EFI Connects with printers

Australian Printer reports back after attending EFI Connect 2018, including which saw close to 1200 people descend on the Wynn, Las Vegas, in the 18th edition of the user-conference, the 12th in a row at The Wynn.
EFI CEO Guy Gecht kicked off the proceedings, giving his opening keynote address, foreshadowing an upbeat future for the future of print.
Centred on the concept of the fourth industrial revolution, which will involve big data, personalisation, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and the internet of things (IoT), Gecht contends that print will play a key role for consumers, bridging a gap visually between the virtual world and the physical world.
He says, “This is an important moment for the world, for technology, for industry, especially for printing. We think it is the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution.
“Involving artificial intelligence, robots, virtual reality, new applications that require more computing power and more data, will lead to more personalisation. Adaptable designs will become more common, and industries that use images, like fashion, building materials, display graphics, packaging, they will need a lot of the printing tools, that we as an industry build over the years.
“Manufacturing on demand will change what we want. Marketing will not be the same, people have their own tastes. 
“We will not have advertisements targeted at everyone on the east coast that watch TV at 7am, you will target the people you want to give them the product they want.
“With that, we think there will be a new definition of print. No longer are people after just documents, no longer is this an industry just about publishing, every material in the world that needs to have images is print.
“If we as an industry embrace that, there is a bigger opportunity than we have ever had before. There are bigger markets than we ever addressed before.
“Ten years from now when we talk about EFI being 40, whoever is on stage will be asking ‘who remembers when boxes were just black, or white, or brown?’ and younger people will be confused by it. In packaging, personalisation will enable every single box leaving the factory to be tailor-made for the customer.
“In apparel, the changes in the design are so fast now, that the only way to keep up is with inkjet, digital printing, and colour management. There will be a great revolution there, it is only at the beginning.
“Our role will be exactly where the virtual world meets the physical world. We are going to translate the images from the virtual into the physical.
“Those who were quick to embrace the first digital revolution, the third industrial revolution, took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves, and are doing well now.”
Gecht pointed out that while a lot of printing businesses had closed, many of those who remained had seen increases of revenue, benefitting from less competition. Gecht noted that Darwinian ideas of the survival of the fittest came into play, with the print business still remaining those best able to adapt to a new environment.
Australian Printer sat down with Gecht the following day to discuss Connect, EFI, and the future of the industry.
Gecht says, “We are aiming to do multiple things at the conference. The first is to connect with customers, listen to them, see what is new in their business. It is a once a year opportunity to speak to them, try to understand what they are trying to accomplish, and what their customers are trying to accomplish, what opportunities they are seeing, what they want from us going forward.
“We also want to share our thoughts. Where we are taking the products, where we are taking the company, what we believe is going to happen in the industry, and see what feedback we are getting.
“Connect used to be a place to talk about the next year road map, and get training on current products. We took it to a more strategic level, talking about longer term objective and vision, trying to figure out how customers see their business. After Connect we come together to talk about what we learned from customers, what they like and do not like. It became a lot more two-way.”
EFI has made big investments in R&D, alongside acquisitions to expand its product range, and now is across labels with Jetrion, textiles with Reggiani, wide-format with Vutek, with its latest addition being digital corrugated print with its Nozomi press.
The company indicated a change in strategic direction, it will not be looking to major acquisitions to get into new markets, but will be focusing on developing its existing markets.
Guy Gecht, CEO, EFI says, “In the past we made big acquisitions to get into an area. We are not planning to do that now. What we want to do is get deeper in the areas we are currently in.”
“The goal is to get a lot deeper in packaging, textiles, display graphics, commercial print, and give more to the customers. We find it more rewarding and interesting to do more with existing customers than to try and get new customers in new industries.
“Clearly commercial print has a lot of challenges. A lot of things which were printed are moving to electronic media, maybe not as fast as people think, with some areas seeing a bounce back. There is definitely pressure, the question is where is the gulf, where is the value?
“Printing on things beyond paper is definitely going somewhere, and has a lot more value. If you speak at people that print display graphics they will tell you business is going well, and that it is a lot more profitable than commercial print. We are seeing that as a trend.
“Commercial print has tremendous talent, and a lot of passion given that it is normally a family-run business, and a great customer base. So the question is how do you take that and build different applications.
“You have to follow the money, and follow the trends. What kind of things can you do beyond printing documents for customers? What kind of things they do, and how can you accommodate their desire to customise, to have shorter runs, to not hold inventory. Normally that means digital printing in our industry.
“Can you take out some of the waste and inefficiency in your system? That generally means automating business processes using software that you were previously doing manually.
“We have smart people in the industry, and the people that invest in the right things, and have modernised are doing really well.
“You need to think about print in a much broader definition. It is about putting great images on any material. If you think that is print, I have the creative skills to do what it takes, what can I do for my existing customers, what can I do with the people I get comfortable with and how can I do that, who can I learn from? That is what makes Connect a great event, being able to learn from your peers.
“If you are a commercial printer, and you say I want to become a supplier to Zara, or Nike, or Adidas, that is going to take a lot of knowledge. But if you say I want to be able to do short runs, some fabrics, some decoration, you can definitely do it. A lot of signage is moving to fabric as it has a great feel, and travels well.
“People found that fabric is a great way to do signage, with the Reggiani technology that started in professional textile and migrated to signage, you can do that at affordable prices, and a great quality.
