This article is sponsored by EFI as part of WhatTheyThink's Print Software Product Spotlight series. In preparing this article, the WhatTheyThink Print Software Section editors conducted original, in-depth research on EFI’s Midmarket Suite. This Product Spotlight describes what the editors feel are the product’s strengths in the marketplace. EFI reviewed the final article for accuracy but had no editorial control over the content.
For decades, printers have defined themselves by the manufacturing processes they provide on the shop floor. You are a commercial offset printer, you are a web press printer, then you added digital printing or oversized printing. Who a printer was got answered by the kinds of presses they ran. Presses are still important; manufacturing processes are still the centerpiece of any printer (who is essentially a custom manufacturing business). Printers still differentiate by investing in the latest press technology that allows them to produce better, different, and more cost effectively on the press floor. There has also always been the differentiator of the quality of the press operator. The same press can exist at lots of different print businesses, yet one can run it more efficiently, at a higher quality, with less waste than the others by simply staffing the press with more qualified press operators.
The software you run and how well you run it at your print business is building in its importance—very soon to be as important or rival the presses. No printer buys a press without thinking about potential inline finishing or pre-production requirements (e.g., for digital, the DFE or RIP). Investing in the software for your print business requires the same approach of looking both upstream and downstream for how the software is going to work in an integrated workflow. The press is the anchor on your production floor, your Print MIS/ERP is the anchor for your print software.
EFI has organized their print software offerings into “suites,” and this Product Spotlight focuses on the EFI Midmarket Print Suite. A suite approach to the software solutions required to run your business essentially pre-packages a group of products that already work together to solve end-to-end workflows. In many articles over the last 5–10 years, I have written this statement: “There are no isolated print software purchases anymore.” You can’t afford to buy a piece of software without thinking through what happens upstream and downstream of where that software is going to play in your overall workflow. The suite approach does some of this thinking for you. The suite approach does some of this integration for you.
The power of the EFI Midmarket Print Suite is not achieved simply by wrapping the marketing around it. The marketing of a suite is the easy part. The power and what you care about most is the potential return-on-investment (ROI) achieved through the EFI Certified Workflows that allow you to run your business on top of a collection of different software solutions in an integrated manner. EFI Certified Workflows are a set of common scenarios that are currently in use with customers, where products are stitched together. For example, the “job flow” from EFI’s MarketDirect StoreFront to Pace Print MIS to Kodak’s Prinergy to EFI’s PrintFlow Scheduling to EFI’s Process Shipper to Pace Accounting. From order entry to invoice in this example. It includes at least one third-party application, Kodak’s Prinergy, and then a set of additional software solutions from EFI. All EFI Certified Workflows are tested against every release.
When you buy into the EFI Midmarket Print Suite you are buying into an integrated platform of products that are built to work together and just as important—built to continue to work together as each product continues to evolve. Printers have always had the option to string together workflows themselves by choosing the “best-of-breed” software product in each area. This is still available to printers today. It just takes a lot of work and a lot of internal technical expertise that you have to hold onto forever. Stitching products from different vendors together requires time, effort, and money. Maintaining that stitching requires time, effort, and money (which often comes as a surprise to most print business owners). Software is not like a press in that it continues to evolve, sometimes dramatically. You don’t have to worry about a press manufacturer changing the size of their press after you installed it. You do have to understand that a software vendor could dramatically change the way their software works after you have it fully implemented in your business.
You can see the logic of why EFI is packaging their offerings in integrated suites. In 2021, the printers who have fully integrated workflows will out-compete the printers who are still throwing head count at manual workflows. It goes without saying that hiring and keeping qualified technical staff is a challenge for all businesses. How do you maximize your investment in software technologies to streamline your business without having to hire an army of technical people in your print business? You need to find ways to “outsource” or “remove the need” for technical overhead of your print software so that you can focus on the investment of your people becoming the best operators of this software possible. Remember the analogy of the press operator? They make a huge difference in the ROI you achieve from your press investment. Think about your software investment the same way: your Print MIS Administrator is as important as all your press operators to the profitability of your business. Some printers can’t even name who their Print MIS/ERP Administrator is— there’s an opportunity for a huge impact on your business.
The EFI Midmarket Print Suite is a platform anchored by the Pace Print MIS/ERP. When you buy Pace, you are buying into the option to extend the workflows upstream and downstream of Pace with pre-existing integrations and EFI Certified Workflows that get tested against every release. EFI has also made investments in the infrastructure to normalize the communication between its products via eFlow which removes the one-off nature of cross application communication and makes it easier for all applications in the suite to move faster by using a standardized communication language. The infrastructure investment also enables EFI to build a tool or set of functionality that can be exposed in various applications; a good example of this is the EFI Workbench. A feature that provides one centralized location where you can view all the information required to do your specific job successfully.
EFI’s Midmarket Print Suite compels printers to make integrated decisions about software. The suite forces the issue of considering up and downstream ramifications of your software procurement decisions. That might be the core strength of the suite, focusing the attention of all print business owners on end-to-end workflows. Every software procurement decision should be assessed against its impact on end-to-end workflows.
Additional product resources provided by the sponsor.