Category: Production

Connecting at EFI Connect: New Strategies!

Pat McGrew
Jan 31, 2018

Each year EFI hosts their customers, partners, media and analysts at their signature event, EFI Connect. The format is part trade show and part educational conference, giving EFI a chance to not only show off the latest solutions, but also to interact with customers, gather their requirements, and answer questions. EFI mounts a major troop movement to ensure that any question you have can be answered by an expert!

Last year the EFI Connect story was about acquisitions and partnerships. The acquisitions of Reggiani and Optitex were still fresh and repackaging of workflow software into a series of suites consumed much of the conversation. Just after the event EFI announced the arrangement with Xerox to acquire the FreeFlow Print Server and to become the primary DFE provider to Xerox.

 

EFI showed printed textiles

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Xerox Hosts Security Summit at New York Stock Exchange

Rebecca Schiffenhaus
Jan 24, 2018

CNBC Bell Ringing

On January 23rd, 2018, Xerox hosted the Xerox Security Summit at the New York Stock Exchange. Understanding that cybersecurity has become essential for MFPs and printers as “always on end-points”, Xerox brought together thought leaders and partners in this field to join Xerox for the bell ringing and an afternoon of cybersecurity conversations. Mike Feldman, Executive VP and President, NAO, Xerox Corporation, opened the event by reflecting on the rebirth of Xerox one year ago, when Conduent became a separate company and Xerox was able to center itself.  In this past year Xerox has had many accomplishments, including a huge launch of 29 new devices, growth in ConnectKey and apps, and new devices and inks for production print.

Alissa Johnson, Chief Information Security Officer and former Deputy CIO for the White House opened the sessions by emphasizing awareness. Johnson said that breaches can usually be traced to a visible IP, an open port, or a vulnerable service. To protect these areas, Johnson had three tips, 1. Hunt- always assume there is a compromise, 2. Zero trust- whitelist instead of allowing, and 3. Cognitive security- develop advanced AI. Candace Worley, Vice President and Chief Technical Strategist for McAfee, discussed cybersecurity fears around automation. Namely, individuals fear that the system will malfunction, and they will be held accountable. Worley shared some important developments in this field, like the shift from prior work environments, with only a few operating systems and devices, to the current, complex network ecosystems with virtual desktops, countless devices, cloud services and more. Worley also discussed the anticipated labor shortage in cybersecurity, as there is a lack of talent to fill the jobs necessitated by cybersecurity. It is anticipated that by 2022 over 70% of jobs will go unfilled, and 9 out of 10 cybersecurity workers believe that they will need technology to fill that talent gap. Worley emphasized the need for more open culture, with sharing across vendors, to develop the technology to handle this.

Sergio Caltagirone, Director of Threat Intelligence and Analytics at Dragos, discussed the offensive and defensive sides of hacking. Encouraging everyone to be realistic about security, he stated that there are hunters and hunted. Caltagirone shared the Defender’s dilemma, “the adversary needs to be right once, the defender needs to be right every time,” but Caltagirone emphasized that the defender has the power, “the defender controls the space”. By shaping and controlling the environment, security experts have the upper hand so long as they maintain it. Dov Yoran, Sr. Director, Strategy and Business Development Security Group for Cisco, shocked and awed sharing this video, discussing the industrialization of cybercrime and how prevalent and intelligent it has become. Steve Hoover, CTP, Xerox, and Ersin Uzun, Vice President, Director of System Sciences Laboratory, PARC, discussed how approaching cybersecurity can emulate the way we approach parenting. Teaching security programs how to “think” by interrupting processes and asking it to explain why it made choices and having teaching moments for the next event. This leads to greater trust and faith in the program and helps preserve the human role in cybersecurity.

