Yesterday, EFI and FedEx Office announced that FedEx Office is using EFI products for a more cost-effective and streamlined delivery of professional print services. I spoke to Udi Arieli, EFI’s Director, High End Market Business Development, EFI Productivity Software, to get the scoop for this WhatTheyThink exclusive.

As many of our readers know, Udi and EFI have been thought leaders in terms of automated, intelligent workflow. In fact, at drupa 2012, the company unveiled The Automated Workflow Experience, a series of thought leadership animated videos that depicted the vision for near-lights-out print production workflow. The FedEx Office deal is one of the first times this concept has been brought to fruition in its entirety in a live production environment utilizing EFI Productivity Suite and EFI Fiery digital front end (DFE) technologies.

FedEx Office operates about 1,800 centers, supported by a number of Centralized Production Centers (CPCs) with a footprint that extends across the Americas. The configuration is an EFI Productivity Suite implementation being used in CPCs in North America and features EFI’s Pace MIS, PrintFlow Dynamic Scheduling, Fiery Central and Fiery DFEs.

Jobs are first directed to the FedEx Office National Fulfillment Center where the job is processed. FedEx Office utilizes a workflow where, for example, jobs are created automatically by the EFI Pace MIS with little human intervention. Jobs then go to PrintFlow to dynamically schedule the job and all other jobs automatically non-stop. Fiery Central can then use the PrintFlow schedule, and the job data from Pace to transmit job instructions and content files to an appropriate EFI Fiery DFE in the appropriate CPC at the right time. In a workflow of this nature, jobs are preconfigured for the target print engine by Fiery Central and the Fiery DFE, reducing the steps operators normally take to configure a press for each job. The Fiery DFE also sends PrintFlow job status information in real time, allowing PrintFlow to reschedule and reoptimize production, issuing a new schedule every few minutes.

The benefits of this type of workflow capability suit operations like FedEx Office, which has a large number of jobs coming into its centers 24/7.

When a job reaches production in this type of operation, the job ticket accompanying the job automatically configures the digital press, including required inline finishing. At that point, the operator can use a customized dashboard to monitor jobs coming in and to gain instructions about what needs to be done, such as which paper should be loaded, any inline finishing that is required, etc.

“For a complex job that has many workflow steps, the end-to-end process can take a long time to complete with many opportunities for error, but now it can happen in a fraction of the time,” Arieli says, “This is truly a game-changer – for FedEx Office and for the industry.”

Arieli points out that a lot of this integration was developed and completed before engaging with FedEx Office, and some of it is reflected in the company’s new Productivity Suite offering. “ For me, it is a dream come true and the culmination of my many years of work in the arena of workflow automation,” says Arieli. The workflow is also based on TGO – the Theory of Global Optimization that Arieli and his team at EFI developed.

While FedEx Office is clearly a large, distributed organization, Arieli strongly believes that any printing company with two or more print engines can benefit from some of this automation, much of it offered in the EFI Productivity Suite and EFI Fiery products. “It is very difficult for a printing company to make money and be efficient, now and into the future, without a workflow like this,” he says. “Printing companies can’t continue doing everything with outdated software. This implementation now proves that it can be done, and that it can be done on a large scale. I would argue that it can be scaled down for smaller companies as well, helping them position themselves well for future success.”