“For print shops looking to expand offerings, it is about being open minded with taking your skills to different applications.
“Everybody wants to customise things faster. Marketing today is about tying things to a certain time, area, age, gender, and mass marketing is almost gone.
“The next big trend is short run. No one wants to keep inventory, they want things to come in, then out, and then change it.”
The event also featured keynotes from early adopters of the Nozomi press, EFI’s single-pass corrugated digital inkjet packaging solution first shown at drupa, with Eric Bacourt of Spanish company Rafeal Hinojosa, and Mal McGowan, owner of Irish printer McGowans speaking.
Explaining how it had changed his business, McGowan says, “It is the biggest change we have seen in 10 years. The print is better and looks different. It is the easiest sale for my people to do: same price, looks better.”
The conference also featured a section on customer success stories. Australia was represented on the panel by Peter Wagener of WA-based All Flags.
Wagener is a big user of EFI products, dating back to the start of his company two decades ago.
He says, “Being able to look at what is happening, what is available, plus the advantage of being able to speak to multiple people in the EFI network brought me here.
“I have everything from a Vutek 5300, which is 20 years old, an 18 year old 5330 5m solvent machine, the Gen-1 FabriVU, a QS2000, just put an LX-Pro 3.2m, the new FabriVU 340, and the new Vutek 5r. An EFI Pro 24F is on the way, due to be launched in four weeks.”
The Pro 24f is EFI’s latest flatbed printer, with a 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution, coming in CMYK + dual channels of white standard. It is able to print in 107sqm/h in its fastest mode, and 7sqm/h in its highest quality, with four more options between the two, Production Mode, POP Quality, and High Quality.
It features a four-zone, user-selectable vacuum system, which EFI says is designed to match the most common media sizes without masking, ensuring efficient hold-down, no unintended media movement and easy transitions between jobs. It can also print multi-board simultaneously, even if they are different sizes. EFI says it is ideal for high-value applications, such as lenticulars and photographic backlit displays, exotic materials, and irregularly-shaped or heavy objects.
With a table width of 291.8 cm, the Pro 24f has a maximum printable area of 254 cm 132 cm, handling a maximum media thickness of 5 cm, and 180kg of weight evenly distributed.
Wagener says, “The latest products are more efficient. 
“The information that feeds back from the machines and its ability to collect data is extremely helpful. “We can look at our cost controls much better, run the machines more efficiently, and have more equipment running with less staff. They are more environmentally friendly, and better across temperature and humidity. We have less problems with colour shift over a major print run. The repeatability is a huge benefit for us.
“Every machine that they have on display in here I have. It is not like I am attending Connect just to look at new equipment, it is more about being able to speak to the heads of departments like Fiery. It is information that we do not normally get to speak in Australia, but speaking to some of these specialists is invaluable.
“Perth is isolated, seldom to people come to see us, reps will only come if there is something of significance. There are reps in Perth for small equipment, but not the stuff of the sort of scale All Flags uses.”
Command Workstation, the new centralised platform which print shops can operate all Fiery-driven printers through, was seen first hand. 
John Henze, vice president Marketing, EFI says, “Command Workstation was about a more modern user interface, and a more efficient way of working with applications, a left to right type of flow. This platform now enables you to connect to all Fiery driven devices, not just cutsheet documents. Whether that is high-speed inkjet devices, or in display graphics. 
“There can be a tremendous amount of efficiency gained and productivity by being able to manage a broader portfolio of printers under one common, centralised job management interface.
“If you are a customer that decides you want a Ricoh colour device, and a Konica Minolta black and white device, the look and feel of Command Workstation across all of the products in exactly the same. A lot of people have their proprietary workflows, that compete with Fiery in many ways, the customers position should always be to get the right workflow for them.
“For the Australian market where we are focusing on software a lot of customers have mixed fleets. For anyone that is looking to integrate workflow, and management information systems, the Fiery is going to give them the best opportunity.
EFI also debuted its latest marketing automation software, MarketDirect, which has been designed to easily link in with databases to provide and generate personalised communications using pre-ready templates, across direct mail, EDMs, mobiles, and social marketing.
Taking the rise of mobiles as user’s main access to the internet, MarketDirect is built with HTML5, with responsive design enabled to automatically be optimised for mobile screens.
Aaron Tavakoli, segment marketing lead, E-Commerce, Cross-Media Marketing, EFI, “MarketDirect Cross Media is a multi-channel marketing platform that integrates all aspects of direct mail, VDP (Variable Data Print), with email, traditional marketing, landing pages, all the necessary QR codes to connect them, along with mobile messaging, marketing, and social marketing.
“It is aimed at print service providers with as few as 14-15 employees, and can be used to provide marketing services to their customers. What the system produces is a vendor ready-file that they can pass on to any printer they are using.”
“It can be scaled, and is great for those who cannot invest in an enterprise-sized platform like Marketo.
“For a commercial printer, the advantage is integration. If they are using it alongside an e-commerce platform like EFI Digital StoreFront, they can take the campaigns they produce in MarketDirect, publish them to StoreFront, and re-use those assets, and re-sell those programmed campaigns to other customers. They can also place those campaigns online, and let their
customers self-execute.
“As they move into distribution and fulfillment, if the campaigns involve shipping finished goods, that they may be warehousing or holding in inventory for their customers, our fulfillment platform will integrate, and they can convert them into shippable packages.”

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