Over lunch, famed hacker Kevin Mitnick, showed us all how easy it was to fall victim to an intelligent cyber-scheme and made everyone feel like throwing their devices into the Hudson. He shared tips and tricks about phishing, ransomware, malware, cloning HID cards, and proved just how simple it would be to be targeted through a great number of innocuous daily business processes. During the final panel, the panelists were asked which they would prioritize: protection, detection, or prevention and the unanimous winner was detection. Detection was emphasized as necessary for expedient handling, as well as integral as a learning opportunity. To end the event, the panelists  shared what would be the one piece of advice they’d give for the day:

  • The most important things are integration and automation, this allows you to react faster and technology to work together.”- Dov Yoran
  • Patch quickly! It’s old school advice but do it. Patch rapidly because people hack rapidly.” – Candace Worley
  • Be proactive about insecurities- if your day to day is just monitoring, you’ve already lost.”- Sergio Caltagirone
  • Stay current.” – Steve Hoover
  • Educate your people about security, people are still a major source of access.”- Ersin Uzun

Xerox introduced the personified tenants of its security approach as characters of a “Super Cyber Squad”- the Protector, the Detector, the Preventer, and the Partner. It’s abundantly clear that conversations about cybersecurity are vital, and the more our industry collaborates and brings together different players, the better we will become achieving those tenants. This summit, and ongoing opportunities for sharing and learning among vendors, customers, partners, dealers, and subject matter experts, help to shape the future of cybersecurity.

 

Kevin Mitnick cloning an HID card 3 different ways in under two minutes.

Panel: Alissa Johnson, Ersin Uzun, Steve Hoover, Sergio Caltagirone, Candace Worley, and Dov Yoran 

 

 

Workflow in 2018: What’s Included in the Package?

Pat McGrew
Jan 10, 2018

In 2017 we walked the workflow, followed an audit trail, and ended with the admonition that your workflow is not proprietary. That last post might have seemed odd, but the reason for the post evolved out of countless conversations with printers who see their workflow as their Intellectual Property. It is understandable to want to protect processes that make a business unique and provide a competitive advantage, but when broken down the optimized workflow process has four components: Creating the content, getting the print job on-boarded, manipulating and managing the job files through to the RIP, and the RIP and Digital Front End (DFE).

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Fuji Xerox Iridesse – Two specialty colours is better than one

Ralf Schlozer
Dec 6, 2017

Less than a year ago, InfoTrends published a multi-client study: “Beyond CMYK: The Use of Special Effects in Digital Printing”. Not only did we find that many printers voiced a strong interest in specialty colours and the desire to have several effects as an option, they also indicated that having two specialty colour stations in the press is their preferred option.

Less than a year later, Fuji Xerox launched the Iridesse Production Press at the Fuji Xerox Premier Partner Conference on the 14th of November in Bangkok for the Asia Pacific market.

For the first time in dry toner production printing, a print engine has been equipped to print six-colours, adding two colour channels to complement process colour print with different specialty colours, including metallic, in a single pass. The Iridesse houses up to two additional specialty toners of gold, silver, clear and white, in addition to standard cyan, magenta, yellow and black. One specialty colour is in front of the CMYK units and one behind, therefore the Iridesse can underprint with one specialty colour, and overprint with another (or the same) in one pass.

Fuji Xerox also revamped toners. CMYK toners are made of Super EA Eco toner, which is Fuji Xerox’s smallest particle size toner to date, citing a particle size of 5 micron for the colour toner. The Super EA Eco toner is able to fuse quickly at a low temperature, and is able to evenly transfer six layers of toners. Another patented improvement is flat metal flakes being embedded into the metallic toner particles. The flat metallic flakes should improve the shininess of metallic prints, and some improvement over the gold toner of the Color 1000i can be noticed – although digital metallic print remains far less shiny than foiling or the like.

A unique feature of the Iridesse is being able to print hues of metallic tones in one pass, by printing silver or gold first and overprinting it with CMYK. Other toner printers would need multi-pass printing, and in offset printing each of the metallic hues would need to be mixed first. This can reduce the effort drastically in hitting metallic effects beyond plain silver or gold. The press supports metallic colours found in colour catalogues such as Pantone Metallic and Pantone Premium Metallic. By using these colour swatches, the operator can reproduce colours similar to Pantone metallic colours by simply designating the colour codes. Also, since the press offers more hues than found in the Pantone swatches, Fuji Xerox has a range of predefined metallic colours on top.

