One of EFI’s key investments is in software. EFI productivity software portfolio product management vice-president Nick Benkovich pointed out the new enhancements to its software portfolio at EFI Connect:
Mailing workflow (iQuote)
Benkovich said that as mailing is still huge in parts of the world and developed markets, the company has made a significant investment in its iQuote platform to specifically deal with the needs of large commercial mailers.
“There hasn’t been much work done in this space previously. We found that a lot of people had homegrown solutions or outdated solutions in place and the market needed one that works throughout the production cycle,” he said.
“It will be a complete end-to-end mailing solution – from submission to entry to the mailing stream. Basically, if you think about mailing, it’s often done where the details are somewhat vague.
“But variable data has sub components to it and letters need to be personalised and contain variable content. Some need to be mailed out on different dates. So there needs to be a solution that plans it and updates as you go.”
EFI has signed up four early adopters in the US and the product will go into general release in Q3 this year.
“Even with printers, many of them are doing campaign-type work where they’re getting spreadsheets with people plugging in details. We can now import a spreadsheet with hundreds of items into iQuote and within a minute or two have a complete estimate. It’s almost immediate,” he said.
“One of our customers used to do it in about 16 hours for a complex campaign and we’ve worked it down to just five minutes for them.”
Workbench expansion/adoption and eFlow Automator live
Benkovich said as the automation conversation is important for EFI, it has launched a new module called eFlow Automator, a business platform management system.
“It is the backbone that we use to connect all our components. It allows you to create automated rules in a system that if a job, an estimate or a customer, for example, meets a certain criteria, that we can detect and perform actions such as alert through an email or chat message, or add onto a to do list,” he said.
“What it does is allow customers to take those mundane, repetitive tasks and largely automate it. And this solution is not just about the EFI ecosystem; it allows you to automate actions outside of the EFI system. If you’re connected to an SAP for example, we can update the credit limit in SAP.”
Through early adopters, eFlow Automator will be available by the end of this week.
“Automation isn’t about replacing people but getting the people that we have to do something where they can add greater value than doing something that can be automated. It’s about maximising the potential and profitability, as well as job satisfaction,” Benkovich added.
EFI is looking for customers in Australia interested in trialling the solution.
Vertical Applications has been available in the market if a customer buys one of EFI’s MIS but the enhancements now enable customers to leverage the technology with one of EFI’s MIS or with a generic ERP system.
According to Benkovich, Vertical Applications takes EFI’s software technology and allows it to be connected to any generic ERP system.
“Historically, we’ve been an MIS company and sold MIS systems and then, things attached to MIS systems. This past year, we’ve been working on a strategy where we will allow customers to integrate many of our components directly into a generic ERP system,” he said.
“So if you have a Microsoft Dynamics or an SAP system, you can take advantage of our iQuote estimating and planning platform, print flow scheduling application or AutoCount data collection, all attached to a generic ERP system.”
Benkovich said EFI has seen a big demand for its Vertical Applications solutions as many of its customers aren’t print customers or packaging customers.
“They’re diversified like in industrial manufacturing where they need the sophistication of estimated planning systems for print, and they need the scheduling and data capturing from EFI,” he said.
“Some customers need sophisticated inventory management and rich accounting so this removes the complexity of print for them. All these programs talk to each other and there is a single API connecting the system.”
He also mentioned that the printing industry has been late to adopt big data, but that is what is now resulting in a massive drive to find efficiencies.
“It’s the hidden information in the data that now gives them greater insight into not only their business, but also their customers’ businesses as well to use data to make relevant decisions,” he stated.
“Big data is important and that business intelligence is what is guiding customers to make analytical decisions. There has been a lot of ‘gut decision making’ in the printing industry where printers go out and spend millions in new presses to print faster.
“But what is the point of that when it’s actually your bindery or shipping, for example, that’s causing all your bottlenecks? It then wouldn’t matter if you had faster presses. So, it’s about looking at the weak points in the business.”
MarketDirect expansion – PackCentral enhancements
In the packaging space, EFI has expanded its MarketDirect suite with PackCentral enhancements that include a fulfilment solution (a solution that transitions from spreadsheet based to cloud based), a new module called AutoEngage, and a new integrated shipping model named ShipExpress for orders to be shipped out easily.
“It’s going to be a game changer for us, especially in the folding cartons and corrugated space,” Benkovich said.
“Print buyers are becoming less sophisticated. Once upon a time, there was a whole external design team behind a design, but today a lot of the design work is done in-house and some of them don’t understand how design and manufacturing work together. The enhancements help with that.”
Benkovich added that the solution is mainly targeted at small batch manufacturers, although still beneficial for larger packaging customers as well.
“In the US, there are over 10,000 small batch manufacturers that produce about US$100 million in revenue and they’re all looking for boxes for their products. These people don’t know much about design as they are typically family-owned businesses,” he said.
“So, this is a very simple e-commerce solution for them. And for some of our larger packaging customers, they’re getting more of their customers as the solution introduces them to boutique markets for their specialty products or a special run for an event.”
PackCentral has early adopter customers in the field and will be made globally available in Q2 this year.
The full update to the EFI Productivity Suite 8 is as follows:
Packaging: Digital Print workflow enhancements and enhancements in end-to-end workflow for flexible packaging
Midmarket: Display Graphic production roll optimisation and management, simplified estimating workflow to reduce clicks and improve win rate, business intelligence for MM Suite
Enterprise Commercial: Increased efficiency with Import RFQ Spreadsheet for large campaigns and investment in end-to-end mailing workflow
Corrugated: Business Intelligence for Corrugated Print Suite and improved efficiency in MES
Web-to-Print and Marketing Solutions: MarketDirect PackCentral packaging procurement and eCommerce solution, as well as AutoEngage – integrated customer retargeting solution for MarketDirect StoreFront
Auto-Count: Packaging expansion, especially for flexibles and resin.
Sprinter travelled to Connect in Las Vegas as a guest of EFI.
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