Build Your Business:

A Business Software Roundtable — Part 2

April 6, 2015

In Part 1 of our three-part series, Impressions spoke with four companies about the general direction they feel shop operating system technology is going. Here in Part 2, we continue our discussion, and focus in on specific products being offered, and what special features they have.

We spoke with Preston from Shop Cal, Bruce Ackerman from Printavo, Tom Pawlowski from Impress, and Jay Malanga from Shopworks.

Impressions: Describe a challenge that your software solved for a user in the last three months.
Preston: I think the biggest challenge our software solves for all our customers is the ability to price consistently and accurately. I just had one customer who purchased Quick Quote because they lost a big job trying to price the old way with spreadsheets and pencils. Not only did they miss the mark on pricing, but it took them too long to get their pricing submitted.

Ackerman: Many of our users are filling out paper invoices and passing them around to complete jobs. They’ll sometimes have a whiteboard in the production department for scheduling, use Excel for work orders and a separate POS system. This creates a lot of data duplication, which reduces efficiency. We’re constantly taking them off this slow and messy process to our centralized, web-based platform. Our smaller and larger shops have these problems and we truly help them do more with less.

Pawlowski: A customer that receives orders for several different types of ecommerce methods — EDI, custom shopping cart, and custom import. Goods are produced, warehoused, picked and shipped to various locations and billed either to a central location or to the receiving location. We worked with the customer to complete integrations for all the different imports so there would be no rekeying of data. We set up bin locations and virtual warehouses to make for ease of inventory reporting to the customers as well as inventory management in the warehouse by setting up pick locations and replenishment locations. Prior to this the customer was using various systems that did not work together, resulting in late and/or lost orders, and customer dissatisfaction.

Malanga: The biggest challenge that all of our customers have is that before buying our product, they are using four to six different systems or pieces of software to run their business. Typically they use forms for order entry, spreadsheets for purchasing, Excel for job quotes, magnet board or Excel for production scheduling, and QuickBooks or something else for accounting. This is inefficient and also leads to lot of errors on orders, both of which limit how much their company can grow. Our challenge when switching a customer over to our system is for them to embrace the “integration” concept.

With OnSite, they enter information once and it travels through the whole company. It is what they need to grow, but they need to re-do procedures, employee training and sometimes look differently at the whole way they process orders. It is a lot of change management and we are honest with customers about the process and try to “shepherd” them through it.

Impressions: How can using your shop operating software help to become more competitive? Give an example.
Preston: The simple answer is the ability to price competitively, accurately and instantly. I tell people that you are more likely to secure the sale if you can give a price on the spot. If a customer calls you and you have to call them back later after you figure a price, they are less likely to complete the purchase then if you can give them a price while talking to them on the phone. I had one of our software users tell me their counter sales went up 50% because they could now give the customer a price on the spot and secure a deposit.

Ackerman: Our goal is to help businesses do more with less. We don’t want you worrying about upgrading software, maintaining databases and dealing with errors. It’s obvious shops are busy, and helping print shops to scale their business is a huge win. Printavo helps centralize scheduling, invoicing, payments, pricing, QuickBooks syncing and more. When shops are using complicated software management suites or too many different tools at once, they’re not as efficient as they can be. We’ve helped countless businesses focus on the core aspects of their business, save time and reduce labor costs.

Pawlowski: Knowing how much capacity has been committed and how much is available is key to accurate predictability as well as machine and overhead absorption of cost. Being able to offer more services without changing software packages, such as fulfillment, EDI, e-commerce connectivity from many different sites; virtual storage locations of product for ease of reporting and access; and quick and convenient look up of past orders improve turn times while reducing labor costs by giving access to order information to your customers.

Customers can now approve art and jobs at their convenience rather than having staff dedicated to chasing them down during the busiest parts of their days. Using the Impress inventory tools from the desktop application or the wireless inventory management system can help move you to a Just In Time (JIT) inventory model allowing you to free resources by not having it invested in stock that is collecting dust on a shelf. A variety of features are available that help cater to specific sectors of business. From targeting team sports, uniforms, consignment and fulfillment inventory, contract (customer supplied) jobs, commercial accounts with storefronts, and even trading partners requiring EDI. Impress has the tools to help you manage each of your customer’s needs.

