Technological innovation is what makes the printing industry tick, aside from turning a profit, of course. And there’s no denying that technology is linked to improved productivity and fatter margins. From a self-education and awareness standpoint, we all are curious about what’s out there and what’s new. The Printing Industries of America (PIA) has helped printers weed through the breakthroughs and advancements, on an annual basis, for more than three decades. Since 1978, the techno-cream has risen to the top in the form of the PIA (formerly GATF) InterTech Technology Awards. That recognizable Lucite star trophy is the supplier version of the Premier Print “Benny” statuette for printers—and as such, is quite the prestigious honor.
Printing News wondered, what’s in it for the recipients? What kind of an impact does the InterTech accolade have on their businesses? Exposure and awareness are obvious takeaways, along with increased sales. Past "winners" not only have a major influence on the graphic communications industry for a five- to 10-year period, but PIA says that more than 80 percent have experienced commercial success in the marketplace. What else do they get for their $1,500 or $2,000 entry fee, time and effort?
Well, there’s the instant credibility factor, according to Jay Foster, president of SoftSolutions, which won an InterTech 18 months ago for the Flex-Production Control System (PCS) workflow engine. Its open application programming interface (API) allows for integration with many disparate systems in JDF and non-JDF environments “The recognition really does validate your work,” Foster says. “The industry panel review confirmed our [product’s] value in the marketplace. It’s like a filtering process, especially among potential partners, causing people to pause, consider and hopefully investigate.” (In a recent twist, SoftSolutions is providing its Flex-PCS software as a standard offering on the new Magnum FlexBook short-run, digital finishing solution. See related story.)
There also is the added benefit of a crystallized marketing message, says Gary Marron, CEO of Hiflex, whose MIS Factory was one of 10 technologies to earn an InterTech back in 2008—the first management information system (MIS) to win the award. That’s the other certainty: InterTech recognition has legs. We’ve all seen the familiar star logo posted on signs atop machines, proclaiming “InterTech Winner” at trade shows such as Graph Expo, Graphics of the Americas and OnDemand. Some winners from three or more years ago still promote their victory by reproducing that respected logo on their firm’s business cards, marketing literature and advertising—even at the bottom of email messages. There are ceremonial acceptance photos on their websites and links to article PDFs from trade publications like this one.
“While the announcement of the award in the press at the time is of some importance, we feel that the logo, applied to the product packaging and collateral, together with the plastic thing itself at trade shows, is a great indicator of quality and innovation and which lasts far longer than an ad or press release,” says Trevor Haworth, CEO of CGS Publishing Technologies. However, obtaining the rights to use that “star” in the first place is the difficult part. First of all, the field is tough: There were 20 candidates in 2010 and six winners; nine won in 2009. The judging is even tougher. “It’s a very independent process,” says Foster, who adds that he never could detect any influence, partly because it’s also so secretive. “They don’t tell you who the judges are," but between 15 and 20 are selected for each annual competition.