Print sample showing metallic overprinted with CMYK

 

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Comparting 2017: “Digitalizing Communication! Digitalizing Business Processes!”

David Stabel and Pat McGrew
Nov 17, 2017

Under the motto of “Digitalizing Communication! Digitalizing Business Processes!”, this year’s Comparting conference, held November 9-10 in Germany, was all about how digitalization affects the document and output management for enterprises as well as print service providers. Keypoint Intelligence’s Pat McGrew had the honor to provide the keynote titled: “Let’s Get Digital!” Other presentations also focused around the topic of digital transformation of customer communications. And, of course, Compart’s latest innovation, DocBridge Impress, had a central role at the conference.

Harald Grumser, CEO
Thorsten Meudt, CMO

Compart, who celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has successfully hosted this annual event since 2005 with the number of participants increasing each year. More than 400 people from 14 countries world-wide attended the conference, representing a 10% increase over last year. The number of participants outside of Germany almost doubled from 25% in 2016 to 40% this year and reflects Compart’s growing international business.

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Jetrion Returns to Flint, sort of

Ryan McAbee
Nov 3, 2017

Back in 2006, EFI acquired the Jetrion inkjet label printer business from Flint Group, which had developed the technology to expand beyond their traditional foothold in ink. At that time EFI was on a major push to expand into inkjet-driven hardware which was viewed as a growth engine beyond its Fiery and software businesses. EFI paid around $40 million in cash for the Jetrion business which was expected to post between $16-$18 million in annual turnover. After eleven years of less than expected growth, EFI announced an exclusive partnership for Jetrion label presses with Xeikon, a Flint Group company.

The agreement was reached after several months of negotiation, with the first hint of EFI’s decision to “exit the label market” given a week before by Guy Gecht during EFI’s most recent Q3 earnings call. Effectively, EFI is licensing the Jetrion brand while retaining control of the intellectual property and Jetrion ink business. Xeikon picks up the sales and service.

Source: efi.com

The Impact for EFI

The deal is a short-term win for EFI as the company retains the intellectual property rights and keeps the recurring revenue from the ink and, presumably, Fiery. EFI also gets to clear its financial books from an underperforming division. Gecht stated that 2016 Q3 Jetrion printer sales were $4 million which would not average to the $16-$18 million annual revenue expected after the acquisition back in 2006. The competitive market for inkjet-based digital label presses has also changed significantly over the last eleven years. There are more vendors competing in a more mature digital label market which has impacted the ability to place machines with just over 200 Jetrions installed globally to date.

In the long-term there are still uncertainties. Customers and prospects take notice when an underperforming division is jettisoned, creating uncertainty as to the future commitment to other divisions. EFI clearly stated that growth markets in corrugated and industrial printing are a primary focus. Could other divisions, like VUTEk, follow suit? In the Q3 financial call, the company noted a slowing of ink growth volume for its VUTEk line of printers which is an indicator of the end customer’s print volumes. There is always the possibility, but Keypoint Intelligence thinks it highly unlikely until other areas of the industrial inkjet division reach sizable revenue.

The material impact to the rest of the EFI ecosystem, for Fiery but also for Productivity Software solutions, is also unknown. Initial feedback indicates that Fiery will be the digital front end (DFE) for future sales, but Xeikon also has its own DFE. Does the change in sales and service reduce the potential pipeline for other productivity software, such as Digital StoreFront or Radius? Probably not due to the limited install base.

The Impact for Xeikon

HP and Xeikon dominate the digital label market, but both are leveraged to electrophotographic technology. The new agreement with EFI gives Xeikon a further expansion in UV-based label printers to complement its PX3000 Panther press announced earlier this year. The company can also leverage the existing Jetrion install base netting a greater presence in North American.

