Data Management
One year after its market launch, the Heidelberg Assistant digital platform is now operating in more than 400 print shops in the pilot markets of Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. The rollout in Japan, Poland and Austria has also started, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) says.
Xeikon has announced Xeikon Performance Services (XPS), a new component as part of its aXelerate Services Program that facilitates the ongoing need for a production manager to manage print production with a focus on continuous improvement.
Solimar Systems has announced a new software release of SOLitrack, described as providing users with an improved centralized platform for print job tracking, status reporting and visibility.
Electronics For Imaging (EFI), and Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. have announced a new EFI Fiery digital front end (DFE) designed to drive the AccurioPress 6136 series of monochrome digital presses from Konica Minolta.
Xerox is offering new solutions designed to safeguard data and devices in today’s workplace. Xerox Workplace Solutions includes print management and mobility offerings available in Cloud or on-premise server versions.
Messagepoint has expanded its platform connectivity to Salesforce, an international provider of CRM software, explaining the new functionality enables non-technical business users to deliver interactive, one-to-one communications across both print and digital channels within a single, integrated platform.
In December, arifiQ Development introduced arifiQ Entry for the ability to quickly obtain quotes and place orders for custom print jobs. Available at a flat monthly rate, arifiQ Entry uses the company’s pre-existing arifiQ core engine found in its PRO version.

The company explains arifiQ Entry relieves the bottleneck – from several hours to many days – between the time a customer approves a job, and when he or she gets an estimate/quote back from a printer.

arifiQ Entry exports to, or integrates with, any MIS, ERP, prepress, or other order management system. It also offers 12 of the 14 major benefits available in arifiQ's high-end solution, arifiQ PRO. The salesperson or other professional uses arifiQ Entry to access the printer's estimating server from anywhere, at anytime, using any internet connection. In seconds, the company explains arifiQ's proprietary algorithms generate up to one septillion 1024 (or more) combinations based on the printer's resources and cost variables, to arrive at a quote. Resources include printing presses, paper stock, and post-press machinery; while cost variables include hourly rates, discounts, and profit margins.
arifiQ Entry also include Campaign functionality. Using this feature, reps can obtain estimates on many print jobs at one time, and get not only pricing, but also optimized imposition and media (substrate) decisions. Campaign functionality is one of the features available in both arifiQ PRO and arifiQ Entry.

In addition to arifiQ PRO and the new arifiQ Entry, arifiQ Development offers a plugin for Adobe InDesign, as well as an in-plant solution, arifiQ deQuote, which provides quotes via the "print" function on any conventional computer.
Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG is partnering with IT service provider Dimension Data and other companies in the NTT Group to create a scalable IT infrastructure focusing on LAN, WAN and communication services for some 110 sites and branches in just under 40 different countries. The German press manufacturer explains the move is key to its efforts to speed up digital transformation for its customers, which includes access to a network of over 10,000 presses connected with its central service centre.

Heidelberg continues to explain, that by creating a communication infrastructure geared to digital business models, it is making further progress in its development from simply selling equipment to becoming a customer-based service company. The digitization strategy, continues Heidelberg, is associated with completely new IT requirements for the implementation of new Industry 4.0 applications and services.

“We see ourselves as a true partner for our customers in a digital future,” said Heidelberg CFO Dirk Kaliebe, who is also responsible for IT. “With a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure, we’re laying the foundation for gearing our product and service portfolio to digital business models while also providing them faster and more reliably.”

Heidelberg, based on its network of more than 10,000 connected presses, plans to leverage this cutting-edge big data analysis to predict potential failures and to also analyze performance trends.

“Our aim with Heidelberger Druckmaschinen is to significantly improve the company’s innovative strength, especially with regard to customer communication,” said Peter Busch, Director of Enterprise Services at Dimension Data in Germany, who is responsible for outsourcing projects.  “We’re using reliable, highly integrated collaboration solutions combined with new, dynamic LAN infrastructures and corresponding WAN services for this purpose. Together with sister companies in our NTT Group – such as NTT Communications – we can offer wide-ranging know-how from a single source.”

Dimension Data supports customers during all phases of the technological transition, with the focus on digital infrastructures, the hybrid cloud, workspaces for tomorrow, cybersecurity, and network-as-the-platform solutions. With sales of US$7.5 billion and offices in 58 countries, Dimension Data has been part of the NTT Group since 2010. It is the official technology partner of Tour de France organizer the Amaury Sport Organization and partner of South Africa’s Dimension Data for Qhubeka cycling team.

Avanti Computer Systems of Toronto released a new Advanced JDF Framework workflow module for its Avanti Slingshot MIS platform, which is to be featured next month at Graph Expo 2014 in Chicago.

