Good News for Mailers from USPS

Pat McGrew
 Apr 9, 2019

US Mailers have been waiting for the USPS to release its findings from a request for feedback initiated last summer, and the answer has now arrived. The USPS will not be making changes to the Marketing Mail category. This is good news for mailers because the USPS was considering changes in the standards for Marketing Mail letters and flat that would limit the definition of Marketing Mail to paper-based, non-merchandise content. By definition, flats processed by the USPS can be no thinner than a quarter of an inch and no thicker than three-quarters of an inch, with dimensions between 6 1/8 and 12 inches in height and 11 ½ and 15 inches in length. Length is parallel to the address.

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The Side Stories from Hunkeler Innovationdays

Pat McGrew
 Mar 7, 2019

By now you have read about the highly capable printing equipment that supported the Hunkeler Innovationdays demonstrations of Hunkeler, Horizon, Meccanotecnica, Kern, Bowe, Muller Martini, GUK, Sitma and others. You have probably read about the Agilox Intelligent Guided Vehicle that traveled the floor among the attendees moving paper and finished work among the stands.  But what you may not have read about are some of the other solutions worthy of your attention. They range from real-time shop floor monitoring to service, to accessibility, and all have a place in print production environments.


Agilox IGV getting ready to pickup finished work at Hunkeler Innovationdays.
Source: Keypoint Intelligence

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More Consolidation as Fiserv Acquires First Data

Pat McGrew
 Jan 18, 2019

Billing and statement processing outsourcers with payment capabilities are continuing to consolidate in an attempt to dominate both the global payment and FinTech markets. On January 14th, 2019, Fiserv and First Data announced that they plan to consolidate their complementary technologies through a $22 billion deal that unites their strong merchant payment platforms, digital banking/billing solutions, and risk management options. Once the acquisition is complete (planned for 2H2019), Fiserv intends to refinance approximately $17 billion in First Data debt and to operate the combined business under the Fiserv name.

Fiserv and First Data

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Adobe’s New Plug-ins for Digital Textile Now in Beta!

Pat McGrew
 Oct 29, 2018

Earlier this year Mike Scrutton of Adobe stood on a small stage at FESPA in Berlin to talk about the needs of designers in the digital textile space. The challenge, as Scrutton defined it, was that building patterns was time consuming. Fitting, turning segments, and setting colors for elements was time consuming. Changes required going back to the original files and making changes, and then pulling another proof. The growth of fast fashion and fast décor has put a laser focus on the need for faster time-to-market and a different design-to-product requirement than traditional design in the Textile space. Add the word “digital” to anything and the requirement becomes to turn projects around faster and with more efficiency. At FESPA there was the hint that something was coming, from Adobe, that would address the needs of digital textile designers. In fact, something so cool, it might be of use to anyone who designs patterns.

Roll the calendar forward a few months and Adobe has now released the public beta for Project Paras, a new plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CC that makes the process of design prints easier. From adding repeats to changing sizes of elements, the Project Paras plug-in includes tools for previewing, editing, defining separations, and setting colorways. By keeping every element editable up until you save the final manufacturing-ready file, textile designers can get the design just right without the usual rounds of testing, re-editing, and testing again.

Screen Shot Adobe Photoshop CC Project Paras Plug-in
Source: Adobe Project Paras

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The Ricoh Ecosystem: Interact 2018

Pat McGrew
 Jul 11, 2018

Do you go to vendor open houses and networking events? If you are a customer of any of the big hardware vendors or many of the independent software vendors you are likely to receive a cheery invitation to one or more events each year that give you an opportunity to hear from the company executives and listen to technical presentations on current and future products. They usually bring in a few industry speakers and try to create an environment where everyone has an opportunity to network. These are valuable experiences for the vendors who host them, the customers who attend them, and the journalists and analysts to attend, as well.

Ricoh recently hosted their Interact 2018 meeting in Westminster, Colorado, just a short ride form their plant in Boulder. The event was full of interesting insights from Ricoh staff, customers, and industry speakers, but that wasn’t the most interesting thing about Interact. For a company like Ricoh there are a lot of moving parts. Even inside of Commercial and Industrial Printing, led in the US by John Fulena, there are production cut sheet, production web, wide format, and a variety of industrial print devices worthy of your attention. Staging a conference where attendees can get a sense of Ricoh – One Ricoh – is difficult. How many sessions do you run concurrently? how do you give everyone podium time to talk about their innovations?

