FreeFlow, Xerox’s popular suite of workflow solutions, has received a major overhaul, including a newly developed “cloud-ready” architecture as well as the addition of several new products. According to Xerox, the new FreeFlow will help them lead with a cutting-edge workflow platform that is developed based on intimate customer knowledge and their long standing expertise in the production printing market.
Central to the updated FreeFlow is a new product called FreeFlow Core. This product is a digital workflow management solution that consists of job submission, preflight, imposition and automation. One of the key benefits of FreeFlow Core is that it is modular and scalable, so that it can be offered to small print shops as well as large print companies. Optional modules include advanced prepress for color management, make ready and page numbering, as well as advanced automation for rule-based automation, output management, and finishing device routing. FreeFlow Core Advanced Automation will replace Process Manager, which is an aging product and often considered to be too complex for especially smaller print shops.
FreeFlow Core is built on a web based architecture and forms the backbone in the new FreeFlow philosophy. All existing FreeFlow products such as Output Manager and Variable Information Suite will soon be based on FreeFlow Core. Also XMPie’s business automation and web portal StoreFlow will be integrated with FreeFlow Core. Although FreeFlow Core will be cloud-ready, it is currently offered as a licensed, on-premises solution.
Additional products and upgrades that were announced at Print ’13 include:
- FreeFlow Digital Publisher
This product is built on FreeFlow Core and helps print providers easily output printed materials and rich-media files to mobile devices. Print providers can add interactive elements such as video, audio, share links to content through social media, and track readership through built-in analytics. The solution is developed in partnership with GTxcel.
- IntegratedPlus Automated Color Management
By utilizing web-hosted technology, the solution eliminates the need for running local color management packages at multiple sites, using different versions or settings to analyze color data. This offering works with CGS Publishing Technologies International with their ORIS Certified // Web and will be expanded with other products at a later stage.
- IntegratedPlus Automated Finishing Solution for Books
Xerox already offers the automated finishing solution for booklets, using a dual sheet feeder from CP Bourg and workflow software from Ultimate Technographics. The benefit of the automated finishing solution is that it can be deployed in nearline, offline or dual mode, making it very flexible. Xerox has now widen its application range including books and has expanded their finishing partners to include Standard Horizon, Duplo, and Plockmatic.
- VI Suite and VIPP
Xerox announced upgrades to VI suite and VIPP. In one step, users can create XML driven promotional jobs, incorporate barcodes, print directly from SAP applications, and generate hard copy output and PDF files for electronic distribution.
Note that all announcements are for the US as well as international markets except for the digital publishers which will be launched in the US first.
Xerox’ revamp of FreeFlow is a good move for Xerox customers and prospects as it gives them the tools they need to successfully operate in a challenging industry. It also provides more credibility to Xerox’ cloud strategy. After Xerox’ announcement at drupa 2012 to form a cloud consortium, it became evident for industry watchers that the current client-server architecture of FreeFlow would not be suitable to power substantial cloud initiatives.
With the new FreeFlow, Xerox aligns itself with the changing requirements of the print production market and gets in a good position to lead the market with the new FreeFlow just as it did with the previous version of FreeFlow. There still is a big potential to sell workflow automation to especially medium and smaller shops, but while cost reduction is of paramount importance, for those environments “business enablement” may be an easier sell than “cost reduction”. Small print shops that are struggling with declining volumes find it often very counter intuitive to invest in workflow automation, so broadening the value proposition to include things like digital publishing or digital marketing applications may actually be a very helpful approach to foster adoption.
By moving to a web architecture, Xerox is making its FreeFlow future proof as the cloud is expected to play a major role in the print production workflow market in the years to come. InfoTrends has just launched a landmark study on this topic, called Cloud-based Workflows & Infrastructures for Graphic Communications to provide critical insights on this important topic.