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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News Flash! Your Workflow is NOT Proprietary

Pat McGrew
 Dec 4, 2017

As we approach the end of the calendar year, it is a good time to take a look at your workflow. If you have been following the earlier blogs, there is a road to travel to ensure that you have the most efficient workflow, from the point you begin to sell a job to the point where you deliver it. And while it is true that every workflow should be developed to meet the needs of the operation it supports, it is also true that it is very, very rare to find a workflow that meets the criteria to be proprietary.

Workflows have physical, data, and file-based components woven together to ensure that work that is sold is onboarded promptly and correctly, scheduled, and executed. Physical workflows are how you move substrates to and among your devices and through to fulfillment. Data workflows describe how data moves into the organization from customers, and then through the organization into accounting and production. Data not only includes the information needed for managing the order in the accounting system, but also the order and fulfillment specifications, as well as the data that follows the job through each workflow touchpoint. It is machine data as well as data captured from the production systems. In VDP printing environments it can also encompass the data used to create the VDP work if it isn’t delivered as a print-ready file. The file-based components areprincipally the print-ready files, but could also include font and graphic assets, dieline files or other supporting documents.

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

David Stabel
 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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Let’s Talk About IPEX 2017

Pat McGrew
 Nov 9, 2017

We know it wasn’t the 11-hall extravaganza of shiny hardware we have seen in the Birmingham National Exhibition Center in the past. It wasn’t even the show we saw mounted at the ExCel center in London. The return of the IPEX brand to the print industry trade show market was half of hall 5 at the Birmingham NEC. And that is OK. It’s a new start on a rebuilding campaign for one of the oldest Print trade shows, so why not give it a fair shake?
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At LabelExpo 2017 Workflow is Automated!

Pat McGrew
 Oct 3, 2017

Underpinning a very successful LabelExpo 2017 was talk workflow and talk of speed. This year in Brussels we saw not only new technology for label production and finishing running at higher speeds, but we saw a growing emphasis on the workflow that drives production, with echos of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things in the subtext of every press conference and every workflow demonstration.

Across the 9 halls and 679 exhibitors there was workflow specified on the signage, in the demonstrations, and most notably, in the Automation Arena, where the emphasis was on live demonstrations of automated conventional and digital label and packaging solutions from Cerm, Esko, Xeikon, MPS, Kocher + Beck, grafotronic, AVT, WLE and Matho. The Automation Arena demonstrations were supported by Avery Dennison, FlintGroup and Zeller + Gmelin for inks and substrates. As a bonus, the LabelExpo team took the time to build a great YouTube video which you can find here and should be on your playlist if you work in label production.

The AVT Booth at LabelExpo 2017

Across all of the halls it was clear that the equipment manufacturers of flexo and digital solutions recognize that the key to a successful customer is not only reliable, flexible production equipment, but a solid set of workflow solutions to guide their clients towards the fullest possible automation. Many hardware suppliers have partnered with CERM, which bills itself as the business management software for narrow web printers. Their solution, which begins at quoting and touches the required stops through to warehousing, shipping and invoicing has components for costing, data collection and a Web to print solution called Web4Labels.

As common as the speed story prevalent among the hardware vendors was a new emphasis on job acquisition. The web-to-print story was everywhere, on signage and in booth demonstrations, and not just for digital solutions. Many of the flexo solution vendors also have web-to-workflow solutions that open new product options for their customers.

Durst featured Workflow and Web-to-Print on their signage.

Many vendors were emphasizing their options for variable data and variable imaging as digital print solutions and hybrid solutions vocalize their value propositions that include making output personal or at least customized. The team from Chili Publish, seen below, fresh from their successful Print 17 stand in Chicago, indicated that they were having vibrant conversations with both existing clients and prospects as they look for solutions to create value in the print chain. In Chicago next year and Brussels in two years from now it is likely that more software solutions providers will set up stands to engage in this growing market opportunity.

The team from Chili Publish at Label Expo 2017!

Worthy of note was a kiosk (seen below) in the FlintGroup/Xeikon booth touching on a topic that needs more focus across the industry: how to sell these great digital solutions. The Xeikon aXelerate program is one of several seen on the floor that put the spotlight on helping label producers sell the value proposition of digitally-produced labels. There are myriad product offerings that leverage what digital can do easily, such as adding targeted messages, QR codes, and other technologies.

Xeikon had a great story around helping to sell digital!

One of those technologies is Augmented Reality, which was available in the SCREEN booth in partnership with Solimar Systems. SCREEN Europe worked with Solimar to enable a set of labels (seen below) that, when viewed with the Solimar App, runs a video showing the SCREEN workflow and print story for labels. It was a great way to allow an attendee to carry a demo with them, though the signage in the booth missed the opportunity to spotlight this unique demonstration.

From productivity suites to job journeys, the emphasis on using workflow to a competitive advantage was clear in every hall. For any label producer who has not yet investigate web-to-print options and automated workflow options, this show is the clear indicator that this is the time to invest to stay competitive.

If you are wondering how you can stay competitive, consider spending some time in our report store (http://store.infotrendsresearch.com/ ) or engaging with us in the Production Workflow Service. We go to the shows and conferences, study the market, and do deep dives into the technology so that we can provide the best advice and guidance to our clients. We are standing by to help you on your path to automation.

 

 

If you have stories to share reach out to me! @PatMcGrew on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or Pat.McGrew@KeypointIntelligence.com all reach me. For more information on how to gain access to our research, market sizing & forecasts, or how to subscribe to our Production Workflow or other services, contact Deanna Flanick today at deanna.flanick@buyerslab.com!

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