What some of our “First Timers” at the 5th Annual MUG Fall Users Meeting said:
What I experienced at my first Users Meeting is that there are a lot of opportunities to network with like print shops that may have a lot of the same problems you do with the software. This impacted me by helping me think of solutions that I would not have thought of without going and talking with other people. It was a benefit to me to hear from the EFI guys about what they have worked on, plan to work on, and what direction they are headed. My Views! My company already uses My Views but not near its full potential. I think once we update to the new version of Monarch I can use the knowledge that I learned at the User Group meeting to make and share My View with other people. On Thursday I attended the Print-Flow roundtable. What I learned is that a lot of other companies are running into some of the same problems we are having. We both have ways to work around the problem but it was interesting to learn the solutions they came up with. What I would tell someone that has never attended a User Meeting before is that you will get out of it what you put in. If you take the time to ask questions and listen to other people the opportunities are endless on what you can learn. These meeting are about coming together as an industry and as one voice to let EFI know how their software is performing and what could be made better so that we can all benefit from it.
As a first-timer, I found the meeting extremely useful on several aspects:
- Number of EFI employees in attendance.
- Ability to meet, get to know, and discuss issues with, more experienced users and EFI employees. Many of these will become invaluable contacts in the future.
- Insight into enhancement process.
- Insight into future product releases and features.
- Ability to discuss focused topics in round-table sessions.
Bottom line, any company who uses Monarch should join the MUG and send at least one employee to the meetings.
I am new to the print industry and recently began a new IT role with a company that uses Monarch as their ERP. Since I am new to the business I am not yet fully up to speed on all of the struggles we have as an organization, but from what I have gathered so far I believe that users have far too many spreadsheets and manual processes in place. I went to the MUG Meeting to mainly listen to the struggles of others and also hear how they are continuing to work around struggles. I was pleasantly surprised at how open users were to share struggles with the group, and also encouraged to hear that EFI is listening and working to build a better product. The best part of the User’s Group in my opinion were the small break-out sessions where people were able to share struggles in a smaller group. I was impressed with responses from others and the willingness to share solutions especially since some of the users are competing for the same or similar business. Based on this meeting I will likely attend more MUG Conferences and also try and bring more users from other business departments. On a side note…I have been to other user groups in the past for different technology products, and I got more out of the MUG than others.
It was a great opportunity to meet with peers without having to “stay on guard”, and be able to be free with experience and information regarding our workflows. It was a real eye opener for me. Seeing how others are using the system opened up a lot of ideas as to how we can do things better, and sharing our experience with others was good too. The overall conference was structured well, and there wasn’t a lot of downtime which was great. I expected it to be more of a large sales pitch for EFI products, but rather it was a fantastic chance to share with other companies faced with the same struggles. Even without knowing anyone there, it still felt really welcoming to be there. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, build on the experiences and suggestions brought up in the round table discussions. We aren’t the only ones struggling with aspects of maintaining and operating a system like this. Smaller shops like ours are facing the same problems as shops 5-6 times larger than us. Instead of trying to fix the world by ourselves, reach out and see if someone has found a path to take. Definitely try to attend. Even if you have a handle on using the system, there is still something in there that you are probably not using, or could be used better. It never hurts to pool experience and knowledge. There is one thing that is going to stick with me for a long time. When our company began our journey into lean manufacturing, we adopted the philosophy “change is normal”. In the round table for Printflow, Dave Danielson made the comment, “You will never change unless you have to change”. Such a complete and correct philosophy, stated perfectly.
I found it a little challenging to interact because I am not a user of Foundation, Planner, PrintFlow, or AutoCount and only helped with implementation here in 2009. I was more primarily focused and continue to be focused on building systems for the gaps that exist to create a more productive workflow for our plants. Also, when people talked about their environments, it was difficult for me to understand because I did not know what version of software they were using, what database they were using in the various modules, and what modules they were using. People should take the time to frame that information up, so the responses could be as accurate as possible, because it is not often you have that communication opportunity.
I did take note of a couple points:
- From Don and/or Mark about running update statistics on Progress to help with performance issues on a 6 month basis
- From Don and/or Mark about range delete with shop floor entries, estimates, and rfq
- EFI openly admitting to not finishing implementations and the need to communicate the expectations on what the implementations were going to entail
- Preview of BI, which is looking like a great tool considering the amount of time in custom reports that have been built
- Table structure changes in version 2013, which is around 15, and may have an impact on some of our custom applications and reporting
- Networking and the sharing of configurations during round tables by individuals that utilize the software was impressive
- More benefits to hands on users or subject matter experts and system administrators than from an internal developer
This is my honest development perspective.
The Fall Monarch User’s Group meeting was a great experience that allowed me to connect with fellow user’s, the round table discussions alone are worth attending. Not only I was able to create and implement an action plan for improving PrintFlow functionality in my company, I was also able to help fellow users by introducing them to different tools and/or processes that I use and in turn could help them in the everyday operation of the system. The PrintFlow round table was the most helpful and insightful discussion I had while attending the meeting. Almost everyone in the discussion had a different experience and/or issues and almost all of them were addressed by another company’s user or workflow. Everyone had a challenging implementation period due to it simply being a “change” and press operators globally didn’t want to change. The number one agreement from both EFI and other companies was In order to implement PrintFlow top management has to be 100% behind you.
So how do the other companies communicate the schedule to the press operators? It depended on the type of work: Large Press Runs: Printed and refreshed the schedule twice or 3 times a day and printed it out and gave it to the press operator. Smaller Press Runs: Huge 80” monitor in press room that looked and mimic the board. PrintFlow web was run at the press with very specific instructions to not change the sort or view of the jobs. Some companies used the gaunt version and others used the list. Another: Uses the gaunt version and they also do what EFI calls Zone scheduling. The Scheduler only schedules out 48 hours and every time something gets plated the scheduler moves it into the current 48 hour zone. I am told this keeps his scheduler busy and doing nothing but PrintFlow all day. Bindery: Several companies stated that PrintFlow did not work for their bindery departments and actually caused bottle necks. The EFI representative told us about EE (Employee) Constraint Scheduling for the bindery. This would allow the bindery to schedule by the number of people being used for each job. He also noted that it is not one or the other. The press could be scheduled by machine and the bindery could be scheduled by employees.
We also touched base and shared user tips; I shared the Clone into Existing Jobs feature that was created for us. Others were ecstatic about that. I learned that in the work centers I can get the system to auto complete tasks up stream. For example a job gets into the bindery but the half web or plating was not completed by the employee or AC, the system will automatically complete it. I also learned that a majority of companies are using the Report Library tool in Monarch. The Report Library allows Administrators to post reports and provide security at the report level.
Other Newsworthy Item: Business Intelligence – At Connect in January EFI will be showing their new Business Intelligence tool. It was originally set up for their Radius product but will now be available for Monarch Foundation and in the future Planner and PrintFlow. The BI module will allow users to create eye catching reports, graphs and dashboards. It will also allow the user to drill down to the minuet level – Jobs, materials, etc.
In closing I learned more than I anticipated and was able to connect with several other users. I also volunteered for the Planner Enhancement Group. They meet once a month to discuss and determine the enhancements we would want to send to EFI and any Planner issues or concerns.