29 April 2018 Business

MIS entrants seek toehold in competitive UK market

A German supplier and Australian market leader are bringing their MIS products to the UK market.

No sooner does one new MIS appear in the UK, then a second arrives. One has come from Germany, and is being sold by Cloud to Print, a company formed by Paul Warren, as Keyline MIS.

It uses a cloud based platform, hosted by Amazon Web Services, and open interfaces with freely published APIs to link the different features within the MIS and the processes that it can control.

The technology was developed in Mainz, Germany, where most installations are located. However, the availability of the software in English indicates ambitions beyond the DACH countries.

At heart is the idea that printers must offer more than just a single style of printing and a limited choice of products. While web offset and large format printing modules are still under development, the intention is to cover all types of printing and to link to web to print, prepress workflows, delivery and third-party software to produce an all encompassing seamless automated manufacturing environment.

Developer Crispy Mountain claims that thousands of APIs already exist and that it plans to creating an app store to exchange other APIs and smaller applications. And it has plans to extend along the print supply chain.

The developer has helped form the ‘Integrated Publishing Environment’, to link book and ebook publishers to printers, digital book producers and stock management companies with Keyline at its heart. One of the members, Livonia Print is one of the largest book printers in Scandinavia with 55 sheetfed and cutsheet presses at a plant in Latvia. It is one of Crispy Mountain’s flagship customers.

However, the MIS can apply equally to smaller businesses willing to pay a monthly by usage fee. Warren says: “Keyline is an exceptional solution within the MIS landscape and we are excited to support Crispy Mountain in their endeavour to establish Keyline as the MIS of choice in the UK printing industry.”

This will be a tall ask against the indigenous MIS suppliers, Tharstern, Imprint, Optimus, Accura and now EFI, let alone another established incomer from Australia.

This is PrintIQ, the leading Australian developed MIS which has been focusing its attention on the US over the last couple of years and had planned to come to the UK in 2019, before an inquiry from a North London printer changed its plans. This company is now part way through an installation having come to the end of its previous contract and needed to implement a replacement MIS rapidly.

After less than two weeks the system is generating quotes and will in full production in the next couple of months says CEO Anthony Lew. "We have been under considerable time pressure, but for the customer, a significant business risk has been averted." Other prospects are monitoring progress he adds, confident that further UK orders can be expected quickly.

The company specialises in rolling out an installation in minimal time, usually 12 weeks. It is built around eight core modules with others to address particular market needs. It integrates with other third-party applications, XMPie and Chili for example, and is a strong advocate of Enfocus Switch. It is also a cloud hosted approach to release the user from limitations of changing operating systems and computer technology.

However, the focus is on supplying a fully configured solution which automates a workflow and business functions as each outside integration will lead to compromises, according to product development director Mick Rowan. "It is not so much an MIS, but a new breed of software," says Lew, "more a management workflow system."

The first UK installation has spurred inquiries from a host of other printers looking to switch away from an MIS that has barely changed in years, says Lew. “Sixty percent of our customers are converting from other systems. They complain that nothing ever changes, that it’s the same product over the past ten years.

"We have come to the UK about 10 months earlier than we originally planned. We will have people in the UK. Later this year our sales director Adrian Fleming will spend time in London building the sales and implementation team. In the meantime we will service the UK from our locations in North America, where we have offices in Detroit and Toronto."

The software has been honed in one of the most competitive arenas around, where UK MIS providers Tharstern and Optimus are active alongside EFI and PrintIQ. "We seldom lose a deal," says Lew. Customers range from small businesses to multi site groups to the largest with more than 3,000 staff. It is an Saas model, "making an initial investment highly affordable".

Gareth Ward

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MIS gains foreign flavour

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