Avanti Slingshot’s Advanced JDF Framework workflow module, according to the company, provides a platform to more easily integrate third-party workflow products like Xerox FreeFlow Core, Ricoh TotalFlow, HP SmartStream, Kodak Prinergy and Konica Minolta Printgroove.

Avanti has been one of the industry’s most active members of the CIP4 organization, which develops the Job Definition Format (JDF) and Job Messaging Format (JMF) standards, designed for data integrity and cross-system communication in manufacturing. It carries information like job ticket numbers, job descriptions, size, colours, media information, quantities and content files.

Avanti points out that JDF has evolved into a standard that now encompasses over 1,000 pages of specifications. “What that has translated into for a print shop is often very complex and expensive projects that typically take a long time to implement as vendors attempt to create the handshake between their system and the workflow tool with which they’re trying to communicate,” stated Patrick Bolan, President and CEO of Avanti. “Avanti’s Advanced JDF framework ensures that JDF is no longer the exclusive domain of large corporations. It does the heavy lifting to make that handshake a much less costly and time-consuming project.”

The Avanti JDF Framework uses templates built from validated JDF standards Interoperability Conformance Specifications (ICS). Avanti Slingshot incorporates business intelligence (CRM, dashboards and reporting), production planning (estimating, imposition, automated purchasing, sales orders, inventory management and scheduling), warehousing, shipping and billing.

Toronto-based Avanti Computer Systems launched its new Slingshot Management Information System (MIS) on September 9 at the PRINT 13 trade show in Chicago. The completely new platform is the result of more than three years of R&D and represents one the largest investments over the company’s 29-year history.

“PRINT13 was our tenth Graph Expo [branded by show organizers as PRINT 13 every five years] since buying Avanti in 2004 and by far this was our busiest,” Stephen McWilliam, Avanti Executive Vice President, wrote in an email when contacted post-show about Slingshot’s launch. “Normally, we have our three demo pods in our booth busy most of the time for demonstrations, but thank goodness we added a large screen theatre into our booth because, at times, people were five deep and 12 across in the theatre.”

McWilliam continued to express how he felt the hot topic at PRINT 13 was workflow, with all major vendors showcasing new or updated software platforms. Avanti Slingshot was involved in a range of third-party demonstrations at PRINT 13, including prominent positions on the booths of Ricoh and HP.

One of HP’s live booth demonstrations, for example, focused on a Web-to-Print portal (XMpie uStore) submitting jobs to Avanti Slingshot, which then automatically sent parameters to HP’s Smartstream Production Centre and ultimately down to an HP Indigo press. McWilliam explains, that when the demo job was complete, run-time, stock consumption and job status information was sent directly to Avanti for updating the schedule (job status), inventory and billing.

Avanti Slingshot was the focus on of PrintAction’s August 2013 cover story.

Avanti Computer Systems today launched Avanti Slingshot, which the Toronto company describes as its next-generation Print Management Information System (MIS). The technology will be demonstrated at PRINT 13 in Chicago.

Avanti’s new Slingshot product, which can be cloud-based or hosted onsite, has been in development for over three years and was built from the ground-up to handle multiple lines of business, including large-format inkjet, toner and offset lithography, mailing and fulfillment workflows, as well as creative, marketing and data management services from one platform.
“We are very excited to be launching a product that will help take our customer’s organizations to the next level,” stated Patrick Bolan, President and CEO of Avanti. “Avanti Slingshot leverages advice from industry thought leaders, customers and a rich 29-year history in this specialized market."
Avanti stresses that Slingshot is an entirely new product with a modular and flexible architecture that allows printing operations to scale up as they grow and add new services. It is browser-based, providing printers with the ability to securely access the system from any device at any time.
Slingshot incorporates business intelligence (CRM, dashboards and reporting), production planning (estimating, imposition, automated purchasing, sales orders, inventory management and scheduling), warehousing, shipping and billing.

Avanti explains many of its resources put toward building Slingshot were focused on reducing the level of effort and amount of time required to install an MIS, which has been a historic barrier for many printing operations. Every Avanti Slingshot ships with a QuickStart Database, an Estimating Standards Library, and migration and import tools, which, as Avanti explains, can dramatically streamline the transition from an existing system.

In its preparation to commercially release the product, Avanti has installed  Slingshot in several companies (both commercial and in-plant sites) over the past nine months. “We wanted to make sure Avanti Slingshot was bullet proof and ready for prime time before the general release to the market,” stated Bolan.