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Smart Package Manufacturing: HP One Package Workflow Suite Brings New Levels of Optimization

Pat McGrew
 Jun 25, 2018

Corrugated product producers have traditionally thought in terms of square meters and board feet. The goal: keep corrugated products heading out the door. For corrugators that meant keeping the corrugator online and in production which was managed with a Manufacturing Execution System tied to standard business management software suites. Corrugated board manufacturers often use their business systems to manage their manufacturing requirements, augmented with process-specific tools. The advent of digital corrugated production options adds many more requirements to the production workflow, most of which are closer to traditional commercial printing than traditional converting. With experience born from implementations of both digital liner preprinting ahead of corrugation and digital corrugated board printing (“post printing”) comes the HP One Package workflow suite targeted toward users of all HP PageWide Industrial corrugated presses.

HP PrintOS Site Flow Drives End-to-End Print Production for HP Corrugated

Source: HP

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Making Efficient Workflows: 2018 Solimar User Conference

Pat McGrew
 May 13, 2018

San Diego is known for being a hub of invention, from inkjet development to dynamic software solutions. Solimar Systems is embedded in that innovation hub, with 27 years of providing solutions to companies with workflow challenges. Their 2018 User Conference in San Diego (May 8-10) brought together their top users to share their solutions, learn about new features and provide feedback to the Solimar technical team. I am a huge fan of user conferences for the networking opportunities they bring for both the solutions staff and the customers. Face to face is always the best way to gain trust among users and for users to develop all-important relationships.

This year’s event began with a Customer Advisory Council meeting that included a Keypoint Intelligence Keynote: Like Childred, Your Workflow Needs Attention! The council consists of 23 Solimar users who meet on a regular cadence to provide guidance. The goal of the keynote was to talk through the power of workflow automation in driving efficiency and profitability. We are advocates of workflow assessments, as are the team at Solimar Systems, so the presentation walked through a ten step review of workflow processes, with supporting data from the latest Keypoint Intelligence North American Software Investment Survey.

The most interesting takeaways from the Customer Advisory meetings was the diversity of issues faced by Print Service providers of all sizes, and the variety of approaches they take to move toward efficiency. We heard from companies that approach workflow with multiple solutions and some that approach with a single-threaded workflow approach, all using the Solimar products to add efficiency to their production processing.

The Solimar User Group encompasses the Advisory Council and an extended group of Solimar Users. The event included presentations from partners, including Konica Minolta, SCREEN, Ironsides Technology, Reality BLU, BCC Software, and RISO. Customer panels included deep dives into Operational Efficiencies, Differentiated Services, Compliance and Security, and Customer Experience, allowing customers to share their best practices.

Two keynotes touched on tangential workflow issues. The first was the Keypoint Intelligence presentation by Pat McGrew: The Workflow Revolution: Are You On Board? The goal was to provide guidance on how to approach workflow as a moonshot, moving toward the best level of optimization possible. The theme was that operational excellence requires an executive commitment and an open mind to allow change. The goal is Smart Print Manufacturing that embraces automation.

The second keynote came from Tim Cooper, Chief Enterprise Architect at Harland Clarke. If you have not heard a Tim Cooper presentation you have missed something special. Tim has decades of experience in workflows and is a deep thinker when it comes to optimization and breaking down barriers. His presentation was A Discussion on Workflow Facts that Can Lead to Wrong Conclusions. He walked through how looking at data in a vacuum can lead to the wrong architecture and implode operational efficiencies.

Tim shared how he arrived at his philosophy of workflow, and how using the Solimar solutions he was able to wrangle multiple, disparate workflows in to a single workflow, and reduce processing time from more than 3000 hours to under a couple of days. That drew gasps from PSPs in the room struggling with the same challenges.

The true value of user group meetings comes from the networking and sharing, as well as guidance that analysts can supply to provide guidance for decisions about the next investments and architecture changes need to be made. The Solimar team did an excellent job of tuning the mix of technical sessions focused on products and solutions with partner presentations and announcements, and customer panels.

Visions of Modern Packaging from the HP Media Day

Pat McGrew
 Mar 11, 2018

The team at HP hosted a Media Day in Israel in February that unveiled the HP C500 cut sheet inkjet corrugated board printing platform along with demonstrations of the HP Indigo 6900 and 20000 platforms. Combined with a customer event, the HP team had an opportunity to bring both a technology story and a customer success story to the Media event.

Keypoint Intelligence produced analysis for the event that covers the event and introductions. This blog is focused on the samples shown during the event, which focused on the  corrugated packaging story, and the complementary stories behind folding carton solutions.

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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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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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