So I’ve spent some time recently at a couple of pretty important industry user conferences looking, learning and listening. In part 1 I’ll start with what I learned, and part II will be a little sight seeing (the fun part). For conference #1, I got an invitation from Steve Wuerdeman of HP to go to the Dscoop conference (Digital Solutions Cooperative), which is an annual user conference of HP Indigo owners. Although we don’t own an Indigo digital press, I was completely blown away by this little eco-system of print professionals. Not only  is the  Indigo digital press one the Cadillac’s of digital press industry, these folks seem determined to work together, help solve each other’s problems and maintain their own community. There were a lot of supporting vendors there, but the biggest story was the collaboration that these users shared. It was in Washington DC, but I’m betting at least 1/3 or more were from abroad…that says something in itself. And the keynote speech was given by Alon Bar-Shany, GM of HP’s Indigo Division out of Israel, and it was given in the vein of a  Steve Jobs Keynote…just very technologically inspiring, especially considering Alon’s a little bit of a long hair that rocked out on guitar with the band the following night. From going to my share of specific breakouts, to walking the vendor floor, I really got the feeling this group was slowly separating themselves from the traditional print industry in a really good, innovative way.

So after a quick canoeing trip to PA, I was lucky enough to head on out to Las Vegas to the EFI Connect 2012 show, a users conference of folds who use all kinds of EFI products. I was there as a Printsmith user, although we have a few Fiery RIP’s driving our digital presses. EFI (Electronics for Imaging) makes all the Fiery products (Engines for copiers and digital presses), as well as what used to be estimating systems for printers, which have really morphed into MIS systems for printers and some high end wide format Ink jet solutions. Anyway, once again, I think there’s more to learn outside of the classroom than in it. Saying that although, I’ll give EFI and P credit for having a stellar classroom schedule. The chance to be in small classrooms with the actual product managers, the developers and the service managers gives you a real close feeling to the product. And I felt a little better at this conference, as I was actually a user of EFI products, not just a visitor.

The biggest message at this conference was integration, getting all of our software driven products to talk to each other and really work the way promised. I remember somebody telling me 10 years ago that it would start with islands of automation….little parts of production talking to each other and then it would get better. That’s happening now, the islands of automation are getting bigger. This can be seen in the 4 different levels of MIS systems that EFI makes for all sized printing companies. Then a good example of the integration happens when you outgrow one solution, and the migration path to the next is smooth and seamless. Or all the modules that a system like Printsmith has (Scheduling, Web-to-Print, Data Collection, and other plug-ins) and they all integrate smoother than ever. As we have said in previous blogs, the systems we have now can do so much, its a matter of continuous learning and training.

And I can’t finish without talking about Ricoh and Expedx, 2 fairly valuable partners. Our newest digital press is a Ricoh C901 Production digital press, and we are really happy with it. With the Plotmatic book maker on 1 end, and the Fiery Rip driving it on the other, we are looking to increase out output to 100,000 to 200,000 clicks a month. The techs and the business boosters program have been great to work with. And Xpedx has an integration with Printsmith (our MIS program) so that every Sunday night, our system reaches out to Xpedx’s and updates prices and inventory levels. 10 years ago, this would have sounded great but had a hard time working, now I’m watching it work, scratching my head and saying “Wow”.

Fireside Chat with Guy Gecht (EFI's CEO) and some other guy...