Avanti Slingshot also includes what the company describes as a robust Application Programming Interface (API), enabling the integration of third-party applications and the connection of “islands of automation”. The new platform leverages industry standard protocols such as JDF/JMF and XML. “Our goal is to continue to provide the most open Print MIS system in the industry,” stated Bolan.

North Plains of Toronto introduced new versions for three of its products, including Xinet 17.5, Telescope 9.1 and On Brand 2.6, which are core software applications. The product updates, scheduled for launch by the end of North Plain’s current fiscal quarter, focus on interoperability and usability improvements.

Xinet 17.5
Xinet is a described by North Plains as an optimized media production environment, tuned to deliver productivity benefits to creative teams producing rich-media assets in an environment tightly integrated with the Adobe Creative Suite.

Xinet Pilot, a key module of Xinet 17.5, has been enhanced by expanding previous Asset Browser functionality onto the creative desktop, which provides more flexibility to access, automate and synchronize asset production. Also, North Plains’ ConnectR technology now allows Xinet to push assets and related metadata with a single click to both On Brand and Xinet Digital, North Plains’ new brand engagement products.

Additionally, assets and metadata that have been pushed to Telescope software can now be pulled back, from within the Xinet interface. Xinet 17.5 now includes Unicode support to encode multiple languages and character sets. North Plains explains this allows for deeper localized deployment across multiple geographies. Audio files can now be previewed in Xinet via MP3 audio thumbnails and Xinet can now be licensed without a hardware dongle on Windows and Linux.

Telescope 9.1
Designed as an enterprise-scale digital asset management system, the new release of Telescope 9.1 also focuses on interoperability in that ConnectR technology now allows Xinet users to pull content from a Telescope repository. As a result, Telescope and Xinet can now be connected in a bi-directional workflow for asset transfers.

Additionally, the Telescope Web interface now includes auto-complete functionality in many data entry fields to speed-up form completion. As a user types, Telescope automatically filters out non-matching items from the list until the user selects the desired value. Files can now be dropped directly onto Telescope to trigger import, and catalogues of selected assets can be dropped directly to the desktop or into a creative application like InDesign.

On Brand 2.6
On Brand is a hosted solution with an interface for the management of brand assets and brand guidelines, while also holding optional capabilities for marketing resource management.

Permission support in On Brand 2.6 now extends down to the asset level, which North Plains describes as providing for better control over what digital assets and materials can be viewed, downloaded and shared. This provides greater protection and distribution options for brand managers. On Brand 2.6 can now be used to brand portals in multiple languages and themes, improving accessibility across multiple geographies.

drupa Spotlight: In the second article of PrintAction’s drupa Spotlight series, German printing journalist Ed Boogard takes a look at trends and expectations of front-end software and cloud-based computing heading into drupa 2012.

By Ed Boogard

“Printing using movable type” has turned into “printing using movable data”. It has been almost eight years since Bernhard Schreier, CEO of Heidelberg, paraphrased Gutenberg’s invention to describe the transformation of the industry. And data has been moving ever faster, in ever more directions, ever since.

“Everything that can go online, will go online,” stated Schreier, who has been appointed President of drupa 2012, in his speech last September during Graph Expo 2011. And ‘everything’, of course, includes the printing industry. Who could have imagined only three years ago to be able to access all relevant management information from your print shop by using an app on a smartphone? Or to allow your clients to view, annotate, and approve jobs on their iPads? It was only at the time of drupa 2008 that Apple announced a new iPhone using 3G. And the iPad did not even exist.

Get your App
Now, Heidelberg’s Prinect Mobile app connects your smartphone directly to the workflow at work, and lets you check a job’s status, monitor machine reports of all equipment and even analyse production during shifts.

Agfa’s :Apogee Prepress App gets you quick check of a specific job during production on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. “A convenient status overview of the prepress equipment, including proofers, CTP systems and other output devices, can also be displayed with this App,” says Erik Peeters, Marketing Manager for Apogee at Agfa Graphics.

And Fujifilm’s XMF Remote app is changing the way printers and their clients interact, as John Davies, workflow solutions manager Fujifilm Europe Europe, explained at the UK Publishing Expo 2011: “Print buyers are, in the main, creative people, and it’s creatives who have been early adopters of iPad technology, using it as a professional business tool. If we want to enhance the experience of these creatives who are responsible for commissioning and approving print work, we have to provide them with tools that they want to work with.”

Shift to software
Between last drupa and the 2012 edition, capital investment has been impacted by the global recession. Printing companies have been forced to find new ways to innovate and improve their business without large investments in machines or equipment. Shifting their attention to software, focusing on the handling of data and information, has proven to offer affordable solutions that enhance productivity, efficiency and margin. Also, new services and products can be provided to customers, opening up new markets as well. As software from, for example, DirectSmile and XMpie shows, variable data does not only mean you can personalize print, but you can make it interact with e-mail, personal websites and mobile messaging as well.