Malanga: There are three main ways we help them become more competitive. The first is to reduce the costs dramatically to process a sales order. Less labor per order means they can move more volume without increasing costs linearly.

The second is less errors on producing orders. Our system keeps track of everything related to a sales order and all this information is available with the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger. Employees are less prone to make mistakes when paperwork is the same every time and not hand-written.

Lastly, Shopworks is a better end-user experience. Customers who have our software produce orders consistently and on-time and their customers appreciate that consistency.

Impressions: Do customers of the shop have access to their information, jobs on the schedule or art thumbnails such as an image library?
Preston: If you mean the shop’s customers, then no they cannot access any information in the software. Again Quick Quote is a desktop-based software application, so it is not accessible to customers via the web. The shop can email them PDF files of the estimate or invoice and artwork approval forms directly from Quick Quote.

Ackerman: Yes, we have an expandable calendar that jobs can be assigned to for the production department. Users also can attach artwork to invoices of any file type. This artwork can then be used for approval of the quote.

Pawlowski: Yes, customers have access to the status of jobs in as much or as little detail as the shop wants to provide. Thumbnails of the art are attached to the order and the customer can attach the thumbnail to various documents such as quote, sales order, and invoice as well as others. The thumbnails are available in a library for viewing and lookup.

Malanga: Not in our current system but they will later in 2015 when we release our product.

Impressions: What features set your software apart from the competition?
Preston: This really depends on the targeted end-user (shops). Our software is targeted towards the smaller shop. The ones that cannot or will not spend the money for more complex software applications. I have found that two of the biggest obstacles keeping shops from using software like this are one of cost and one of complexity.

A lot of Shop Cal quoting, invoicing, or management software solutions out there are just too complex for most small shops to use. Most have features that small shops will never use, further increasing the complexity of using the software. Quick Quote allows the user to price an entire order on one screen. Backend setup is not that complicated either and our unparalleled support walks users through any pricing setup issues they may not understand.

The other thing is price point. There is no other software out there that is as affordable as Quick Quote or Shirt Chimp (our Rhinestone & HTV pricing software for kitchen table decorators) that also offers the level of support that Shop Cal software does.

Why did I create Quick Quote? I am totally convinced that one of the biggest problems facing this industry is that too many shops do not know how to price. This is why you see pricing all over the place. You see shops that just markup the shirt and add a buck for printing and things like that. This lack of knowledge about how to price is one of the main factors that have driven what a shop can charge down. I am passionate about trying to change this. I know a shop using a software solution for pricing will make them more competitive and more profitable. I also do not consider Excel a software solution for pricing.

Taking that perspective above and adding the fact that several lower cost software solutions available to shops do not provide very good support if any. Shop Cal software breaks the mold for low-cost software that provides the support level one would normally only see with programs costing many times what our software cost.

Ackerman: We really don’t focus on being able to do more than the competition. We’re going our own path and focusing on creating an easier to use platform for shops. Shop management software is complicated enough and we don’t believe it should be that way.

Pawlowski: Fulfillment and inventory management using handheld mobile computers; the ability to import orders directly into Impress from third-party ecommerce sites; a pre-decorated shopping cart that can be cloned into as many different sites as desired at no extra cost; a graphical schedule board that allows the user to schedule decorations to machines based on expected time to complete; electronic white board to allow posting of the schedules in places that allow workers to see what orders are scheduled; EDI integration that allows documents to flow in and out of Impress without manual intervention; and customization services.

Malanga: I think there are a few big differences. Shopworks culturally is from the industry and we understand it. That understanding translates to the software and even when you talk to our support staff. We understand very intimately what our customers do.

The platform we develop on is rapid development — three to 10 times faster than other platforms. This means we can deliver upgrades faster and cheaper than our competition, which is important when you talk about a changing industry like ours.

We are 100% committed to “integration” in our software. A lot of software companies think of integration more as a flat file export whereas with OnSite all the modules from marketing through accounting are all connected real-time because everything is in a single integrated package.

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