The company indicated that there will not be any immediate changes for customers, but there is opportunity for Xeikon to leverage some of its existing technology going forward. There are opportunities to have the Flint Group’s ink companies involved with the ink component of Jetrion. Xeikon has developed its X-800 DFE platform with an emphasis on label production and uses it for all other equipment, including Panther, although the company reiterated plans for the Jetrion line to be powered by EFI Fiery. Other lessons learned during the development of Panther could also be leveraged to retool and even expand the existing Jetrion line.

Final Thoughts

The greatest, initial benefactor to the agreement will be existing Jetrion customers who will see expanded service and support from Xeikon which has been at the forefront of digital label production for many years. Users will also be able to join Xeikon’s business development program aXelerate, which helps label converters build applications and sell digital output to grow their business.

IPEX 2017 – feeling the pulse

Ralf Schlozer
Nov 2, 2017

Many print industry pundits will still eagerly remember IPEX as the second most important trade show for the graphic arts industry. Held at mid-term between two drupa trade shows, IPEX was the show to kick the tyres of new products that just reached the market after being previewed at drupa as technology demo.

That held true until IPEX 2014, when the show essentially imploded. Most major exhibitors pulled out leading to a much smaller footprint with 15,000 m², down from 50,000 m² in 2010. Declining margins in the printing industry did take their toll, with exhibitors questioning the return for a costly trade show presence. The show’s move to London did not help IPEX either. The hope of addressing new overseas visitors failed, and UK printers shunned the travel into central London. Although plans for IPEX 2018 to take place from 19 to 24 March 2018 at the Excel, London were announced, everybody expected this to be the end of IPEX.

As a bit of a surprise came the announcement of IPEX 2017, back again in Birmingham. The timing for autumn 2017 was set as the drupa organisers were still aiming for a three-year cycle, so that IPEX would again fall in the middle between two drupa shows. Certainly, the return of IPEX was not on the big scale it once had. IPEX 2017 occupied just parts of one hall of the NEC exhibition centre, instead of 11 of them in 2010, with ample space left to squeeze in more booths. Most equipment vendors did not join the IPEX bandwagon in 2017 either, with Ricoh being the only major digital print equipment manufacturer exhibiting. Other vendors were present via dealers or driving finishing equipment in the booths of finishing equipment vendors. It is noteworthy that finishing vendors did contribute most to the footprint of the show, complemented by software and supplies vendors.

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Solution Focus: IQ’s printIQ in the Expanding Scope of print MIS

Ryan McAbee
Oct 16, 2017

In the world of print production software there is no better example of a love/hate relationship than between print service providers and their print MIS solution. Print MIS solutions are, or should be, the one record of truth for the business which means the solution touches every function and every employee within the shop. Therein lies the problem. Print MIS solutions take a long time to setup and implement in the shop, assuming internal resistance does not derail the entire project.

Print shops usually start by implementing the core modules of estimating, quoting, purchase orders, job ticketing, and accounting which takes no less than a few months but can run over a year for larger operations. After the core is in place and running, some shops continue the journey and start implementing more advanced modules for shop floor data collection, inventory control, fulfillment, and customer relationship management. Still fewer shops continue to planning/scheduling and business intelligence modules which, sadly, can have the greatest impact.

So why would any print service provider, knowing the inherent challenges and implementation path, want a print MIS solution? Transformation. When done right, a management system can provide real and increasingly real-time data to enhance operators, production supervisors, management, and owners, with making the right decisions at the right time. Instead of experience, intuition, or guesswork, a fully implemented print MIS has the data to answer important business questions, such as:

  • Who are my largest customers and what percentage of total turnover do they represent?
  • Who are my most profitable customers and products/services?
  • What is my production capacity for any given time and will I be able to meet peak demand and maintain my SLAs?
  • Who are my most successful sales representatives? What type of work and what margins are they booking?

