Not just anyone enters the InterTech Awards. Each entry is judged against specific and rigorous criteria. First and foremost, the technology must be truly innovative, not merely an evolutionary improvement on an existing product. It also needs to be proven in industrial/commercial applications. Furthermore, it has to enable printers to operate more efficiently or to provide a new set of services and offer a clear return on investment (ROI). And finally, it must be commercially available in the marketplace—not beta/premarket—yet not have achieved market adoption. (Pre-release products are ineligible.)
In Marron’s mind, it has to be something that hasn’t been done before Hiflex even considers entering, which he admits is a tall order. “We have to feel like we have at least an 80 percent chance of winning,” he says, before investing in the time and labor resources. “It takes a lot of energy and effort to provide the application,” he adds. Behind the scenes, this reporter has seen some of what goes into the winning entries: the three-ring binders and presentation folders filled with product features, end-user benefits, data in the form of charts and graphs, graphic samples, customer referral letters and assorted testimonials.
“Our two awards—ORIS Color Tuner 2003 and ORIS Press Matcher 2009—had a significant impact on sales and have led to both products reaching market leadership in their respective segments,” praises CGS’s Haworth. But measuring an InterTech Award’s overall ROI is more intangible for most winners. “We don’t look at it as just an expense,” notes Marron. Hiflex views it as more of a contribution. “We’re participating in a leading industry association,” he says, with more than 12,000 member firms. Foster adds, “You can’t really put your finger on it, but we know it’s worth it in the larger scheme.” Fujifilm Graphic Systems, which won the InterTech in 2009 for its Taskero ColorPath technology, calls this effect the byproduct of “mind-share” marketing. “Although no sales can be directly linked to the award, it has added legitimacy to the product, especially with larger accounts,” says Patrick Donigain, solutions development manager.
Philip Beyer, founder and president of Beyer Printing and Ebiz Products, gives a frank assessment of the award’s effectiveness, explaining that even the InterTech’s bright spotlight couldn’t reflect away a dark economic cloud. “In September 2009 Printing Industries of America’s announcement of our being a recipient of the InterTech Technology Award—and our ability to share that good news—attracted a fair amount of attention to our technology System100 [software] over the ensuing months,” Beyer says. “Business owners as far away as Australia contacted us then to learn more about our unique, browser-based ‘hosted’ business process management solution,” a “lean” product that can help printers to reduce excessive expense and waste.
“However, as the economy tightened most business owners’ belts across the country, the normally affordable subscription fee for our technology seemed more than many owners wanted to risk, given their already taut budgets,” Beyer points out. “Still, having been recognized by PIA with an InterTech Technology Award made many owners and managers more aware and generally confident of System100—we are most grateful for that! Thanks, PIA!”
Hiflex also entered in 2009 but did not receive the award. “It was deflating,” Marron recalls. But would he do it again? “Absolutely,” he exclaims without hesitating. His firm got its second win last year care of Webshop, an open-source, JDF-friendly web-to-print solution. With 30 percent to 40 percent of the firm’s gross sales reinvested into research and development, the CEO is confident that Hiflex will be back in the InterTech receiving line again, sooner rather than later. “We have stuff in the pipeline,” he says.
SoftSolutions’ Foster says there’s enough value in an InterTech Award for his firm to apply again, too, even though its paper-waste module got turned away in 2010. He sees value-added for Printing, with a capital P. “It’s great for the industry,” he says, “because it stirs innovation.” Many companies may have a tendency to get complacent, Foster adds, but a program like this “makes you take a hard look and challenges how hard you can push.”