Information and technology
Drupa 2012 is set to show printing really is all about information and technology. As lines of lead became streams of bits and bytes, digital information has been changing the printing industry dramatically. It allows the production process to become highly automated and standardized, by creating connected workflows from start to finish. Printing has not only become faster and more efficient by connecting commercial data with production data. It has also become more flexible and effective by using creative data on digital presses to produce highly segmented or even personalized printed products.

Digital information is changing the business of printing, by changing the way printers and clients interact, communicate and connect. Web-to-print provides new ways to request and deliver quotes, exchange job information, upload files, do proofing and track jobs. It has strengthened relationships as printers became solution providers to their clients. It has weakened relationships as clients turned to the highly transparent Internet marketplace. 

And digital information is changing shape and form, as more and more digital alternatives to print, like e-books and tablets, become available. They attract an increasing part of the moveable data as both print buyers and print consumers start to prefer pixels to paper.

Automate production
“The most important trend at drupa 2008 was the effort that all companies – in prepress, press and postpress – put in developing IT solutions to automate and control the entire graphic workflow,” says Italian prepress expert Ester Crisanti. “Many solutions were focused on handling the files exchange, others were specialized in checking the colour reproduction on-board of the press machine and, on top of all, there was the JDF technology. Crossmedia publishing and hybrid workflows were new at drupa 2008 and there were some interesting offers that now, after 4 years, are becoming a strong reality.”

Fujifilm early on put the Adobe PDF Print Engine at the heart of its JDF based XMF workflow. Others followed soon, like Agfa’s ApogeeX, Screen’s TrueFlow, Kodaks’s Prinergy and Xerox’ FreeFlow Print Server. These end-to-end PDF workflow solutions now guarantee output consistency and allow for true hybrid workflows, combining conventional and digital print, and crossmedia workflows, including all kinds of electronic media as well.

Hybrid workflows
“Hybrid workflows will arrive at drupa 2012,” says Gareth Ward, editor of Print Business magazine (UK), as he analyses developments since last drupa: “They not really exist, rather co-joined workflows and there is no great appetite for them in real use. MIS moves forward, but with different demands in different countries can hardly be said to have changed the industry. Web to print has been the most significant development, though again not all countries use it in the way it is used in Germany. And automation remains a concept rather than practicality in most shops.” 

Eddy Hagen at VIGC, the Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication, also picks hybrid workflows as the main topic at drupa 2012, as more printers will be offering both conventional and digital printing. Also, JDF/JMF will remain an important theme, but it will still take time for it to live up to its full potential, Hagen thinks. He would also like to stress the importance of MIS: “Every company has to be able to analyze its costs and revenues on a job-to-job basis. You have to know which jobs earn you money and which don’t, so you can turn your company into the right direction. The financial crisis has made it clear that efficiency and automation are key. That is why many printers now turn their attention to web to print.”

Management information

Workflow solutions have grown from separate systems controlling part of the production process, to managing all business related information. For example Kodak’s Unified Workflow Solution was designed to bring all systems together and integrate and unify all information available. More recently, Screen introduced Equiosnet, a “universal workflow environment” providing end-to-end automation “from the initial job quote all the way through the invoicing of the finished project.” 

JDF and JMF have enabled production workflows to connect to the business information systems surrounding it. Data needs to be available throughout the complete process - to everybody concerned in every possible way. That is why, early 2011, Heidelberg acquired software specialist CERM to expand its portfolio of management information systems. Marcel Kiessling, member of the Management Board responsible for Heidelberg Services, explained the strategy behind the takeover: “We aim to present a fully integrated MIS solution with central data management in combination with our Prinect print shop workflow at drupa 2012 and start the worldwide roll-out step by step.”

Connecting to customers
Customers become connected to the workflow as well. Suppliers like EskoArtwork provide software that enables brand owners, designers and retailers to collaborate with packaging manufacturers and printers in artwork creation and quality assurance. Softproofing and even virtual 3D modelling of the product to be printed has opened up ways to interact in a fast and secure way, on a global scale.

This interaction not only allows for automation and efficiency but also reduces costs and time related to miscommunication and technical errors. And that is exactly what also Enfocus is aiming at, by connecting designers, publisher and printers and let them at the same time to do what they are best at - be creative, or focus on content and sales, or put ink on paper. 

