IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A NON-EVENT, the mix of rain and sleet and wet spring snow that arrived on Monday. It shouldn’t have affected attendance much, but show traffic was, to be kind, light on opening day. One vendor described it as “abysmal.” Show management’s claims of 2,000 people in the keynote sessions seem fiercely optimistic to my eye--about half that seems more likely--with well over half of those heading for the exits after Arthur Sulzberger’s opening speech. But Tuesday was busy and most booths seemed well-populated with what vendors say are decision-makers and key influencers. And maybe volume is in the eye of the beholder. Today, Advanstar said that 27,200 people attended the show which means that it was very successful considering Monday’s snow, the war, and general economic woes. “There are serious decision makers here at the show. The quality of the customers I had the opportunity to talk with has been great,” said Tom Wetjen, Vice President of World Wide Graphic Arts at Xerox.

A Renewed Focus on Workflow at Xerox
Wetjen noted the theatre in Xerox’s booth has been a high point of the booth with presentations on workflow, business development, and profiting through personalization running throughout the show. Workflow was a particular Xerox focus at On Demand, where FreeFlow, the broad integration of numerous new and existing workflow tools, was introduced. “There are a lot of people who didn’t know we had all these pieces, and I’m not sure we really presented them effectively before. Saying this is what our vision of workflow is about and this is how we’re going to expand it and grow is getting a lot of attention.”

Wetjen says customers regularly ask about business development and he finds it is more important than ever for print providers’ sales people to talk with different people than they have before. “We need to make sure the industry understands this about the print generators, the print specifiers, the places where the documents are created. We have to be educating and raising awareness of the technology in marketing departments and ad agencies. It’s where these communications programs are being created that we are producing the high value digital applications.”

To reach this audience, Xerox is participating in a variety of venues that are not specifically about printing. For example, the company recently sponsored the renown John J. Caples Awards for Direct Marketing, and printed the awards book on the DocuColor iGen3. It was the first time the book had been printed in color and provided advertising and direct mail art directors a look at the quality possible on a high-end digital press. Not one to miss an opportunity, Xerox included a flyer with the book about using digital color presses with information on how to locate a print provider with Xerox technology. “It’s marketing away from where have traditionally been. I believe that’s an important piece--a kind of high value communications--not just a thousand pages of something.” Wetjen finds designers, creative agencies, print specifiers and the like are interested in learning about digital technology, not as a replacement for offset, but as an alternative that adds value to what they are trying to accomplish.

To help bring this to fruition, Xerox is also working with its customers to help them deliver the new services. Wetjen describes how a print provider getting close to one of their customers may find new opportunities but might not be able to deliver a solution. “We can then connect a printer with Global Services to find a way to extend the print provider’s capabilities that can help them take advantage of those new opportunities.”

Raising Awareness at Océ
The need for solutions is not lost on Océ Printing Systems USA, whose booth was drawing plenty of attention with its mix of cut sheet, continuous feed, workflow, and office integration solutions. Guy Broadhurst, Director of Product Marketing, said Océ’s solutions messaging is attracting substantial interest across all types of machines and multiple applications. “People are starting to understand we can put components into an enterprise without compromising other components’ functionality and while enhancing features from different areas.”

“Solutions mean more than a print engine or software,” noted Broadhurst. “It’s how different components are put together to meet a customer’s requirements. There’s been a tendency in this industry to sell a box and then fit the job to it. But with the convergence of applications in the industry today, flexibility is vital to success. With the right combinations of hardware and software you can create the configuration that meets a customer’s needs today and has the flexibility to adapt to future requirements.”

Some of that flexibility is evidenced in the company’s new VarioPrint cut-sheet product line, which Broadhurst noted has been generating a lot of interest at On Demand, especially among users of competitive products who are looking for alternatives. The VarioPrint family includes machines such as the 5160 model can print traditional black, MICR and highlight color toners, enabling users to run a broader range of jobs on a single print engine “Utilization has to be as high as possible because that helps keep costs lower,” noted Broadhurst. “So a growing number of customers looking for a cut-sheet machine to run bills want one that can also do books, and run lightweight paper.”

The VarioPrint 5160 is especially important for Océ because it raises the company’s visibility in the cut-sheet market where it is not well-known. It offers an alternative to the Heidelberg’s Digimaster line and Xerox DocuPrint and DocuTech machines and is likely to raise awareness of the Océ name and draw attention to other Océ software and hardware.

Similarly, on Océ’s continuous-form machines, some booth visitors are inspecting the print quality that’s made Océ machines the choice for Quebecor World’s digital book printing operation, and the new 19-inch print width which allows 3-up printing of 6x9-inch books with room for trimming. Others are looking for MICR capability and high-speed. In hig-volume print operations, being able to run MICR at almost 1300 pages per minute is a 25% speed advantage over other machines. This means less equipment is needed to do the same work, more jobs can run in a given time period, which ties into improved machine utilization.

As the rest of the WTT team and I cruise the booths here at the show, we are struck by the broader focus on solutions, many added through partnerships with smaller software firms partnering with the print engine vendors. And I’ll cover some of that next time.