Getting to the advanced-user curve of your print MIS solution is the goal. However, the print MIS solution must work in coordination with other software to push you to the next level – smart print manufacturing.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

Print MIS solutions need to reach upstream and downstream to coordinate and record production processes (remember it’s your shop’s single record of truth). Can it receive online orders (through a module or third-party solution) and provide real-time, cost-based pricing to the customer? Can the job ticket, with all the customer’s intent, travel with the supplied artwork into your prepress workflow? Can it optimize material usage through intelligent planning and job ganging? Can it receive milestone updates from downstream software and equipment to update the job ticket and scheduling while also triggering alerts and notifications? Suddenly, your print MIS behaves more like a management and workflow platform for the entire shop.

That’s exactly how IQ, a software developer with operations in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States, designed their solution. Realizing customers were looking for “far more than just an MIS”, IQ bills their printIQ solution as a “Management Workflow Solution.” Beyond the core and advanced modules described above, printIQ has existing integrations with other industry leading software from Chili Publish, Enfocus, Kodak, and XMPie, to pass relevant production information upstream and downstream. The company publishes a set of APIs as another method for exchanging data and integrating with other software within your shop. Depending on the other software, IQ has simplified this process by using Zapier to link web-based applications (over 750), such as the accounting package Xero.

The company is trying to solve longtime challenges within print shops, i.e., capturing accurate, timely shop floor data. We know from our 2016 North American software investment survey, that two of the top reasons for not capturing shop floor data are because of resistance by staff and the amount of time it takes. printIQ took a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to the problem by creating an app that staff can download to their phones and capture the information with a device and interface that are already familiar. The phone’s camera can also be used to scan barcodes to speed up the process. Print shops looking for a new or different solution for managing the many aspects of their operation should give printIQ a close look.

Love it or hate it, print shops need tools that enable transformation. Smart print manufacturing is the next evolution in print production and many have already started on the path. Have you?

Read more in the InfoTrends Solution Focus series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Driving with Dashboards

Ryan McAbee
Oct 11, 2017

Get into your car, turn on the ignition, and what do you do? You glance at the dashboard to make sure there is no check engine warning light and that you have put the car into the right gear to take off. Modern car dashboards provide drivers with real-time information on the health of the engine, direction of the car, upcoming maintenance intervals, and how to get to your destination. Data-driven dashboards for print production do many of the same things for managers, production supervisors, and staff.

There are two primary types of dashboards used in print production today – job management and equipment operational efficiency. Job management dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of the work in production, its status in the shop, and whether the job will meet the milestones and deadlines agreed upon with the customer. Most dashboards are customizable to meet the specific needs of the user. Production staff dashboards might consist of work-to lists and a view to the day’s schedule. Manager dashboards are more likely to track service level agreements (SLAs) and other key performance indicators, such as spoilage rates and profitability. Since job management dashboards need to aggregate information regarding jobs, costs, schedule, and other business data, these dashboards are typically add-on modules to a print MIS or ERP solution.

Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Image: Durst Analytics as seen at FESPA 2017

Operational efficiency dashboards use data provided by the connected equipment to provide actionable production statistics, such as machine up-time, and eventually predict when parts need to be replaced or maintenance needs to be performed. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), or the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive, is often a key metric that is used. OEE is calculated by multiplying availability and performance of the manufacturing process and the resulting quality of output. World-class OEE is considered in the range of 85% but OEE for leading print shops is usually half; Toyota manufactures the same car on a single production line versus a print company manufacturing batches of different products.

Explanation of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

InfoTrends explanation of OEE

Although dashboards are increasingly needed to effectively manage print production, there are a few drawbacks. Job management dashboards rely upon many supporting layers of data that are fed by multiple modules within a print MIS or ERP solution. This assumes you already have such a solution in place with the necessary modules implemented. Operational efficiency dashboards are not as complicated to setup and only need software from the equipment manufacturer. The issue here is that there is not an industry standard for what is measured, how it is measured, and a universal way for the data to be exchanged. Since print shops have a mix of equipment from many different manufacturers, it is nearly impossible to aggregate the data from all equipment into a single view.

