Multi Users, QuickBooks, etc.


Posted: 13 December 2009

Hal, We currently (as you may already know) have MF installed on a server with multiple workstations accessing it. I know that MF was not designed to be used in this manner, and we are limited to everyone logged in as the admin. I have been looking at some W2P software and one that's in beta right now has a function that allows for job tracking with multiple users.

It seems like a natural progression for MF to have the ability to allow for this with job tracking already built in. I like the thought of having my guys in the pressroom be able to update the status of the job as it is moving along, but I don't want them tinkering with anything else (multi users are already built into MF).

Here is another option I though might be a "cool" add on. The ability to e-mail the customer as the job is moving threw the system via the Job Control window. For example, if the job gets stalled in pre-press for whatever reason you could simply click on the order in the Order Tracker, pull up Job Control and fire off an e-mail to the customer or when the job is complete do the same.

I don't know about other users but I have two programs running on my desktop at all times, my email software and Morning Flight! My access to Morning Flight is now a vital part of the operation of my business! (I am actually at home running MF from my server online with a DNS connection, I'm like a junkie!)

. . . . .  Craig

I thought I was the only one! I feared I was turning into some kind of obsessive-compulsive workaholic! Thunderbird (email) and Morning Flight are my two main tools to run my shop. I used to use Outlook and had it and MF open all the time. Then I decided to put my email on my network so I can check it anywhere in my shop. Outlook was not cooperative. So, I switched to Mozilla's Thunderbird and it was a breeze to install on the network. Problem is, you can't have it open on more than one computer and expect to be able to download new messages. I discovered something similar with MF last week - created two invoices with the same number because MF was being used on two computers. The solution? I only open Thunderbird and Morning Flight when I need them and close 'em when I'm done.

Craig, I'm working on doing the same thing with MF's tracker - update it when each part of the job is done. As soon as I get a new workstation in my pressroom, the old one is going in the postpress room so the tracker can be updated from there. That's why I switched to invoicing with MF! When the job is done and you're boxing it up, you can open MF, check that postpress is done AND print the invoice! Before, the job sheet would simply move to the accounting department and would have to wait for QuickBooks to generate an invoice. Takes a little longer to get paid.

I know this is getting long, but I have one more thing I would like to mention. Besides - My name is Keith and I'm a Morning Flight Junkie. I saw Craig had posted on this forum and Print Planet early this SUNDAY morning and now I don't feel so bad for doing the same!

Oh. That one more thing I forgot to mention ... I discovered a really cool feature in MF this past Friday. I had five job tickets fresh from the postpress room. I went to MF to print the invoices. I went to "Print" and then "Invoices" and something called "My Work Session." Curiously, I selected that and a window opened that had all the invoices listed by date. The five job tickets in my hand were there with a checkmark next to 'em! I thought, "Awesome!" I clicked print and all five original invoices printed. THEN it asked me if I wanted to print remittance copies! I said, "Hell yeah!" FINALLY, it asked if I wanted to print accountant's copies!

I was speechless with this new found efficiency and simplicity. Thank you, Hal. And now the job can be put into QB just like any other bill, check or transaction. Which is usually at the end of the day when there is not enough time to start the next job but not late enough to go home.

While I'm here, I might as well concur with Craig - multiple users at once would be cool. The email, notification would be as well but I remember Hal talking about it before. Do it once, they'll expect it all the time; miss an update and they'll be on the phone, "Why's my job still in prepress?!"

Sooo, how about an on/off switch? Just like selecting if the customer is taxable or gets a discount.

I'm done.

. . . . .  Keith

What is your system for getting the MF Invoice number to match that of QB? I haven't invoiced with MF yet due to the synchronization between the two. I'm afraid I'll open another can of worms that should be left closed. I would think the two numbers should match, that way if the customer pays by invoice 12345 you can easily reconcile that in QuickBooks.

