If you are going to have a conference about software and automation in the printing industry, having it in Las Vegas is a great way to get people to come and act interested. I’m not a gambler or a big fan of Vegas, but since EFI (Electronics for Imaging) has their yearly Connect Conference in Las Vegas, and I had some very specific issues and concepts I wanted to get my arms around, I went. EFI is the company that is responsible for the software (Printsmith) that runs our company from an administrative side, and they are always building and expanding on the original program. What do I mean by that? Printsmith started out as an estimating and order writing program in the mid 1990’s, but over the last 15 years they have added a scheduling module, a shop floor data collection module, a report writer (very powerful), they host out Internet Store front, plus they own and develop all the Fiery Rips & Controllers, which drive a big percentage of digital printing today. So this was our chance to meet face to face with the developers and decision makers.
I won’t get into all of the details, but I did walk away with a strong vision of where they are headed, and hence were we are headed if we let their software help to drive us. Today’s print shop isn’t just a press, cutter and folder any more, and we all know that price drives printing more than ever before, along with quality and service. A big part of all the talks centered around automation and how to apply it to cut touch points in all of our processes, which drives down prices, but realizing we still need to maintain quality and offer above average service is a key not to forget. All I will say is that I talked to a lot of people, sat through a lot of classes and learned a lot. In other words, I have a lot to do. Getting the software customized for our shop is just the first part, (keep in mind we have been customizing it for 7 years). Once set up, everybody needs to understand how it works so we can integrate people with process. If anybody is ever interested in learning how an enterprise software package for a print shop works, let me know and I’ll give you a first hand demo. I’m actually amazed with where our industry is going and what a (surviving) print shop in 2015 will look like.
Vegas is a wild city that never sleeps. Like I said, I’m not a big Vegas fan, but it is what it is. A great thing about conferences like this is meeting and talking with peers that are in the same situation that you are; I have developed a friendship with some shop owners from Louisville, KY as well as Nashville, TN. By being this far apart we are all willing to share best practices and not feel like we are stepping on each other’s feet. To hear how other printing companies are handling today’s issues is a big help.
So after spending 3 days at the conference, 3 of us headed out to see Hoover Dam. I’ve gotten to be an advocate of going to the nearest National Park or engineering wonder like Hoover Dam if you are close by. We toured the power plant and stood over a pipe that had 80 million gallons of water per second going through it. Hoover Dam supplies power for a lot of Arizona, Southern California and Nevada, it generates more that 4 Billion Killowatt-hours per year. Pretty impressive statistics, even more impressive to see.
I also took a little side trip to Death Valley National Park before I caught my plane back. I did not realize that Death Valley is the largest National Park in terms of acreage outside of Alaska. The highest temperature there was 134 degrees, the second highest temperature ever recorded on earth. The lowest point below sea level in the western hemisphere is also there at Badwater (282 feet below sea level). Believe it or not, there is a resort (Furnace Creek Ranch and Resort) that has a swimming pool, a golf course and tennis courts right in the middle of Death Valley and its been there since something like 1920. Once again, pretty impressive place but I’m glad to be back in Dayton, Ohio.