Back before the show started I wrote about the Books for Schools program that was spearheaded by Delphax and involved extensive participation of its partners Boise Cascade, Stralfors, Shuttleworth, Xeikon, Muller Martini and Keene Technology. At the show I checked it out in person and have to tell you that this makes some of the high profile digital book production operations I've seen look like old news. Requiring a remarkably small footprint-maybe about 40 feet on a side, the system was comprised of a Delphax CR1300 300-feet per minute ion deposition printer. A Stralfors LX500 cutter-stacker slit the printed roll-fed paper and made it into book blocks that were fed on Shuttleworth conveyors to a Muller Martini AmigoDigital perfect binder that wrapped a cover printed on a Xeikon digital color press around the book block and put out a book about every 5 seconds. When I went by at mid-day on Tuesday, the system had already run over 1.1 million images as part of run of several different titles it was producing at the show for New York City schools. Keeping it running at optimal speed was a Keene Technology web splicer that reduced down time on this speedy system. That splicer will be needed by anyone buying one of these systems after drupa, where a new system that runs 50 percent faster will be unveiled.

I talked briefly with one Delphax customer who was getting ready to close a deal on a complete system. He prints music books and needs the high speed and low operating costs to deliver books as needed instead of printing and managing large inventories. He told me he came to the show interested in the possibilities and once he saw the system in operation he knew it was the best choice for his high-volume application.

Accelerating Profits

It used to be that vendors selling print engines had a marked disinterest in helping their customers sell the pages that would make both parties money. I always thought this was a remarkably short-sighted attitude and over the past few years--primarily as digital color and variable data have reached the market--it has been great to see equipment vendors providing some of the support their customers have long been seeking.

Xerox has provided a variety of single focused programs in the past and customers I've spoken with have always asked for more. And this year it appears they may be getting much of what they have been seeking. The company's new Profit Accelerator program rolled out at On Demand looks to provide print providers with a rich mix of market development resources that include a more refined financial modeling tool along with a range of support for sales and marketing, creative and design, application development, training, and paper and media.

In describing the strategy behind the offerings, Gina Testa, Vice President of Customer Business Development, in Xerox's Production Systems Group, told me, "We want to help customers grow their digital business faster. We've taken a focus on the applications, tools and resources that can help them build profits that can fuel the future of their businesses."

Testa said Profit Accelerator has been developed by Xerox in conjunction with customers who have been quite articulate in saying just what they need to move the needle on their digital print sales. And it looks like Xerox listened. Unlike earlier tools that focused primarily on supporting sales activities, Profit Accelerator seems to have something for everyone: from an executive making a decision to sales reps trying to sell the value of digital printing to graphic designers learning to harness variable data to equipment operators producing digital pages. Gina handed me a draft version of a catalog listing some 28 different training programs, seminars, sales kits, media bundles, print samples, marketing materials and more. "And," she smiles, "This is just the beginning. We have much more in development."

One of the tools is ProfitQuick, which has been developed over the past few years to become a tool a business owner can use for quantifying the ROI of their investment in digital printing. Using their own business data, they can calculate a five-year customized profit and cash-flow analysis for Xerox production equipment. They can also determine which apps are most profitable and see the impact of fast turnarounds and variable information pricing premiums.

There is a new Getting Started kit to help build color print volume, iGen3 print sample portfolios, and a Marketing Accelerator kit to help develop a clear marketing plan.

More interesting from a marketing point of view are some of the creative and design resources, which help target design professionalspeople who buy more than 80 percent of commercial printing on behalf of their clients. This is an important audience to reach and these resources may give print providers an entrée to these key print specifiers. We'll have more detail on the Profit Accelerator program in the months ahead.

Testa says the program doesn't end with their customers. Xerox is planning to use print and broadcast media to reach a broader audience and increase awareness in support of ongoing efforts by its customers.

Meanwhile on the document production front...

I went to see Aia Software, a 15-year-old company that is now building a presence in the North American market. The company's flagship product is ITP, which means Intelligent Text Processing. ITP creates data-driven documents and e-output from application data and can be integrated into any business app or data repository. This means data-driven documents can be created in everyday business programs (think MS Office, for example) without much training for the users. This could enable, for example, the individual offices of a large insurance company to create and produce marketing materials and other customer communications using the software they are familiar with and a few browser-based tools. The interface I was shown was remarkably clean and easy to use; my guess is training would be minimal.

There are several other products on the market with similar feature sets for creating data-driven apps, but many require a fresh learning curve and are really intended for enterprise wide installation and industrial-strength applications. "ITP coexists well with these," explained Leon Pillich, Aia CEO. "In fact, many of our customers, especially in financial services use one of the more complex program for big jobs and use ITP for smaller jobs where the other program is more than is needed."

Pillich and Walter Gussman, VP and General Manager for Aia in the U.S. noted how their competition is often prospects who think the only way to do what they need is to do it themselves, manually, using standard word processing, spreadsheet and database tools. Aia sales people have to show them how ITP is a solution that is scaled to their needs today and can still be scaled up as those needs change over time.

And wait-there's more to follow. But you have to wait until I write it. Stay tuned!