Enfocus Switch

Australians printers are no strangers to using smart products to keep costs down. On a global stage, many of our companies are regarded as early adopters and technological overachievers. Yet there are exceptions, and local firms have been known to hold back even while overseas printers are diving in.

Switch 10, as the name suggests, is the 10th incarnation of the popular workflow automation tool from Enfocus. It has a huge base in Europe. For instance, 200 units were sold in Germany last year, and more than 100 shipped in Switzerland, a country with a third of our population.

But Yves Roussange, managing director of reseller Colour Process and “certified Switch expert”, says his data backs up the case for investment.

“Australian printers have not calculated how much inconsistent PDF files cost them every year. I would estimate over $100,000 of lost profit,” says Roussange.

Savings like that are not to be scoffed at. Yet despite Switch first launching in Australia back in 2008, there are just over a dozen implementations in the country. Those that have taken the plunge don’t regret it, says Roussange.

“All my clients have increased their productivity by over 200% in the past three years. They will tell you they could not run their business without Switch.”

Printers aren’t the only users of Switch. Worldwide, the tool is found across many industries; clients include law firms, ad agencies and insurance companies. However, Elli Cloots, director of product management at Belgium-based Enfocus, says Switch and the applications it automates are very much focused on print.

“We see it pop up in other industries – mostly those that have a lot of files that need to go from one end to another end – but our main market and sales channel is print,” she says.

The brainchild of Enfocus founder Peter Camps back in the mid-noughties, Switch was designed to capitalise on the potential for metadata to dramatically increase the level of automation in a print workflow.

“The core of what it does is to automate repetitive tasks in a consistent way,” says Cloots. “The way it does this is via an application that not only automates these tasks, but also integrates with many of the other software applications you have. We don’t come in with Switch and try to replace everything you already have; we protect your existing investment and optimise it by automating it.”

Drag and drop

So how does it work? When a file comes in, Switch gives it a unique ID and creates an internal XML job ticket that goes with that ID and traces everything that happens to it. The file is scheduled through whatever steps it needs to go through. These file flows are set up using a simple drag-and-drop interface.

“You drop a folder here, you drop another one there, you draw a connection in between and you say ‘only allow PDF files’, for instance,” says Cloots. “Then it will check every file that comes in and, if it’s a PDF, it allows it through the connec­tion and moves it to the next step and the job ticket will track all of that.” Switch can automate anything from file conversion to imposition via any of the third-party applications for which it has configurators (see www.crossroads-world.com).

Roussange lists the typical things that local printers use Switch for. “The main purpose is PDF pre-flighting to PDF-X1a with flattening capability, colour conversion, total ink density conversion, with PitStop Connect file transfer and pre-flighting, FTP monitoring, email notification, checking PDF file size,
and sorting PDF base on specific criteria such as B&W and colour digital, inkjet
or offset printing.”

Switch’s biggest selling point is its openness. It is both format- and vendor-neutral, meaning it will accept any file type and integrate with any application, including those from competitive vendors. This means it links to and automates your existing applications rather than replacing them. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, we integrate with the applications used in our industry,” says Cloots.

“We often see Switch being put in front of high-end workflows just to get the files in, filter them out and make sure that everything is handled properly before they send them to the system. Once you’re in the system, RIP time is limited, so you want to almost pre-prepare all these files before they’re handed over.”

Switch doesn’t have any direct competitors. Originally described by Camps as a “workflow backbone”, it uses ‘configurators’ to interface with the many third-party applications a printer might use. The closest thing to a rival would be – at one end of the scale – home-made workflows that use a mix of hot folders and scripting to provide automation (but lack the ability to provide things like error logging and application restarts), or – at the other end – top-end workflow systems that provide a high degree of automation but come at a high cost and replace existing applications.

Roussange says proprietary systems, such as Kodak Prinergy, Agfa Apogee, or Screen Trueflow, could cost three to five times more than a Switch configuration.

Different focus

Cloots adds: “You’ve got solutions that have some overlap with Switch, but their focus is always to get the file printed, move it through a RIP and post-process it. Our focus is different. We acknowledge that whatever you’re doing contains repetitive tasks, so let’s take those tasks and automate them.”

Yet despite offering complex auto­mation black magic, implementing Switch is a relatively simple process, says Mark Riddiough, from local dealer PS Australia.

“It is straightforward if you know what you are doing,” says Riddiough. However, he concedes that a misconception the product is demanding to use could partly explain the slow uptake in Australia.

“Maybe people think it is too complicated. But we have the right people out there to install it and configure it.” But he adds that PS Australia is currently implementing a system at a Western Australian newspaper plant.

The vendors have been ramping up activity over the past year. In the lead-up to PrintEx11, Colour Process and Enfocus held two roadshow events to demonstrate “the potential for automation to increase profitability and print productivity”. This followed a move by Enfocus to set up an “integrators channel” with people like Roussange helping fly the flag for Switch. With this increased attention on our market, it could be tenth time lucky for this newest iteration of Switch.

This latest version brings a number of improvements. Switch 10 comes with an improved core engine, which is capable of handling multiple simultaneous processes. “We now have an engine for the future,” says Cloots. “Now, if your FTP is causing problems or you have a third-party application that’s causing a problem, it will not affect other tasks – everything will continue to process independently.”

Enfocus also revamped Switch’s user interface, introducing a dashboard-style Workload Visualiser that shows how heavily Switch is being used and flags up potential problems in advance. Other new features include support for secure FTP and a SwitchProxy module for FullSwitch and PowerSwitch users.

Cloots says a lot of time has been spent on the user interface so “normal users” can set up the usual workflows themselves. She adds that even a complete novice should be able to set up a flow that will pull files in, filter them and then send them through a couple of applications before archiving them again. Training is available through the company’s network of resellers and there is a growing community of users who provide advice on the CrossRoads website. Support is available from resellers but Enfocus does offer a maintenance contract that includes upgrades and priority business support, within one business day, via its support team (support@enfocus.com). Enfocus also provides free support for users without a maintenance contract, where customers can expect an answer to problems within two business days.

Colour Process markets Switch as part of a package, dubbed Switch Box. Roussange says to get the maximum automation benefits, printers should implement one of the two higher-end editions – Full Switch or Power Switch – along with software such as PitStop Server, PitStop Connect, Callas PDF Toolbox Server or Elpical Claro as well as the consultancy service to properly implement the tools.



Mac OSX 10.5 or 10.6 (desktop and server editions), Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 2003 Server, Windows 2008 Server, Windows 2008 Server R2


• PowerSwitch: $8,700 incl GST

• FullSwitch: $4,300 incl GST

• LiteSwitch: $1,300 incl GST


PS Australia markr@postscript
solutions.com (02) 9454 7737

Colour Process yves.roussange@colourprocess.com.au (02) 8096 6280

The alternatives

There are no direct rivals to the Switch range that offer a simple visual tool for automating third-party products into a single workflow. Using scripting offers an alternative route to achieving the automation of Switch, but it requires specialist knowledge, and removing the need for those skills was one of the main reasons Switch was developed. Automated pre-media workflows from the major vendors are not considered direct competitors to Switch, due to their inability to automate a far broader spectrum of the tasks required in print and publishing. In addition, Switch is available at a much lower cost and due to its flexibility, may fit a user’s exact needs more precisely than an off-the-shelf system.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at editorial@sprinter.com.au.  

Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.