. . . . .  Craig

Matching the invoice numbers was the biggest issue we faced after thinking of all the problems we may encounter. We tried changing the invoice numbers in MF but I don't think that is possible. I'm sure we probably could have changed the numbers in QB but I didn't want to mess with that. Then I realized how we usually look up customer payments when we receive the check - by the amount, not the invoice number. At any given point in time, the most invoices a single customer will have open is four or five. I'm sure I'm a much smaller operation than you so I don't know how it would work with a bigger operation than sends out more than a few invoices a day.

But that's no way to do bookkeeping. Since QB invoices are easy to customize, I created a row that says "MF" and we put the Morning Flight invoice number on the Quickbooks invoice when we enter all the data and transaction details. We print out hard copies of all the invoices (naturally, for any printer) and file them in an easy access folder labeled "Customer Receivables." Let me break it down in steps:

1.Open customer payment envelope with joy! Wow! A $255 check! I can eat this week! We'll call it ABC, Inc.
2.We flip through the receivables folder till we see ABC, Inc invoices.
3.Instead of looking at QB invoice number, we'll look for the MF number. That also happens to be on the check.
4.Then we go to QB and reference the QB invoice number because you can't see the MF number in the Receive Payments window.
5.Go to the liquor store and buy more Scotch. To hell with eating.

We just started doing this, Craig, so I have no idea if it's going to work. I can think about it till I die but will never know for sure till I try. (Oh, that's a good quote!) If you want, ask me again in a couple of weeks before you try it and I'll let you know how it's going! No need for both of us to mess up our books! LOL!

OR, If you do go ahead and try it, I would love to hear your experience as well as any improvements you can think of!

. . . . .  Keith

Keith/Craig, You've both given me some good ideas for future development, which I'll comment on later. For now, let me just deal with the QB issue.

First, you're right, Keith. You can't change invoice numbers in the Gold beta, but the release version will have a choice of starting numbers under "Invoice Preferences." QuickBooks, on the other hand, is very flexible that way. The program will auto-increment the invoice number when left to its own devices, but there's nothing sacred about it. You can type in any number you want. Including the invoice number generated by Morning Flight. See the screen capture below.

For small shops, the first QB invoice sample may be overkill. Back a few years when Unitac still offered printing, we mailed the MF invoice with the product details to the customer, then transferred a single amount, the subtotal, into QB.

. . . . .  Hal Heindelforum_gold_invoice

I knew QB was flexible with invoice numbers, but I didn't know I could just type in any number. That would be a perfect solution, but MF is on #1076 and QB is on 1800-something.

. . . . .  Keith

It would be better the other way around, Keith, but unless your accountant has misgivings, I don't see a problem setting QB back to 1077 for your next invoice.

Here is what will happen. When you enter 1077 into QB, the program will warn you about the duplicate invoice number until your numbering exceeds 1800 (-something). That would be a real pain if you couldn't suppress the warnings. Turns out, you can: Edit > Preferences > Sales and Customers > Company Preferences tab.

Still, it's a good idea to check with your accountant. The way I've described it is how we use QB internally, and I've never gotten flak about it. Now for the fine print: I know far too little about accounting in general, and QB in particular, to be handing out expert advice. On this leg, you're flying solo.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel


I think I'll start out trying Keith's idea first, sounds a lot less likely to make my wife kill me!

. . . . .  Craig

I take it your wife is keeping the books. Word of advice, Craig: When you follow Keith's formula, play it safe and don't go past step four.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

LOL! That's too funny! One of the locations I considered when I was opening my shop was awfully close to a liquor store. I decided against it when I saw where all my profits would go!

I love the idea about entering in MF's invoice number and I'm sure it's not a problem. My concern is when people pay in advance (yes, it's as good as it sounds!) I just jump right to QB for an invoice because I think if I used MF it would lock out all the job tracking features.

. . . . .  Keith

Craig, I've been going through posts from earlier this month and discovered that we got so entangled with the QuickBooks sync issue, your job tracking suggestion about the ability to e-mail the customer as the job is moving through the system via the Job Control window got short-changed.

