Based in Atlanta, Sull Graphics is a full-service print and marketing services provider with customers throughout the southeastern United States. It’s a one-stop shop, offering creative design services, high-end static printing for branding and complex variable-data printing for one-to-one marketing and personalization.
Sull Graphics has established a solid reputation for precision, high quality work, coupled with responsive customer service. The award-winning company was founded in 1988.
For Keith Sullivan and Mandy Ward, the glass was both half-full and half-empty. Sull Graphics, the company they founded with their father in 1988, was seeing a steadily-increasing volume of work from their loyal customer base, and those customerswere asking for a broader range of services. Sull had relied on a print MIS system to automate many parts of the workflow and allow them to meet deadlines, but the vendor of that system had been acquired and the new owners had stopped development.
It was time for a change; Keith and Mandy wanted to make the right choice. Sull Graphics engaged an outside consultant to help analyze their process and workflow, identifying where automation could streamline production. They also needed to improve the quality of information available about each job – a need shared by virtually every department in the company.
“Our customers have always gotten our very best work, but producing it was much more costly and time-consuming than it needed to be,” said Sullivan. “We were in danger of becoming mired in a process that couldn’t adapt to our growing and changing business.”
The first priority was to reduce the number of costly touchpoints, or places in the process where staff intervention was necessary. One major area involved shop floor data, which was not always accurate, resulting in job costing errors that often affected profit margins. The sales team didn’t have information readily available, resulting in calls to the customer service group and wasting the time of staff in both departments.
The web-to-print system, which was handling more volume, was an isolated island of automation. Since it couldn’t be integrated into Sull Graphics’ existing print MIS system, staff had to rekey the information into the order management system. And because the web-to-print orders had not been properly estimated, each one required review before being invoiced. The resulting delay meant a corresponding delay in getting the invoice into the customer’s hands. In addition to web-to-print orders, one administrator was tasked to create pro forma invoices and review cost information before the invoices could be sent to customers.
It wasn’t unusual to see members of the sales and management teams on the production floor, making sure jobs were being done accurately and deadlines were met. “We knew there had to be a better way,” said Sullivan, “and we needed to find it.”
Sull Graphics did its homework, conducting a thorough assessment of three print MIS systems. They concluded that Avanti Slingshot was the best solution to eliminate bottlenecks, minimize touchpoints and streamline operations across their entire business. Since rekeying web-to-print data was the weakest link, the first order of business was to eliminate
With Avanti Slingshot, jobs generated by MarcomCentral, the web-to-print solution used by Sull Graphics, are seamlessly sent to Avanti Slingshot. Jobs that require estimating can also be converted into new orders without rekeying. That improvement alone saved the company as much as 15 hours each week in redundant clerical tasks, not to mention improvements in accuracy and efficiency.
Avanti Slingshot also streamlined invoicing, reducing errors in pro forma invoices by 90%. Sull Graphics’ cash flow showed remarkable improvement, with invoices now issued as soon as the job is shipped. These improvements freed up even more administrative time, allowing staff to devote more focus to accounts payable and purchasing functions. This paved the way for additional cost savings through negotiated purchasing.
Standardized job ticketing and production processes have given Sull Graphics the ability to take their already superlative work to the next level of quality. With direct access to the data on any given job’s status as it moves through the shop, sales staff can devote more time to soliciting incremental business.
“People have the information they need at their fingertips. The CRM Job view saves me hours and hours of moaning and groaning from my CSRs every week”
The previous system captured the standard data specific to each job – quantities, substrates, delivery information and the like. However, Avanti Slingshot aggregated job information for a particular customer all onto one screen, giving Sull Graphics a “big picture” understanding of each account. Now they can identify the profit margin of each customer, and spot trends in growing applications with higher margins.
Like most business owners, Keith wears many hats. With the wealth of information now available from Avanti Slingshot, he can spend more time managing and growing the business based on hard data. Since implementing Avanti Slingshot, Sull Graphics has moved to a new larger facility, added a new 40-inch press and expanded their direct mail capabilities.
After using Avanti Slingshot for about a year, Sull Graphics management decided to take the next step toward their long-term business goals. With the help of an Avanti workflow assessment, the company identified more areas where automation and information can support growth.
Having data that they could trust, Keith and his senior team now are focusing on new ways of automating their fulfillment operation and managing inventory. Another area on the agenda is expansion of Avanti Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which will support the sales function by providing valuable insight into what customers need, enabling quick reaction to customer requests and anticipation of future needs. CRM promises a richer array of sales tools that will combine historical production data from the core system with a complete record of customer contact and sales opportunities.
Seeing the benefits of integrating the MarcomCentral web-to-print systems with Avanti Slingshot has driven the next step of workflow automation. Direct integration between the Sull Graphics production workflow software, Kodak Prinergy, could eliminate even more touchpoints and enable the direct capture of precise data as a job moves through the shop.
“Our number one priority is the same as it’s been since day one, and that’s quality. We’ll continue shipping our very best work to our customers and, with Avanti Slingshot, we can do it more quickly, accurately and profitably.”
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