Since 1970, The Ace Group, Inc. has been a leader in graphic arts solutions, combining the most advanced technologies and trends with old–fashioned customer service. Today, The Ace Group is well known for addressing marketing challenges. That can mean everything from Variable Data Publishing (VDP), used to produce unique marketing pieces tailored to each individual customer's interests — to traditional printing and prepress services. The company is a leader in adoption of green technologies and media to provide customers with environmentally low–impact, high–quality communications materials. As a small yet prestigious print service provider with 25 employees, The Ace Group serves big-name clients like Nike, Cole Haan, Morgans Hotel Group, and Gap Inc.
The Ace Group, Inc. approaches its work as a high–touch craft, it is also serves clients with extreme high–tech automation, efficiency, and low costs, thanks to FileMaker Pro database software.
The Ace Group
The Ace Group is a full–service printing company known for finding solutions to marketing challenges. That can mean everything from Variable Data Publishing (VDP), used to produce uniquely tailored marketing materials based on individual customers' interests, locations, or other variables, to traditional printing and prepress services. While the company approaches its work as a high-touch craft, it is also serves clients with extreme high–tech automation, efficiency, and low costs, thanks to FileMaker Pro database software.
- The Ace Group is a full–service printing company known for finding solutions to marketing challenges
- Cross-platform, customized FileMaker-based solutions
- Provided exceptional client service
- Leveraged extensible, cross–platform environment for streamlining virtually every business process
- Ran server–side script triggers in FileMaker Pro to develop workflow automation solutions
- Reduced costs and improved service by automating publishing processes
FileMaker Pro provides us with a solution that we can automate and customize to provide highly tailored and efficient solutions for our audiences, whether they are internal or external. For us, that's the key to our ongoing success.
Providing print services to major brands is a detail–oriented process. According to Paul Groppe, IT systems manager for The Ace Group, technology is key to delivering the most advanced services to clients on time and on budget. The company has to manage a wide variety of processes in parallel.
From an administrative standpoint, the company must track employees' billable activities, as well as matching this information with purchase orders and job data in the company accounting system. Every job requires job tickets, time tracking for billing purposes, as well as a detailed job log and history. From a sales angle, The Ace Group staff needs to capture and disseminate data from the company website, manage sales contacts and generate estimates.
To add to the challenge, the company must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to web–to–print and VDP. Regardless of the specific project, The Ace Group must find ways to capture unique customer information and then coordinate the process of creating one–of–a–kind marketing pieces. In many instances, The Ace Group uses web–to–print services from outside providers to enable end customers to complete web forms and receive tailored print fulfillment pieces in return.
All of these workflows require an extreme amount of coordination and automation in order to provide superb quality for clients, while keeping project costs and IT efforts to a minimum. According to Groppe, the biggest challenge for The Ace Group is helping clients find solutions that meet their needs — within an acceptable timeframe and an affordable budget.
Although everyone on staff is technologically savvy, Groppe notes that the company has only one dedicated IT staff person — himself. As a result, the company has long relied on FileMaker Pro to keep everyone in synch and automate key processes.
"We first began using FileMaker Pro in 2002 as a replacement to another solution that we were using to maintain customer lists, job tickets and job production logs," says Groppe. "The previous system was hosted on Novell file servers and was rapidly reaching its end of life. FileMaker Pro brought us into the future. Plus, it was cross–platform, and easily customizable."
The Ace Group is currently using a host of customized FileMaker–based solutions — Groppe and team have built them all from scratch. "Initially, the solutions were based on the processes we had in place before we used FileMaker Pro," says Groppe. "Thus we were able to begin using FileMaker Pro without having to change the internal processes that were already established and working for us. Basically, FileMaker was able to learn how we work. Refreshingly, we did not have to retool the way we run our business around the requirements or restrictions of FileMaker Pro."
FileMaker Pro brought us into the future. Plus, it was cross–platform, and easily customizable.
Today, The Ace Group uses FileMaker Pro in every aspect of its business. FileMaker Pro started out as a tool to keep track of customers, jobs and production schedules. But now, in addition to that, the sales force uses it from everything from estimates and proposals to remotely checking on the status of jobs in production. For example, when salespeople are on the road and receive calls from clients inquiring about a job, they can simply use an iPhone to remotely look at the FileMaker Pro based Job Log and check on the status in real time while on the phone with the client. Without FileMaker Pro, the salesperson would have to hang up, call the shop, get a status report and call the client back.
"We publish our FileMaker Job Log database on the Internet via the PHP API. We have also written scripts for FileMaker to upload information to our QuickBooks accounting system. Our accounting group uses this to gather information about jobs produced, outside purchases and time and materials used on jobs. This information is then used to help automate the billing process," says Groppe. "It's all completely connected and automated over the Internet with FileMaker Pro."
Automation — key to the company's success — has also been increased with FileMaker Pro using script triggers to develop workflow automation solutions. A recent large–scale project was the production of MINE Magazine. On this project, users visited a website where they filled out a form selecting specific subjects for articles they would like to see appear in their personalized MINE Magazine. These form submissions were saved to a FileMaker Pro database. Scripts in the FileMaker database then generated the content for the personalized magazine automatically based upon the data submitted.
The advertising for each MINE magazine issue was highly personalized — far beyond simply inserting the recipient's name in ads. For example, script triggers in the FileMaker Pro database applied a matrix against the submitted data to deliver custom ad content for each personalized magazine, depending on criteria such as what type of articles the consumers selected, where they lived and answers to specific questions such as 'Do you prefer sushi or pizza?' "As a print service provider, we have to cater to the individual, whether that is an internal employee or a potential customer who is interested in one of our client's products," says Groppe. "FileMaker Pro provides us with a solution that we can automate and customize to provide highly tailored and efficient solutions for our audiences, whether they are internal or external. For us, that's the key to our ongoing success."