May 12, 2015
The importance of workflow and the matching software ecosystem has been frequently publicised and although not every user might have realised it yet, all production printing hardware vendors are strengthening their offerings in workflow and solutions nowadays. The importance of workflow is however in stark contrast with the lack of approaches in making the benefits of workflow visible in an exhibition or open house environment. Software remains intangible and while the benefit of some features can be calculated in time and money, for other features like customer satisfaction, error reduction, new services offerings and overall process efficiency calculating the exact value for a single business case is much harder.
Canon-Océ already organised several Commercial Printing Business Days, but for the event that took place in April 2015 the software portfolio was targeted to take centre stage. Presentations, workshops and customer testimonials focussed on workflow solutions. Canon-Océ invited users and prospects with interest in workflow solutions and had a total attendance of 550 visitors from around the globe at the three days of the event.
Commercial Business Days – Workflow Booths
Most likely the trigger for the workflow focus was Canon-Océ upgrading their flagship workflow software solution PRISMAproduction to version 5.04 bringing some interesting new features. PRISMAproduction 5 introduced a change in architecture that makes it much easier to integrate 3rd party components via JDF/JMF connectivity. Version 5 offered input connectivity for Agfa Apogee, Fujifilm XMF and EFI Pace. Version 5.04 adds JDF/JMF connectors for DALIM solutions and is now capable of supporting the full range of JDF impositioning schemes that are relevant for digital continuous feed printing. Integration with DALIM for order and project management as well as preflight and impositioning of print jobs has been shown at the event. On the finishing side, the new version is now capable of sending JDF/JMF job ticket information to post-processing devices as well, which will help in automating finishing processes. The integration was shown with a Tresu coater and Bielomatik sheeter in the InfiniStream folding carton print line.
Making a proof print on a digital press is usually a piece of cake as images can be changed in an instant. With continuous feed presses however this could be a big challenge in retrieving the proof print from a big roll of paper, hence proofs on the paper of the main run are rarely done. An interesting development in the TrueProof proofing solution has been shown as preview: With a Canon wide format inkjet printer proofs for inkjet presses can now be produced on the same paper as the main run. This can be done on sheets of paper or roll butts, that remain after roll changes. With the correct colour profiles applied a customer can get a very good representation of what the main run would look like without needing to interrupt the main production on the continuous feed press. Not yet implemented, but an interesting feature, would be to simulate different ink-saving settings to visualize the trade-off between cost and quality for a customer.
Also the user interface got a redesign to make it more suitable for the graphic arts market. The ease of use has been improved and more focus is now on PDF workflows. Furthermore a user interface for mobile devices is available now which can be used for basic job management. The more intricate setting will still require a full screen though.
Despite the focus on software and workflow the pull of the presses is undeniable. The Océ customer Experience Centre is packed with presses showing the full gamut of continuous feed presses and some cut-sheet products as well. Especially once the new folding carton press InfiniStream starts printing all heads are turning. There where news on the hardware side of business as well with the Tecnau zero speed splicer for continuous feed inkjet shown for the first time in the experience centre. The U40 zero speed splicer is an offspring of the Tecnau’s acquisition of Lasermax Roll Systems in 2011. It allows a continuous supply of paper via a buffer unit, while the new roll pasted to the end of the old roll. The splice is synced with the printer so the inkjet heads can be moved into a safe position while the splice travels through the printer. As inkjet printers are getting faster splicing solutions are getting more important.
Having a software focus for the Commercial Printing Business Days is a challenge. Users still like “to kick the tire” of hardware and see presses running. Conveying the benefits of investments in software and workflow is a much harder task. The event certainly instigated some interest in workflow among participants, but it also showed the difficulties in keeping an audience captivated with workflow when hardware is nearby.
Nevertheless, the idea of putting workflow in the centre should be appealing to any hardware vendor but will require a thought out program, visualisation of the workflow goals, a good range of case stories and staff engaging prospects in workflow discussions. Progress has been made in having software as a driver in a sales cycle, still more effort is needed to have enough workflow focus in all steps of the sales process. InfoTrends tracks the production workflow market very closely, and is a leading provider of research in this area with its Production Workflow (PW) advisory service. InfoTrends will soon also launch a multi-client study entitled The Future of Digital Packaging Workflows. The focus of the study is the flow of information that drives and supports the design, converting, delivery, and use of packaging worldwide, and its future.
More blogs from Ralf Schlozer