Pascale Ginguené, consultant and trainer in digital technologies for the printing industry, looks back at drupa 2004 as a workflow, MIS and JDF oriented show, with 2008 following up on that with web to print en inkjet technologies taking centre stage: “Quite logical developments, as it is first necessary to improve, automate and streamline production before opening up your systems to the outside world via web to print.” She thinks drupa 2012 will be an opportunity for vendors to demonstrate integrated cross media workflows: “These will form both the backbone of marketing and corporate communications, as well as the heart of the services a printer has to provide.”

Web to print
At drupa 2008, InfoTrends published the results of an extensive survey in Western Europe finding that “only one-third of all respondents indicated that they had deployed a Web-to-print solution, and another 20 percent were considering deploying a solution within the next few years. If all of these respondents did in fact deploy such a solution, this would result in a 68 per cent increase in installations over the next five years.” At the same time, Web-to-print volumes were expected to grow 264 per cent by 2010 to become worth in excess of €10.5 billion. As recent predictions concerning the US market show, this growth will continue. InfoTrends forecasts the Web-to-print share in commercial print volume to double from 15 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2014 - representing $31 billion on a total of $107 billion - after having increased already five-fold over the last ten years as only 3 percent of print volume was Web-enabled in 2000. Companies like Kodak have anticipated this growth and now offer a wide range of web to print solutions to be integrated into any existing workflow.

Moving to the cloud
Digital workflows are about to take on another new direction. Although terms like Application Software Provider (ASP) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) have been around for some time, ‘the Cloud’ is now fundamentally changing the way data is being stored, routed and handled. Hiflex, already showing their iPhone application at drupa 2008, is taking the lead with its next major release of Hiflex MIS – called version 2012 or drupa-release. It will take the complete management information system to the cloud. In this way, both Hiflex MIS and Webshop can be entirely operated via the Internet and installed and executed on a server in a printer’s facility (a so-called private cloud), in an external data centre (public cloud) or at the Hiflex Data Center (Hiflex cloud). It took Hiflex almost three years to develop this new architecture for its existing solutions. Using the cloud will reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as users do not need to invest in server hardware, facilities or back-up solutions anymore.

As more software solutions will be available in the cloud, more data will run through cyberspace. Information will not just be sitting in dedicated databases, waiting to be send to a designer or printing company. Data can go many directions. “The Cloud will be the overriding change,” Gareth Ward predicts, adding: “Can I be the first to claim 2012 as the Cloud drupa?”

Electronic media
Since drupa 2008, electronic media like e-book readers, smartphones and tablets have moved from hype to hip and happening. Especially publishers of books, magazines and newspapers have been eager to try and see how print on paper can be replaced by digital publications. Saving on print, distribution and stock on the one hand, and on the other applying new business models and trying to find new ways to serve customer’s needs. As e-books now outsell paper editions on Amazon, it is clear that ‘movable data’ are no longer always making their way to the printing press.

“The evolution is so fast that is not possible to figure out the future,” says Ester Crisanti. “We could only try to imagine how the market will evolve. I like to say we are living in a fast changing world, so it’s important to stay updated trying to understand the technology evolution, the customer needs and the trend of doing communication.” drupa 2012 will offer the opportunity to do exactly that: get up to date with the way data move and make sure you know how to best connect the dots.

Toronto-based Avanti Computers Systems has launched Version 12 of its Graphic Arts Management System software, which includes more third-party integrations and user-requested features.

"We are very excited to launch Version 12 which adds powerful insight into customer behavior, enabling print providers to better understand and re-act more quickly to customer needs," said Patrick Bolan, President and CEO of Avanti. "With more integration and automation capabilities, Version 12 will give our customers the opportunity to reduce costs and more efficiently process jobs.  Enhancements to eAccess, our Web-to-Print offering, will help our customers remain competitive and will help generate new sources of revenue."

Version 12 also provides enhancements to Avanti's Finite Capacity Scheduling and Purchasing and Inventory Management modules, such as:

- JDF-based job status updates can now automatically update milestones in Avanti's Finite Capacity Scheduling module;
- Avanti's Purchasing and Inventory Management application now interfaces with xpedx, automating the web submission process of purchase orders.

In addition, many user requested enhancements have been added to Avanti's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and eDashboard Business Intelligence modules. Selected enhancements include:

- Aggregation and reporting of customer orders, quotes, print job status and other important shop information which can be tracked in Avanti eDashboards through a simple, easy-to-use GUI;
- New business generation and lead tracking capabilities in CRM;

- Microsoft Outlook integration within CRM including automatic synchronization of emails, contacts, tasks and appointments bi-directionally.

The software has already won a Best of Show award at the On Demand 2010 Conference this past April.

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