Automation a Key Theme at Graph Expo

Other Posts
Nov 7, 2008

While I may not have seen everything I wanted to while on the show floor at Graph Expo this year, there is one reccurring theme that I heard about from print service providers and saw from vendors: the need for automation. This theme is emerging at a very crucial time in our industry, especially considering the current economic climate and the increasing need for printers to reduce costs, increase turnaround time, and still add value to the print-related services and other services that they are offering.

The concept of a fully-automated print shop is something that has been tossed around for the last few years, having all processes from job submission through distribution automated and tracked into an MIS or ERP system. In the world of transactional/TransPromo printing, this has been achieved to some degree through the implementation of “Automated Document Factories”. However, the concept is only now starting to fully take shape within a Graphic Arts/commercial printing environment, as showcased by some of the vendors at Graph Expo 2008.

One piece of the automation puzzle on display was the hybrid workflow solution. More offset workflow solution vendors, such as Kodak, Agfa, Heidelberg, and Screen, are introducing more functionality to control digital print devices. One digital print vendor who was demonstrating this concept was Canon, who has partnered with both Screen and Heidelberg to offer connectivity from their respective workflow solutions to some of Canon’s imagePRESS digital color devices. As these types of relationships increase and mature, more functionality and automation within one common workflow interface can be extremely beneficial to printers. These hybrid solutions have the potential to boost efficiency and reduce costs by allowing the printer to choose the most cost-effective printing process (offset or digital) right before printing a job.

MIS vendors were in full force promoting their solutions at Graph Expo as well, aiming to help printers “ease the pain” of estimating, scheduling, and collecting shop floor data with more automated, efficient solutions. EFI was offering three MIS solutions for three different print markets: EFI PrintSmith for quick printers and small print shops, EFI Pace for mid-sized commercial printers, and EFI Monarch for large commercial printers with multiple locations. Both Pace and Monarch are now JDF Certified by CIP4 and PIA/GATF (complete list available here). Avanti, who also just gained JDF Certification, was showcasing their solution and its integration into Xerox’s FreeFlow platform. Other vendors, including DiMS!, Prism, Technique, and Hiflex were also showcasing their MIS solutions with the promise of increased efficiency and automation.

Finally, one very interesting and promising automation solution showcased at Graph Expo 2008 was Enfocus’ Crossroads automation community platform built around its Switch product that it obtained through its acquisition of Gradual Software earlier this year. The Crossroads platform allows vendors and even print service providers to build add-ons to the Enfocus Switch product to create highly automated workflows. There are already a substantial list of vendors with connections into Switch, including some that were demonstrated at Graph Expo, including Adobe, Alwan Color Expertise, callas software, Quark, and Ultimate Technographics. It will be interesting to see how this platform will be adopted and utilized by printers in the US, as this solutions has been implemented largely by publishers in Europe.

While budgets may be tightening, hopefully print service providers will invest in these types of solutions to increase automation and efficiency not only to weather the economic storm, but to improve their overall operations for the future.

More blogs from

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux