Shops are automating repetitive tasks they used to do with this API. This has been incredible to watch, since we’re continually working to allow shops to do more with less.
Impress’ Tom Pawlowski: Without a doubt, business software solutions are evolving toward platforms that enable anytime access and real-time information. Today’s users are looking for systems that not just help them drive their business, but also to take certain administrative tasks out of their hands.
Impress is deployed using a thin-client architecture, enabling users to access the software from anywhere in the world where they have Internet access. This also allows them to access the software using a variety of devices, from the traditional PC to tablets and smart phones. Email notifications of special events can also alert you of system statuses or progress on jobs without need to access Impress directly.
Shopworks’ Jay Malanga: I think more and more solutions will evolve to become cloud-based or at least cloud-available. Business is not chained to the desktop anymore so the software needs to be more “portable.”
Our software continues to evolve with at least one major upgrade every year. We have a major release scheduled in March 2015, which includes improved customer proofing, better touchscreen interfaces for the production floor and more accounting features. With a large installed customer base, most of our new features are a direct result of user suggestions.
Our “next big thing” for later in 2015 will be ManageOrders.com, which is a “customer-facing” web portal. An end user (our customer’s customer) can check on order status, see their designs, make payments, etc. Essentially, this will help streamline our customer’s operations because they can automate a lot of their customer service.
Impressions: How are you supporting tablets and phones to make information and access more versatile?
Preston: Our software will run on Windows XP to Windows 8.x. It will also run on the Windows Surface tablet or any other tablet that uses an actual Windows 8.x operating system. Using software of this nature on smartphones would not be very easy to do because of screen size limitations.
Ackerman: We fully support all mobile devices through our website. Printavo scales down and works on tablets and phones to create a powerful experience wherever you are.
Pawlowski: Impress is deployed using a thin-client architecture enabling you to access the software from anywhere in the world where you have Internet access. This also allows you to access the software using a variety from devices, from the traditional PC to tablets and smart phones.
Malanga: Our core product, OnSite, is accessible from a tablet using an RDP connection. I do this on my Samsung tablet all the time and it works great speed-wise, and also visually. Screen “real estate” on a phone makes it not as practical because everything is so small, but this will change as phone screens are getting bigger. Both of our web products, ProofStuff and ManageOrders, sense the device you are using and adjust the screen size accordingly.
Impressions: Are you linking web order capabilities or any information support that is cloud based?
Preston: Since Quick Quote is a desktop-based software program. It does not pull online order information from the web at this time. Because of the complexity of pricing in our industry, most shops that do offer online ordering of custom garments are using a design studio that typically handles the web-order process. Web-order capabilities are best handled by a cloud-based software solution and not by a desktop software solution. And again, it is all about the cost to use the software.
Ackerman: After we created our API. Our customers are now building automated tools to get and store information in their Printavo accounts. Some examples are exporting information into Mailchimp to email them deals or updates, exporting order due dates to Google Calendar so everyone has orders on their smartphones and desktop notifications for when an employee needs to be notified to complete a task.
Pawlowski: Impress offers a variety of features that enable your business to move to the web in the capacity that you need. A prepackaged customer portal is offered for customers that do not have the desire to create their own interface. This package empowers your customer to check the status of their jobs, print their invoice, pay the invoices online, and even approve orders and artwork. For customers that want more control of their user experience, ImpressXML allows you to integrate Impress into your own website while querying the Impress database and submitting order, art and other information to be added to Impress real time. Similarly, Impress offers a prepackaged shopping cart with unlimited stores. Or if you prefer, you can again utilize Impress XML to integrate with your existing shopping carts.
In the back end, Impress EDI allows your trading partners to share information with your Impress system without the need for end-user data entry.
Malanga: Our OnSite system can take orders from any other website or program using our EDP interface. This is not a new feature, though; we have had it for years. Essentially, it allows our customers to use whatever product they want as an order-taking “front end,” and that order can then be processed and tracked on their main system.
Impressions: What on your website is customizable to the shop?
Preston: Quick Quote is totally customizable with features such as unlimited pricing matrices to allow the shop to have different pricing structures for different customer types. The shop can even assign a specific matrix to a customer as the default for that customer. In the product catalog, a shop can set the cost they pay for each garment style, assign base markups to the three different pricing groups for each style, and even add an estimated shipping charge to each garment. The base price to the customer for the blank shirt is also subject to quantity markups as assigned in the pricing matrix. While generating a quote, the shop can mix different decoration methods on the same estimate and select which style gets which decorating method. They can further select if the quantity breaks are by decoration method or total items.
Ackerman: In Printavo, shops can customize which invoice line item columns they’d like to use, payment methods (Authorize.net, Stripe.com or PayPal), logo, invoice statuses, pricing matrix, and employees on your account and vendor catalogs.
Pawlowski: Impress is highly configurable to allow you to customize screens and reports to match your business need. Some areas have configuration screens that are basically checklists, allowing you to pick and choose what features are applicable to you. For example, sales order entry has over 100 different features or options that you can configure to tailor the data entry to mimic your business process.
Other customizable features include user-defined terms. You want the “Not Before Date” to be called “Start Ship Date.” No problem. Company logos can be tailored for each customer report specific to the customer account, customer class, customer type or company division. Set the rules up once and let Impress find the correct logo. User-defined fields are included for data entry and reporting for customers, designs, decorations, sales orders and invoices. Other features include a drag-and-drop interface to develop your own reports for decoration worksheets, art approval forms, box labels, mailing labels, shipment labels, custom packing slips, and hangtags.
Report builders that allow you to select which fields you want to include on reports, how you want to sort, and what you want to subtotal on. The customer portal and shopping carts will put 100% of the control over the appearance and content in your hands. Start with our base package and tailor it to suit your needs. Email notifications can be set up for things like rush orders, letting you control all the attributes defining the rush order. Maintenance screens give you the power to define your own resources, such as order tracking events, machine names, machine classes, customer class, customer type, terms, order types, etc. They are all configurable by you. You are not forced to work within a defined list of resources.
Malanga: Yes, the system is very customizable for each individual company. It has to be because there are so many types of companies and embellishments in our industry. For example, our system can be set up to handle contract work (customer brings in the goods), subcontract work (you send out your production to someone else but buy the goods from another vendor), traditional production (you buy the goods and then embellish) and also traditional promotional product (you are buying the finished good and the embellishment from a single vendor).
Users can customize icons used for orders, what machines are named, different departments, different “design types” — almost all of the core system is customizable in this fashion. We have an online “repository” for our customers called shopworkscentral.com. It is a website that we use to do three primary things.
First, customers can access and watch videos online for training. Customers can access documents, recorded webinars and other training materials when they are released. Also, when new versions are released, they are posted here so customers can learn about the new features and also download the actual upgrade.
Marshall Atkinson is the chief operating officer of Visual Impressions Inc., and Ink to the People, Milwaukee, Wis. A frequent contributor to Impressions, Marshall also lectures on sustainability at Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS) events and has participated in numerous industry webinar panel discussions. He is on the board of directors for the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP), and serves on the SGIA Leadership Committee. For more information or to comment on this article, email Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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