Even with today’s challenges, data-driven dashboards are becoming essential tools to view and improve productivity and remain competitive in the market. Just like your car, these dashboards show you how you are doing today, potential issues to address, and how to get where you want to go.

As always, inquire with your preferred vendors to learn about what data-driven dashboards may be available and look at these solutions: Durst Analytics, HP’s PrintOS PrintBeat, and ONYX hub.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

What is Smart Print Manufacturing?

Ryan McAbee
Oct 9, 2017

The printing industry transitioned over the past four decades from a craft to a manufacturing process, driven by an endless stream of enabling technologies. The communication landscape continues to shift and evolve leaving print to compete against the speed, cost, and targeting capabilities of digital channels. Competition also remains stiff within the industry which remains focused on reducing costs through automation. The next decade will be about redefining print manufacturing to make it smarter as we transition to the next industrial revolution.

Smart Print Manufacturing (SPM) starts with streamlining inputs (customers, job onboarding, and production resources) to optimize every stage of production, eliminating or minimizing manufacturing inefficiencies and errors while maximizing uptime and execution.

SPM combines manufacturing methods with industrial technologies to optimize all stages of print production. Many print service providers have already implemented lean and just-in-time manufacturing techniques to optimize their supply chain and minimize waste. Mass customization and autonomous production, however, are still bubbling up.

  • Mass customization: creating customized, and in some cases personalized, products in small quantities while not increasing manufacturing costs.
  • Autonomous production: the use of data and networked communication to connect machines to management and information systems and other machines to decide and execute the most efficient manufacturing process.

While these concepts may seem as farfetched as the sci-fi technologies used by Jetsons when that cartooned appeared in 1962, the first generation of mass customization and autonomous production are already here. Cimpress, parent company of well-known online print brands in North American and Europe, is a mass customization company. Their brands produced 30 million orders from 17 million customers that resulted in 46 million customized products. The company has subsequently launched a platform, called Cimpress Open, to let merchants and other printers tap into its mass customization capabilities. As for autonomous production, most major equipment manufacturers that supply the industry have initiatives. Heidelberg demonstrated its “push-to-stop” technology at last year’s drupa tradeshow which allows the press to initiate processes, e.g., blanket washups, without needing input from the operator.

Source: InfoTrends

SPM relies on a stack of technology that is changing and evolving. In the table below we list the technology, description, and industry examples available today.

Technology Definition Sample of Industry Solutions
Analytics Software to interpret and visualize data that can be customized to individual users. Canon PRISMAlytics, EFI Fiery Navigator, Kodak Analytics, ONYX HUB, SpencerMetrics Connect
Big data Massive sets of data, often from multiple sources, that requires advanced software to capture, store, and analyze. Heidelberg (PTC Machine Cloud) and Pitney Bowes Clarity (GE Predix)
Business Intelligence Software that combines production data with financial data; often an add-on module to a print MIS or ERP system. Avanti Executive Dashboards, EFI BI, Tharstern BI
Cloud Computing An evolution of IT to pool and share resources (network, servers, storage, applications, and services) often via the Internet. Most cloud-based offerings in the print industry use a cloud computing service, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Cyber-physical systems Smart machines that translate data into actionable information to interface with other machines, systems, and people. Autonomous robots for materials movements.
Industrial Internet of Things A subset of the Internet of Things specific to manufacturing for increasing revenue through improved productivity, workforce transformation, and new business models. IIoT encompasses many other technologies in this list. No specific examples although many industry solutions are necessary parts of IIoT.
Robotics The use of robots to perform tasks, often repetitive, previously done by a person. Several vendors use robotic arms for material movements, e.g., from palette to cutting table, from suppliers like KUKA Robotics.

 

Print service providers of all shapes and sizes need to prepare, plan, and take steps to implement their own version of Smart Print Manufacturing. SPM is not just for the largest printers. While some technologies, due to cost or expertise, are out of reach for some printers, e.g., robotics, others are not, e.g., cloud computing. Those who wait will find it increasingly difficult to compete as the efficiencies of competitors trickle down to their cost structure and market pricing.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

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