Walking into Graph Expo this year, I was immediately struck by the way the show floor reflects the changes our industry has undergone as we continue to leverage more digital technologies for increased productivity, profitability, and a wide range of new products and services.  Of course, Heidelberg, long a main-stay of printing industry trade show floors, still holds the prime spot, front and center, with a staff of 250 and nearly an acre of booth space (31,000 square feet) reflecting its new Hei-Tech branding.  Immediately behind Heidelberg, attendees found Xerox, Hewlett-Packard and Eastman Kodak.  What I found very interesting was the placement of Canon, to the right of Heidelberg in the front row, and EFI right next to that.  Both companies had smaller booths than Heidelberg, but substantial nonetheless, at 8,000 square feet each.  According to the folks at EFI, in 2002, the company’s booth was a mere 1,200 square feet!

Once again, the task of covering workflow-oriented solutions was overwhelming.  The number of companies and offerings continues to climb, and increasingly, companies are showing not only their own solutions, but demonstrating how they can effectively operate in a multivendor environment through the use of JDF and/or industry partnerships and alliances. And show attendees were placing a significant amount of focus in this area.  Almost every exhibitor I spoke with echoed the same sentiments:  The booths were busy and the quality of attendees was up.  Not only did people come to the show looking for solutions to specific problems, but they were in a buying mood.  Owners and managers brought production staff and even financial folks, hoping to leave the show with those problems on the way to being solved.

Whether you spoke with attendees of exhibitors, a single piece of advice resounded:   Show attendees should be spending their time at the show looking for solutions that will make their operations more efficient and profitable. And there were plenty of options available!  Just a few of the highlights will be covered here. Be sure to review Part One.   

Heidelberg was showing its Prinect workflow, including a prototype of a new scheduling module as a technology demonstration.  This easy-to-use, interactive tool was quite impressive and will be launched at drupa.  As one of the founding members of CIP4, Heidelberg has continued to enhance its JDF implementation throughout the Prinect workflow. Its JDF based Prinect Pressroom Manager, offering bi-directional integration and application capabilities, was featured at the show, helping to better integrate prepress, the pressroom and MIS, either Heidelberg or a third party MIS that is JDF compliant. And as we have seen at previous shows, Heidelberg continues to enhance its support for digital print engines as well, including support for digital presses from Xerox, HP, Kodak, Canon and others. A Postpress Manager module, to complete the end-to-end JDF workflow, will be introduced at drupa.  The goal is to make it easy to develop a workflow plan that is not just a Prepress, Pressroom or Postpress plan, but one workflow plan spanning all production that can actually begin with the submission of electronic client files all the way through to postpress production, a result of what Heidelberg likes to call its JDF-centered product development process.

Another announcement of note was eCall, which Heidelberg described as “a little piece of software that is making a big difference.” A new element to Heidelberg’s systemservice offering, eCall can result in significantly improved uptime with outreach directly from the systems to the help desk, to allow the detection of incipient problems, often eliminating the need for the customer to call.  If an operator believes a problem exists, one push of a button will send information to the help desk, who will then call the customer back after the potential problem is analyzed.  This can save operators as much as 30 minutes of phone time and increases the first-time fix rate when a service call is required.  While this is not specifically “workflow,” this type of service is an important element of being able to run an efficient operation.

MetaCommunications was showing its recently launched Workgroups 2007 process and productivity management suite for creative, publishing and prepress environments.  This suite, although available modularly, integrates Job Manager, Virtual Ticket, Approval Manager and Digital Storage Manager into one collaborative environment.  New with this launch are add-in solution libraries customized for a wide range of specific workflows, including brand management, catalog page production, creative and customer relationship management.  These libraries can be customized to meet a specific workgroup’s needs, but contain common elements that enable much faster deployment of workflow automation.  The company plans to extend solutions into the CAD/CAM and Packaging arenas when it launches Workgroups 2008 next year.

NowDocs was found in the Xerox booth demonstrating NowPrint ASAP, an entry level web-to-print solution that is also included in the Xerox Digital Print Shop in a Box offering. With NowPrint ASAP, a printer can literally set up a customer-facing web site in ten minutes. NowDoc has added two important features to NowPrint ASAP: inventory tracking of raw materials and automatic purchase order generation when inventory reaches reorder points.  The company believes that for smaller print operations, this functionality offers a light MIS solution bolted on to web-to-print. The solution also offers tracking of customer print spend by budget center.  A customer may, for example, have a $25,000 print budget.  NowPrint will keep track of that and report status every time the buyer logs in. The company continues to refine the user interface, with a goal of having customers be able to place orders in two clicks or less. 

You may remember Objective Advantage, an early player in the JDF movement that provided tools for vendors and printers to speed up JDF implementation.  The company is going back to its manufacturing roots, providing manufacturing automation solutions for printed materials.  Oftentimes these printed materials are not even counted in our industry’s revenues.  For example, Objective Advantage’s Gareth O’Brien cited a case of a rug manufacturer moving from production of labels to inventory, to a print on demand model, eliminating more than $600,000 in label obsolescence annually.  An order can be created in PageFlex Storefront, with information automatically transferred to OASymbio’s production module. Tools are available to integrate production systems to enterprise systems, including databases, for more efficiency. The solution also has the ability to split components for production and/or pick-and-pack, and reassemble into the final product for shipment and can include preprinted, non printed and on-demand printed items reassembled using an innovative pick list process. O’Brien believes that 20 to 30 different products account for 80% of production for most printers, and thus has established a template model that takes advantage of job similarities. Objective Advantage has customers processing 500 to 1,000 orders per day using this solution.  A turnkey solution, installed, starts at about $35,000.