Generating a ready-to-send e-mail when the job is ready to be shipped or, better still, ready to be picked up, is a great idea. After all, that's what Amazon and other on-line merchants do. Definitely going on my to do list.

E-mailing a customer when the job is stalled is also good business practice, especially when the hold-up is caused by the customer. After that, things get murky. For instance, at Unitac, we had a production meeting every morning before the presses started rolling. Often, we ended up rescheduling jobs that didn't have a firm delivery promise in order to minimize press setups and washups. It saved both time and money for us, but in the long run, the customer also benefited - more competitive pricing, shorter turn-around times.

To optimize that, we rarely promised jobs that didn't require it. But we also didn't tell a customer that his job just got bounced into next week because it messed up our workflow. I think you can see where I'm going with this: There is a fine but well-defined line between keeping the customer in the loop, and too much information.

Now, is it up to MF to define that line? Probably not, so if a feature is technically possible and doesn't make the program more diffuse, why not include it? For the same reason we have "Goofy" for data validation, and automatic text formatting to keep the customer list from looking like alphabet soup, and a host of other functions mandated by Morning Flight's bent for automation.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Wow. That would be awesome for MF to send an email to the customer with just a couple of clicks when you update the tracker. I'm terrible at calling or email when the job is finished!

. . . . .  Keith

Hal, you and I are on the same page with regards to keeping the customer in the loop. We operate much the same as you did, I will shuffle jobs around based on what inks are on the press or even if the folder has the 8-page on or not. My thoughts are simply the option to shoot out an email when a job has stopped for something major like the customers art sucks and I refuse to print it because it sucks so bad, or a nice happy email to let them know the order is complete and I want the rest of my money!

Keith, I think you may be able to do something like that already or at least I do it this way (doesn't mean it's right). Under presses I have my digital press set up with a minimum charge to cover the "file prep" time, and under my offset presses I have included that into the plate price by "fudging" the numbers on the CTP pricing. I'm sure there is a better way, but this will at least compensate for some of the lost time working with customers' "print ready" art.

. . . . .  Craig

I have to disagree with the "zero makeready" claim made by some digital press manufacturers. Maybe I have an inefficient workflow but it can take 5-10 minutes sometimes to make sure the image is landing where it should on the sheet. I always make sure the toner is sticking by doing a tape test. And of course, color matching - or at least making sure your reds are red and not orange. And when you don't have a production machine like Craig, duplexing can be an art (correct me if I'm wrong).

Now, about preflighting, I think offset has more of it than digital. They have to worry about things like color separation and trapping. Those are not problems in digital machines. And if someone gives you a file that truly is "press-ready," I guess it would be as simple as lowering the slider.

I'll try that today - go through all me products and adjust the "makeready." Those pain-in-the-butt brochures are getting the maximum and things like envelopes get the minimum. I like that. And Craig, thanks for the suggestion.

. . . . .  Keith

Here is some insight into digital makeready that's a step above what's covered in the manuals.

In Morning Flight, the total makeready time is decided by both the product and the press, and is in effect a two-stage process. In the press update window, the minutes set for makeready also sets the baseline for the product properties. In the screen captures below, I've reduced 1-C press makeready to two minutes (the default is three). As a result, the VLow setting for the product now becomes two minutes as well, with the VHigh setting showing eight minutes, all for 1-C digital. Sheet size doesn't matter.

At the 3-minute default, the VHigh setting is twelve minutes. The point to remember is that these are total minutes, including the three minutes from the press makeready. So in effect, at the VLow setting, the three minutes are considered pure press makeready with no product makeready minutes added. At the VHigh setting, you get three minutes of press makeready and nine minutes of product makeready.

To sum up, press makeready is where the two-stage process begins: It first sets the time for setting up the press, then acts as a range factor for setting up the product. It stands to reason that if setting up a particular press is time-consuming, setting up a product to run on that press is likely to be time-consuming as well.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel