Commentary & Analysis
Free Special: The Internet is NOT a business model - E-Business at Graph Expo
Just a few years ago,
By Gail Nickel-Kailing
Published: October 18, 2002
Just a few years ago, the world turned upside down and the Internet was a new business model. Never mind that no one knew where the money was going to come from. The Internet was going to be the technology that revolutionized the way people bought, sold, produced, and delivered printed products. The graphic arts industry would never be the same. So much for irrational exuberance!
It turned out that the Internet is NOT a business model, and you couldn’t give away applications or content and expect to make a profit on transaction volume. Did that mean back to business the old fashioned way?
Nope. The Internet has been many things: a marketing medium, a sales channel, a super wide-area network, a private network, a publishing platform, and a computer platform. It has now evolved into the technology backbone that connects data and systems into a sophisticated network of applications, information, and people.
The graphic arts industry has always been careful in embracing new technology. And the enthusiasm with which the "dot com" companies pointed at the "broken system" of print procurement and production caused a sharp reaction. The "industry immune system" as I call it. However you describe it, the door was slammed shut and the graphic arts industry hasn’t been the same since!
In just a few short years, however, many traditional and some new print production management and ERP system vendors have integrated Internet technology into their products in a number of ways. The solutions do make it easier for buyers and sellers to communicate, but they do NOT try to replace the human interface between the sales person or the customer service rep and their customer.
Following is a short review of some of the products offered by some of the vendors at Graph Expo 2002. Yes, that is a qualified statement there – I’m sure I’ve missed someone or some product, and would like to apologize in advance. By now, many of these companies have complete descriptions of their GraphExpo announcements posted on their web sites - so make sure and visit each one before you make your selection.
Sit back and enjoy this short post-show tour of E-business at Graph Expo. There are some interesting solutions out there, and more evolving all the time.
Avanti Systems (www.avantisystems.com)
Using the Internet as a tool has benefits for in-plant printers, commercial printers, demand printers, pre-press houses, label and screen printers, and trade binderies: reduced administrative costs; improved customer service; accelerated business processes and; greater revenue opportunities.
An Avanti interface to the Web, an intranet or extranet can provide an easy, personalized, inexpensive and secure link to customers, sales representatives, suppliers and offices around the World, all with 7 x 24 access. Key customers and sales people can be automatically provided with work in progress and delivery information without having to interrupt internal production personnel.
Blanchard Systems (www.blanchardsystems.com)
Blanchard provides systems integration of a number of hardware and software products, including the DALiM TWiST automated production workflow system.
TWiST WEBLiNK provides total access to the TWiST Workflow Manager and offers the ability to manage all aspects of production workflow remotely from any computer, anywhere in the world using a standard web browser.
TWiST DiALOGUE is an internet-based soft proofing option for TWiST workflow that enables the user to view high-resolution files, make annotations and validate a job, all from a web browser. TWiST DiALOGUE is a seamless optional module to the TWiST Workflow Manager. It streams data to a browser, allowing any authorized user the ability to view a file at high resolution in real-time.
CRC Information Systems (www.crcinfosys.com)
CRC Information Systems offers its products on a modular basis so you can select only those you want to integrate to a base system. CRC's Internet applications can help printers meet the stringent demands of service-oriented print buyers and earn more of their business by providing them with the information they need when they want it. Included are a number of customer-facing modules:
Their e-Commercial Printing Quotation Entry module can provide printer customers with an intuitive, user-friendly Web interface for submitting job specifications. The module allows offset printers to bid on more jobs, submit bids more quickly, and provide buyers with the services that they are demanding. Print buyers need only enter a few pieces of information such as page count, finish size, and stock type to submit a request for estimate. Once the request has been submitted estimators can simply download the specifications, enter a price for paper, generate the estimate, and e-mail a quote letter back to the customer.
Creo Inc. (www.creo.com)
Creo’s Synapse InSite™ makes Internet-based communication between printers and their customers a reality, streamlining the process of job submission, job-status tracking, on-line collaboration, and remote proofing or approval. Synapse InSite is an Internet portal into the Brisque™ and Prinergy® prepress environments.
The customer service representative (CSR) handling accounts at the print site has the ability to manage client information, add/remove participants, and receive optional email notification for each change, keeping them up to date. InSite provides
DataFlow Systems (www.dataflowsystems.com)
DataFlow’s Optimus B2B product suite comprises a complete range of eCommerce solutions to enhance the trading relationship between printers and their customers. All of the B2B modules are fully integrated into the Optimus 2020 system and all updates occur in real-time without any need for re-keying or batch updates.
DiMS! Organizing Print (www.dims.net)
The company’s product, DiMS!, is a single, Web-enabled, multi-lingual, multi-currency software package capable of fully integrating the complete range of business processes — from estimating to planning and scheduling, pre-press to production, supply data to transportation and fulfillment.
DiMS! is an integrated, end-to-end solution suitable for sheet fed and web printers and the entire range of finishing processes. DiMS!’ enables an enterprise solution by harnessing critical information across the supply chain on a centralized, Web-enabled database. Users can access customer profiles, job specifications, estimates, schedules, shop floor data, inventory stock information, etc., anytime, anywhere.
