By Noel Ward, Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of WTT's Trade Show Coverage October 8, 2004 -- At the On Demand Show in New York City in 2003, Xerox announced a new initiative called FreeFlow. The company's intent was to develop a modular set of scalable, open architecture workflow products. It was more concept than reality at the time and while some examples have been rolled out over the intervening months, full-fledged products have not been forthcoming. We saw some examples at drupa but actual release dates were still vague. On September 15, Xerox launched the first of four new workflow products as the building blocks upon which many of its future workflow tools will rest. The new products, Process Manager, Print Manager, Web Services, and Makeready appear to deliver on Xerox's original promise. A preliminary examination indicates they offer good value to printers trying to implement or manage workflows fraught with short runs, fast turnarounds and the need to print on both offset and digital machines. You'll get some more detail from either Cary Sherburne or I during Graph Expo, and you can always go to www.xerox.com/freeflow for more details. To learn a bit more about how these fit into Xerox's plans I talked with Mike Harvey, Vice President of Workflow Marketing, in New York City following the launch of the new products. Here's what Mike had to say. WTT: Xerox has been applying a "Lead with Workflow" strategy that focuses on providing complete solutions, not just the print engine. How has this been received in the market? MH: Very well. The new FreeFlow products support the strategy and show customers how workflow solutions that can help their business. Because the products are scalable and modular customers can buy the pieces they need today and upgrade in the future as their requirements change. A good example is in our solutions for unified offset and digital printing. A customer might start with FreeFlow Print Manager to enable the integration of digital printing by accessing the job programming capabilities in the entire Xerox fleet of digital presses. Then from there they could add process automation with the FreeFlow Process Manager, put jobs (both offset and digital) in a catalog for reprints and reordering through FreeFlow Web Services, and so on. It's a real modular approach for our customers. WTT: Do you find that FreeFlow tools are getting good adoption by commercial offset print shops who have some digital capabilities? MH: Offset and digital workflows have traditionally been very separate. What we see is an increasing number of jobs in that are going to be printed on both technologies. The initial runs may be targeted for offset, but then there are reprints, or short runs for special versions, that are well-suited for digital printing. FreeFlow makes it easy for print service providers to integrate digital printing into their existing offset workflow. Our customers have been very receptive to a streamlined workflow to handle the increasing demand for short run, quick turnaround jobs and give them the flexibility to migrate to higher value jobs that will accelerate their business. WTT: What FreeFlow components are generating the most interest? MH: There is a lot of interest in the entire FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection. One of the products getting a lot of attention is the FreeFlow Process Manager, which hits at the heart of the issues that print providers are dealing with as the number of short run jobs increases. When you have ten or twenty times the number of jobs coming into your environment in a month you can't afford a "high touch" workflow where every job is hand-held through the process. A product like Process Manager allows you to automate many of the steps in the workflow. For example ICC profiles can be assigned automatically, imposition is adjusted for the assigned device, and the file can be preflighted and sent to the digital press automatically. . Another product that's getting a lot of attention is FreeFlow Web Services which enables print providers to leverage the internet and establish an online catalog and job submission environment for their customers. A shopping cart experience to place orders, an easy way to submit files and integration with the other FreeFlow products and the full range of Xerox digital presses enable and end to end workflow. WTT: How do these different FreeFlow components give Xerox opportunities to get new business? MH: FreeFlow Products are opening many new doors because they bring new capabilities to the market. First off, FreeFlow Print Manager makes it very easy to integrate digital printing into an offset environment giving print providers the flexibility they need to accelerate their business. We know many print providers are thinking about JDF and want to ensure that new solutions they purchase are "JDF ready". FreeFlow Process Manager and Print Manager are both JDF enabled and give print providers the comfort they need that their workflow will be able to handle the increase in short run jobs as they add digital printing to their business. WTT: Xerox describes FreeFlow as a "collection" of workflow tools and you have an extensive catalog of products provided by different partners of which Adobe is one. Such partnerships can work well or be problematic. How is this working with respect to the new products and where you are headed? MH: One of the major planks of the FreeFlow strategy is our focus on partnerships. We've created these four new FreeFlow products as the building blocks for workflow solutions and introduced Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs) to make it easy for partners to integrate their products and create offerings that are "optimized for FreeFlow." Our longstanding partnership with Adobe is a good example of industry leaders working together to provide innovative solutions. For example we have integrated Adobe products like Job Ready into FreeFlow Web Services to automate client-side PDF conversion. At Graph Expo you will see an important development from Adobe, XMPie, and Xerox that will take Personalized Communications to a whole new level. We also continue to work closely with EFI and both companies will be showcasing the integration of Print Café (Hagen OA) with the FreeFlow Process Manager in a technology demonstration at graph Expo. So what comes next? The new FreeFlow products deliver on the promise we made 18 months ago to provide a set of open, modular, standards based workflow offerings that help our customers to streamline operations, reduce costs and enable the new applications that will accelerate their business. We will continue to bring new FreeFlow products to the market and work closely with our partners to provide innovative solutions for print on demand, book printing, personalized communications, and continue our focus on unifying offset and digital printing. At Graph Expo and beyond you will see Xerox focus on the new, high value, applications and services that print providers need to grow their business. We will bring together the workflow solutions, digital printing technology, and customer business development initiatives necessary for our customers to succeed in the New Business of Printing.