For Wayne Atwood, president of Poster Prints, a commercial lab in Greensboro, NC, one of the primary benefits of the Quantum system is the ease with which he can now quote jobs. "To remain competitive in a very competitive business today, you've got to quote jobs quickly and accurately," he says. "Once you've set up your records and input the information about your own services and your clients, there's built-in repeatability for quoting jobs immediately and reliably, as soon as you hear from the client."
With more work arriving via the Web, he's also pleased this Web-based system simplifies the process of submitting and tracking orders online. "When someone calls in or checks online about the status of any order, this system makes it easy to keep them up to date."
The ease of use of the program's GUI interface and extent of its database are features he recommends lab owners look for in any business management system. "You can enter as much information as you want to keep track of," he explains. "Then, with its GUI interface, you can find out whatever you need in easily produced reports."
Phil Fisher of Pro-Tek Color Lab, based in Greenwood, ID, has been very pleased with Timestone for their software needs. "Our services are primarily devoted to digitally printing youth sports leagues and school pictures," he says. "When we were looking at our 'digital package printing software' options, we were extremely impressed with Timestone. The ability to color- and density-correct hundreds of images at a time was one of our main concerns. Designing packages for individual customers is very easy and quick. Customer needs change frequently, and having the ability to change or add package designs quickly has been a huge benefit. Portrait and wedding printing is also a snap, but 'volume package printing' was the true test for us."
The insights gained from detailed reports are one of the key features of the LabWorks system used by Martie Shieh, owner of the full-service SuperColor Lab in Los Angeles. "The major benefits I see are in its tracking and reporting features," he says. "That information, in easy reports, really helps middle managers know what is going on in their departments, what work is headed their way and what they need to take care of," Shieh says.
As the owner, the ability to generate reports as needed helps him analyze all aspects of his business: "I can go in and pull up reports on individual productivity and how fast each job is moving through each department." He credits the publisher for being responsive to his needs and able to customize the program to track and organize the kind of details about his business he considers important.
At White House Custom Color in St. Paul, MN, another LabWorks user reports it's the program's job scheduling, billing and accounts receivable functions that are most useful. "The biggest gain I've seen is the efficiency with which we can now handle every order," reports Michael Hanline, CEO of the photo/digital lab. "It takes a little time to set up an order, but that order can be billed, literally, in as little as five seconds."
He says the software allows him to improve services in ways that just weren't practical before. For instance, he has the company's "IT person," his 19-year-old son and a college freshman, working on integrating the software with a UPS system so clients will automatically be e-mailed when an order is shipped with tracking information. "The software has become real important to the way we do things, to our own efficiency and to how we've been able to handle our growth," he says.
Jim Schwarzbach, owner of Jim's Photo Lab, El Paso, TX, is only beginning to discover the many ways a business management system can benefit his company. The minilab owner purchased the PowerLab software from Unique Business Systems earlier this year. Until the software was installed, store staff completed orders by hand. To manage finances, the company used Microsoft Money personal finance software. "Right now we're using PowerLab for order entry, tracking and billing," he reports. In fact, he says the software has so many features he imagines it will be several months before he's fully proficient in its use.
Nevertheless, Schwarzbach's limited experience using the program has convinced him it was a smart move. "Already, it's allowed us to operate more efficiently, saving time and money," he says. "If someone walks in with 10 rolls of film, we can take their order and print labels for the film envelope in a minute. Billing used to be a two-day affair for us; now it's automatic."
He does have a bit of advice for other lab owners who may be contemplating a similar move: Allow ample time to set up your system. "There's some labor involved in the front end, setting up records and entering your data," Schwarzbach explains. "But once that information is there, and you start keeping track of all activity, you'll be able to learn things about your business you had no way of knowing before."
Kevin Vesely, president of Vista Color in Cleveland, OH, agrees: "Without the software, I wouldn't be able to easily know what we're selling the most of, who my primary suppliers are, where accounts receivables are today. It makes it easy for me to answer any questions I have about my company."
For managing the business side of his company, Vesely relies on The Photo Solution from Breakthrough Technologies. Functions include order entry, accounting, purchasing and inventory management. Job workflow is managed with another program, TQ Tracker, which was customized for the lab. In both systems, each job is tracked using order numbers generated in The Photo Solution.
"They run parallel to each other and keep track of everything I need to know," Vesely says. "I take the information from Breakthrough and run daily spreadsheets that tell me what jobs are in and what's expected, where everything is and what needs to be done, what's billed and what's due. It's an extremely valuable tool for anyone who wants to keep on top of everything that's going on in a busy lab."