Pace Systems Group was demonstrating integration of its MIS solutions with a number of storefront partners, including Pintable, Responsive Systems, Press-Sense iWay and Pageflex. In addition, the company announced integration with Kodak’s Prinergy workflow for an automated exchange of data between the two platforms.  This uses the PaceConnect platform, which the company indicates delivery on its promise to embrace JDF compliance and connectivity in prepress, press and bindery.

Press-Sense showed its Order-Sense web-to-print solution which was launched last year to support larger, multisite printers, but has now been made available as an entry-level hosted web-to-print solution for smaller printers.  Priced at $18,500 for the first year, the solution includes set-up, training and the first year monthly fee at the 125-jobs-per-month level. At the same time, Press-Sense continues to enhance its iWay workflow which can be integrated with Press-Sense Manager for print and business flow management, merging production management with front end CRM capabilities and back-end billing and fulfillment processes.  For more sophisticated needs, Press-Sense Manager can be replaced with Omnium for automation and optimization of business processes. Omnium allows the development of a production action plan that can be created in a few clicks of the mouse and presents several production options that a planner can choose from and which reflects the cost, price and other variables about the job for each scenario.

PrinterPresence showed its offering for quickly developing a printer’s web site.  Although the solution has been on the market for some time, the company continues to enhance the underlying content it provides for printers under its MarketPresence service which offers a monthly newsletter and direct mail pieces that printers can use to promote their businesses.  MarketPresence also includes unlimited support and marketing consultation.  The basic package offers online proofing, online ordering and file submission.  With a $1,500 set-up fee and monthly fee of $75, it is an affordable way to get online.  And capabilities are scalable as needs grow by adding such things as customer portals for a branded customer experience and variable data. Initial sites can be up and running in seven to ten days.

Proof-It Online and Xpedx announced an exclusive distribution arrangement for the commercial printing market for Proof-It Online’s proofing solution that requires no client software. Users pay a one-time set-up fee of $1,000 and $1 per proof—for the life of the proof, including all of its revisions.  The client email notification reverts back to the printer’s web site for log-in, so that the facility is transparent to the client.  The solution includes a built-in approval process.

Screen is now shipping Trueflow SE with the Adobe Print Engine that brings Screen offerings increasingly into the hybrid offset/digital workflow space.  The company is quick to point out that printers need to drive not only different presses, but also different technologies, from CTP to electrophotography and inkjet, making decisions about where a job should print at the last minute, or even using multiple technologies within a single job, and is placing increasing emphasis on the digital side to enable that transition, supporting not only its engines—the Truepress 344 and Truepress Jet520—but those from other manufacturers as well.  It includes JobArchiver for storing and retrieving completed Trueflow jobs, and the Riteapprove SE option, an integrated online job approval function fro Trueflow. Screen continues to develop its “Rite” environment products, including Riteportal SE for web to print.

Xerox had a large presence at the show, including a press conference led by its new President, Ursula Burns.  The company continues to emphasize what Anne Mulcahy laid out last year as the three megatrends affecting our industry:  personalization, collaboration and digitization.  On the workflow side, Xerox was awarded a Must See ‘em for its VIPP PRO Publisher software technology demo, an Adobe InDesign plug-in that allows document creators to more easily create variable data applications at the desktop. The company also continues to enhance its FreeFlow workflow environment, now at Version 6.0, including such things as FreeFlow MAX, a manifest processing and electronic pick-and-pack that allows materials to be pulled together from an electronic warehouse and printed as a unit. FreeFlow Print Server, which previously supported the DocuColor 7000 and 8000, has now been extended up- and downstream, to the iGen3 and the DocuColor 242/252/260 professional multifunction products.  The company plans to extend the capability to the black & white Nuvera line in 2008. Xerox also staffed what the company called “Conversation Stations” in its booth, focused on four key applications—TransPromo printing, books, collateral and direct marketing.  These stations allowed attendees to speak directly with experts about workflow issues surrounding those four application areas.  Xerox also launched its Digital Print Shop in a Box, a CD and Web-based collection provided free to Xerox customers that provides step-by-step guides, business resources, application software and associated services to get commercial printers up and running quickly.

XPS Land.  Just a quick note about a new feature at Graph Expo this year—XPS Land.  Although XPS Land was at the back of the show floor, it drew a lot of attention as printers tried to understand how this new file sharing and printing format would affect their businesses in the future.  One visitor stated that he believed he could break his market wide open by being the first printer in the area to embrace XPS and is proactively promoting his XPS capabilities. Martin Bailey, Chief Technology Officer for Global Graphics, who has been intimately involved in the development of XPS with Microsoft, had this advice for printers:  “Once you have developed capability to effectively produce XPS, speak with the in-plant unit at customer sites to start receiving overflow from them.  Also let the CFO know what you can do.  The CFO will care about potential cost savings widespread adoption of XPS can deliver.  Ultimately, engage the IT department to learn about their Vista migration plans.  It is a multi-touch sale.”