Located in Aberdeen SD, Midstates Group employs about 400 people and generates $50 million in annual revenues under the umbrella of four different companies, the largest being Midstates Inc. Print & Media Solutions, a heatset web/sheetfed offset business that accounts for three-quarters of those employees. Midstates Inc. Print & Media Solutions is a commercial communications company specializing in direct mail, commercial printing, warehousing and fulfillment as well as cross-media marketing.
Another Midstates company, Quality Quick Print (QQP), is the focus of this discussion. QQP is a digital shop specializing in short-run, fast-turn digital and quick printing as well as signs, large format graphics and apparel. This group has about 40 employees and generates about $5 million in annual revenue.
“As QQP grew,” says Justin Feickert, Midstates’ VP of Sales & Marketing, “we needed to improve our overall infrastructure to ensure that we could support our growth and generate more. We did a study of our job flow and found that it took 11 touches to process an average job. In today’s market conditions, that is simply unacceptable.”
Feickert explains that the company was seeking an automated system that tied the web to print storefronts directly in with the back-end MIS system, adding, “We wanted something that was cloud based and overall a user-friendly system. We also wanted a system that created a customer order portal regardless of size of customer.”
The result of their search was the implementation, about 18 months ago, of PressWise by SmartSoft, an end-to-end integrated solution that incorporated all of the necessary administrative workflow elements. QQP has branded its PressWise customer-facing online presence as MIM —Marketing Inventory Management—and offers it in two flavors—MIM Pro, a fully customized and skinned customer web portal which is prepared for larger customers on a fee basis; and MIM Light, a less featured web portal that is automatically created by the system for each customer and is provided to those customers at no additional charge. The company has more than 25 customer storefronts in place under the MIM brand.
“I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that this implementation has revolutionized our business,” Feickert commented. “We have gone from 11 touches down to 2 or 3 on most jobs; that’s a 70% improvement. We can directly attribute 8% to 10% topline growth for QQP to this implementation, as well as a 20% increase in profitability,” he says. “And we are at least 25% more efficient in handling orders.”
But the benefits to Midstates don’t stop there. Another Midstates company, Panther Graphics, is focused on the digital and commercial print business. The company went from hand-written job tickets to an automated end-to-end process. As a result, Panther Graphics has seen a 30% growth in topline sales. As for profits, Feickert says, somewhat tongue in cheek, “It is not hard to show improvement when you didn’t have any.”
Even Midstates Inc. Print & Media Solutions has seen benefits. “We initially installed the system there to take care of inventory and fulfillment,” Feickert says. “By implementing this solution, we have generated at least $250 thousand in incremental revenue there as well as more work for QQP from Midstates customers. And we are just getting started.”
Feickert cites a couple of customer examples that demonstrate this success:
• A manufacturer of doors and windows with 1,500 distributed dealers has more than 200 different products in a MIM Pro portal, everything from decals and magnets to product brochures. The manufacturer can log in to see who is ordering what. Midstates is fulfilling 20-40 orders per day through this storefront, business it never would have had before and which adds up to about $100,000 in incremental annual revenue. In addition to revenue from printing, Midstates charges a monthly hosting and material storage fee, a per-box pick/pack fee, and markup on freight.
• A catalog company with 100 sales people was an existing customer for whom Midstates printed the catalogs. Now, marketing materials are stored in a MIM Pro portal and QQP has a cross-selling opportunity for digital printing work including name tags, trade show signs, banners and more.
Feickert concludes, “We are getting work we never would have gotten before across the board. Especially for QQP, if you have to spend 15-20 minutes processing an order for business cards, you certainly can’t do it profitably. We have been able to gain more work from existing customers, enter new markets and even with reduced selling prices, our margins are better.”