Heidelberg (Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Ag, www.heidelberg.com)
Heidelberg’s e-portal, Prinect Internet Portal™, allows print providers to communicate directly with print buyers through a designated Web site and enables an array of e-services, from remote proofing and online requests for printing quotes and orders, to job management and secure file transfer. The Prinect Internet Portal system also is customizable to feature the branding of individual print businesses and serves as an online gateway to Heidelberg’s Prinect™ products.
Prinect Internet Portal services bridge the technology gap by enabling access to a full range of online tools that allow all parts of the print workflow to collaborate with one another.
The fully job definition format (JDF)-compliant Prinect Internet Portal system can be integrated with other JDF-based packages, including Heidelberg's portfolio of Prinect workflow products, as well as PrintTalk-compliant products.
Printable Technologies (www.printable.com)
Printable has added Web Services functionality to the new Printable 5.5 application suite. Printable 5.5 Web Services enables customization and fulfillment of printing products from any Web site, portal or software application. Partners can offer print and non-print items (such as advertising specialties), as well as print-on-demand services, utilizing Printable’s application suite, directly from their own systems, providing an enhanced user experience, more flexibility and greater customer control. Utilizing the Micrsoft .NET Platform strategy, Printable 5.5 Web Services lets printers extend their information systems to PDAs, mobile phones and new portable tablet PCs.
Printcafe Software (www.printcafe.com)
PrinterSite Internal is an Internet-based tool that seamlessly integrates with Printcafe Hagen OA, Logic SQL and PSI print management systems. The solution is designed to meet the needs of the "internal team" – a team that includes the salesperson, the estimator/production planner, the customer service representative (CSR) and the printer’s production personnel. The entire product has been built around the specific needs and expectations of this team, providing a single, integrated data network for the real-time exchange of vital information.
PrinterSite Customer Connect is an add-on to PrinterSite Internal that gives customers the ability to enter RFQs directly into the print management system through any standard web browser. PrinterSite Customer Connect uses Printellect’s Q&A format for collecting job specifications quickly, accurately and easily. Printellect walks customers through an intelligent question and answer session to build a project. Based on the answers received, it knows what to ask for next. Print buyers not only build RFQs, but they can submit them, review quotes and submit orders online.
The Prism Online suite of e-Business tools, was developed specifically to fulfill the e-commerce needs of printers. e-Service Desk is a secure, user friendly Internet-based customer service site, designed to allow Printers to provide their customers with the ability to manage their print buying online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
All information is accessed in real time, direct from the printer's management information system. Requests or amendments that the customer makes via e-Service Desk, feed straight back into the printer's MIS - allowing for immediate response and accurate, up to the minute management information.
Profit Control Systems, Inc. (www.profitcontrol.com)
The C/S Series E-Commerce Interface Application combines the power of the Internet with the power of the PCS Business Management Software, in three ways:
- PrintTalk Standard –a third party-developed and maintained Internet site. Print buyers subscribe to the service, which handles all transactions from Request for Quotation through Invoicing.
- "Powered By" or user developed sites. The printer is the owner of these sites, and they are used exclusively by their customers. These sites generally handle only Purchase Order and Order Status transactions.
- PCS E-Commerce Sites is an application suite available for printers to install on their own Internet site as a convenience for their customers. Transaction types are; Request for Quotation, Stock Status Check, Order Entry, and Order Status Check.
Each of these Internet site types are integrated into the C/S Series Management Information System by using the C/S Series E-Commerce Interface Application.
Radius Solutions Inc. (www.radiussolutions.com)
PECAS InterVision Supply-Chain is aimed at enhanced customer relationship management by allowing printer customers to do the following over the Internet:
- Look up the status of current orders
- Check on the stock of finished items
- Place an on-line shipment release
PECAS InterVision QuickPricer gives printers the ability to offer a fast but accurate on-line pricing service to both their major customers and internal sales teams. The buyer simply specifies the product in layman's terms, and the QuickPricer software selects an appropriate production method and calculates a price. QuickPricer also allows non-technical staff such as account executives to provide customers with rapid pricing information.
Tailored Solutions, Inc. (www.tailored.com)
E-Traxx is one of the newest options in Litho Traxx, Tailored Solutions’ management system for the printing industry. E-Traxx features:
- Gives customers access to information specific to that customer.
- Connect through a 4D Client Web Server which communicates with the Litho Traxx server
- Firewall technology to insure the security of the Litho Traxx server and internal network.
- Login by customers to a web server controlled by the printer. After the customer has been set up with a customer password in Litho Traxx, the customer goes to the printer’s web site and enters their customer number along with assigned passwords to limit access to only their information.
- Customizable access to any part of Litho Traxx where customers can request a quote, review a quote, check inventory levels of their finished goods, review a list of their available custom products or check on the status of an order.
unit inc. (www.unitinc.com)
print.IT is a vertical, pre-configured turnkey SAP based solution that can be installed at a printing or packaging company. print.IT comes with pre-configured processes, functions and data. As a standardized, integrated, Web-enabled solution that combines an intelligent specification-based estimating tool with high-end business applications for sales, production order management, purchasing, scheduling, inventory and fulfillment with an advanced financial accounting solution.