Workflow solutions that enable print service providers to work smarter, not harder, are becoming more crucial in helping printers build toward greater success. A number of providers have recently introduced upgraded versions of these tools that assist in further automating workflow and building efficiencies.
These workflow products are helping providers separate themselves from the pack. As one high-placed expert observes, they may prove to be the differentiator between those who are successful long-term and those who are not.
Xanté iQueue 9
This company offers intelligent print systems, and launched iQueue three years ago, with iQueue 9 unveiled in early 2014. According to CEO Robert Ross, the major enhancement in iQueue 9 is that it is available for any Adobe PostScript device. “Our users who have Xanté products can now add to their capability, and that’s very important,” Ross said. “There’s also more available data capability for people doing direct mail and addressing envelopes. We added much more variable data, as well as the ability to handle virtually any Adobe PostScript device.”
The product is sold as a site license, which is one of its major differentiators. It can be run on one or multiple PCs, and allows anyone in the shop to benefit from iQueue 9’s full imposition, color management, spot color matching, spot color creation, and full variable data engine.
“There are so many features that include drag-and-drop PDF, and everyone gets that capability as well as multiple hot folders and job archiving,” Ross said. “iQueue was built to be incredibly simple and easy to use, to require virtually no training, and anyone can use it. Yet it’s very powerful.”
You know your shop’s ready for workflow software when you must match a color, he says, adding a free trial of iQueue 9 is downloadable at the company’s website.
This provider of mail and print workflow solutions offers an all-in-one MIS and production suite in PressWise. “A lot of our features have to do with extending the variety of jobs you can do via API,” vice president Eric Wold said. “PressWise is a software-as-a-service, out since 2009, and as such everyone is continually on the latest version.”
PressWise can reduce the number of touch points in a printer’s workflow, enabling them to combine their offline custom business with any online or API-driven work. It also extends their ability to launch Web-to-print sites. Storefront management is built into the prepress tools, and PSPs can administer storefronts right into the MIS system, Wold reports.
Some see advantages to working with a software package that’s designed to be modular. Wold isn’t among them. “We’re completely non-modular,” he reported. “Our competitors tend to sell multiple SKUs to give [print providers] a suite of functionality, whereas PressWise provides an all-in-one functionality that is pre-integrated, saving a lot of IT management or overhead.”
EFI Workflow Options
EFI’s MIS software is available in a number of versions from PrintSmith to Monarch. So how can PSPs decide which one is most appropriate for them?
“Our Monarch line is a very comprehensive, multi-plant solution for commercial publication, large enterprises, and direct mail, and has a cost basis appropriate for such a product,” said Filip Buyse, general manager for EFI’s Web-to-print product group and PrintSmith. “PrintSmith is targeted at small printers, quick printers, and the print franchises. It’s a comprehensive solution with 20 modules that address different functions like estimating, scheduling, job production, etc markets. The depth and breadth of the modules differentiates the product.”
Some PSPs are not quite sure when their companies should implement workflow software. Buyse firmly believes from a business systems standpoint, printers looking at growing and improving their margins must have some sort of automation in their business. “We see it in the production side and in the business side,” he added. “Most printers have some sort of MIS solution to help them run their businesses, and track their customers. Today, you need a business system to control your costs, see where you’re making money and where you’re not, and assist in eliminating redundant steps.”
EFI is constantly improving its products and offering new releases with new functionlaity. In December 2013 EFI released an upgraded version of PrintSmith Vision, which adds enhanced functionality. Also new is an upgraded version of PrintSmith Site, the Web-to-print portal that ties in with PrintSmith Vision.
Konica Minolta EnvisionIT
Konica Minolta’s decision to enter the IT arena was based on the desire to offer both managed services and hardware in the IT section for companies. So said Dawn Nye, solutions and services marketing EnvisionIT production and print for Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA.
“Depending on your [company’s] size, you may not want to have an IT department on staff,” she says.
EnvisionIT is the company’s “overall umbrella marketing message,” Nye said. The company takes a consultative approach, by examining and performing an analysis of a company’s workflow. “We allow that third party to stand away from the forest and get a good look at the landscape,” she said.
EnvisionIT proposes work improvements to streamline production, backing the client from the advice stage to the implementation, and providing both pre-sale and post-sale analysts and customer support. “All the software and services are under that EnvisionIT family umbrella,” Nye reported. “The aim is to work smarter and be more efficient with an integrated workflow.”
Products under the EnvisionIT umbrella can be bought alone or through Konica Minolta, she adds. The latter option yields an entirely integrated system.
Xerox FreeFLow Core
Xerox Corp. recently introduced a new platform known as FreeFlow Core, which represents a significant change for the company. “It’s an open automation platform,” said Kevin Horey, vice president and general manager of the Workflow and Solutions business unit within the Graphic Communications Group.
“This product and future ones based off it are based on the latest and greatest technologies. The newest, FreeFlow Core, is an open module, scalable Web-based product that is very exciting for us. It’s already incorporated into a number of Xerox offerings, including the product itself, another product called FreeFlow Digital Publisher, Integrated Plus Automated Finishing, and it is also part of XMPie StoreFlow Version 8.0, a Web-to-print offering.”
The platform is “incredibly scalable,” reports AnnMarie Link, worldwide manager of Workflow Solutions Marketing. In years past, there were individual, feature-rich components customers needed to purchase. “What we realized is that customers want to start small and build as their business grows,” she noted. “FreeFlow Core enables a smaller company to get into automated prepress and be able to grow and scale as their business grows.”
Yet it also supports a very large, well-established commercial printer with scalable solutions, Horey said. A Xerox objective is to help printers grow their businesses and revenues. “The product I mentioned earlier, Digital Publisher, is a brand new offering that enables our print service providers new revenue and profit generation. A printed brochure is a very good and powerful marketing collateral piece, but I can make it into an electronic version and add in video, audio, animation, and hyperlinks. And it can be tracked to see how often it was used, what was done with it, and which component was most valuable.”
The industry term most widely used is leveraging robust data analytics to measure click-through, views, and readership, Link says. “This is an absolutely huge opportunity for PSPs in differentiating themselves from their competitors,” she added.
“The piece actually travels with the customer, it’s on their smartphone or tablet. PSPs can provide updates and communications to customers, letting them know new information is available. This really enables true competitive differentiation for that print service provider. This provides a direct linkage from that PSP to his customer in providing this new wave of communication.”
It is evident workflow solutions are becoming more and more critical to customer success, Horey concluded. “We believe they will differentiate those that are successful long-term from those who aren’t successful long-term.”