by Noel Ward, Executive Editor of and Managing Editor of trade show coverage for October 2, 2003 -- Spend day one at Graph Expo with Noel Ward as he takes you from Heidelberg to Xerox and reports on traffic from the ground level. Day One began with Heidelberg. Wolfgang Pfizenmaier, President of Heidelberg Digital said Heidelberg is continuing its three-pronged strategy to be the leading technology and equipment provider in offset printing, pre-press and digital printing. The digital markets are all growing, he noted, and Heidelberg has been successful in helping customers deliver higher value documents with targeted communications that get results, build loyalty and retain customers. One-to-one communications is the key, said Pfizenmaier, citing the example of a direct mail campaign for Saab printed on a NexPress 2100 that delivered a 10 percent response rate, a 60 percent sales increase overall, with some products seeing a 300 percent increase. For details see the white paper on the project that ran the week of June 23 in On Demand Journal. Overall, he said Heidelberg's digital customers have been able to offer new services, develop stronger customer relationships, add value to the organization and increase profitability. Several are multiple unit installations, such as Alianz (reported a few weeks back on WTT) that has a whopping 24 Digimaster 9100-family printers installed. Pfizenmaier also announced an 800,000-square foot Digital Print Solution Center in Rochester, New York that will house digital operations development and manufacturing for the Digimaster family and increased production of the NexPress 2100. That machine is now available in three flavors or Editions: the Xtreme, Standard, and Entry level, each with its own set of features and prices. The three tiers is a new approach for this class of machine, since it enables a printer to begin with the entry level box and field upgrade it as business and customer needs dictate. The capabilities are largely driven off the NexStation II front-end. * The Xtreme Edition of the NexPress offers print service providers the most complete range of services, including complex variable data printing. It has one license of the new Acrobat based NexTreme DL-100 variable data software. * The Standard Edition has the power to provide a full variety of services from static to variable data printing, using the NexStation II SE server and one license of NexTreme DL-100. * The Entry edition with NexStation II EE is designed for print providers who want to offer short run and quick turnaround jobs. Heidelberg also talked about its extensive focus on CIM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) which spans offset, prepress and digital printing. This is enabled by Heidelberg's JDF-based Prinect workflow which supports several areas of offset and prepress and some aspects of digital printing. Notable here is the integration of EFI's Velocity Engine, although it seems that it will primarily be used for its connectivity to PrintCafé's various print management systems, notably Hagen OA. Although Prinect relies on the emerging standard of JDF, it is principally a closed system for use in Heidelberg environments, and appears to lack the broader interoperability of workflows from other vendors. This works well in all-Heidelberg shops, but may present challenges as Heidelberg seeks to carve out an additional share of the digital printing market. With other companies proclaiming openness, retaining an essentially proprietary workflow is a curious approach. Be sure to see the numerous press releases from Heidelberg for more details on all their products. Have you been to a Snackinar Lately? As the day moved on Xerox was holding a series of “Snackinars” where attendees got a look at the process behind a variable data and direct mail process using Xerox printers, (in this case the iGen3) and XMPie variable data software. The process was orchestrated using database design and management from Roberts Communications and printing and mailing from Global Document Solutions. While many attendees saw the printed output only at the show, others had received a direct mail invitation prior to the show. The invite was a poster printed on the iGen3 and mailed in a tube. Recipients were told to go to a web site, select a choice of snacks--chips, candy and the like--and reserve a time to see the presentation. This generated a confirmation email and labels that went on bags containing their chosen treats, which were available in the booth at the appointed time. Bill Wurth President and COO of Roberts explained the data handling side of the process while Roger Gimbel, Director of Worldwide Marketing at Global Document Solutions explained how the information was handled when it reached the print shop. The magic was the way the variable data was used, and Laureen Chudzinsky, Director of Product Marketing at XMPie described how the web-enabled printing was simplified using XMPie's server based tools. This is the kind of application we are likely to see more on in the years ahead. Once the database is in decent shape, tools like XMPie and printers with high-performance digital color print engines can turn out the documents businesses need. This example was about snacks and a quick overview of the process. But it could just as easily be used to help promote and sell everything from seminars to home improvement products to automobiles to real estate to….well, how good is your imagination? It is the kind of process that a printer can use to significantly differentiate them selves from the competition. While all this was going on, the show floor was very busy. Bear in mind, this was a Sunday and Rosh Hoshana, but most booths were well-populated with attendees and vendors were remarking on the volume. It gives credence to Niels Winters' words this morning about the economy and the industry being about turn around. If printers are coming to GraphExpo in the volume seen today, there must be some interest and demand for the new technology being shown here. Whether it will turn into sales is another matter, but from Day One on the floor, crowds at this show are a good thing.