By Cassandra Balentine
Part two of two
Print providers look to workflow solutions for a variety of reasons including improved efficiency and better visibility. From order intake solutions through print management and delivery tracking, many software vendors offer solutions to support advanced production workflow.
In part one of this web series we learn of common advantages and challenges of software. Here, we highlight vendors and solutions targeting the digital print space with workflow tools.
Aleyant provides software services to the graphic communications industry at value-driven prices. Aleyant creates web to print (W2P), estimating and production, and prepress automation workflow software for graphic arts professionals. By unifying production processes, the solution expands its customers’ ability to be more available, efficient, and profitable. The company’s flagship W2P software, Pressero, is a customizable retail and business-to-business storefront interface and launched many of its clients into internet-based print sales. Aleyant also offers a web-based online design and variable data printing (VDP) system, eDocBuilder, as a separate product; and Aleyant tFLOW, a powerful digital and large format automation workflow solution that is integrated into the Aleyant ecosystem. Aleyant PrintJobManager is a Zapier-compatible, cloud-based print job management solution that includes a fast means of generating market-driven pricing, job management, inventory control, planning, and estimating across a variety of production technologies and applications. Aleyant solutions are already integrated with multiple MIS and W2P systems and are easily integrated with other third-party offerings commonly used in printing operations.
Avanti Slingshot is a print MIS targeting commercial printers, print service providers (PSPs), direct mail houses, market service providers, and in-plant printers. The solution sits at the heart of a shop’s workflow. “From order entry through to production and billing, Avanti Slingshot enables our customers to work more efficiently, control costs, and move more jobs through the shop with ease,” offers Kevin Shaw, director of marketing, product management, and customer experience, Avanti.
Avanti Slingshot features built-in integrations with best of breed software providers to deliver true end-to-end automation. “We can work with the printers, presses, and software already in the shop and scale as the business grows,” says Shaw.
Avanti Print MIS is printer agnostic and Avanti Slingshot is JDF certified and supports the HP Print OS.
“Avanti provides an integrated MIS platform that scales as a shop grows or changes lines of business. Avanti staff are experts in connecting software, including W2P, mailing/postal automation, proofing and prepress, production automation software, tax calculation software, and accounting software. This allows us to eliminate breakpoints in workflow, reduce costs, and get your customers the information they want—when they want it—easily,” adds Shaw.
Canon Solutions America
Canon Solutions America offers a variety of workflow solutions, including the PRISMAproduction Server. The product works for multiple markets including transactional printing, book printing, direct mail printing, and commercial printing. It sits at the core of automation—from reception of the data to managing multiple jobs, all the way through to printing. PRISMAproduction server is printer agnostic and works with a variety of digital production presses. Canon’s portfolio of Software Partner Solutions can all be integrated within the PRISMAproduction Automation workflow.
Crawford Technologies offers its Pro Conductor print production workflow solution, which is designed to provide overall command and control as well as work behind the workflow to bring normalization, standardization, transformation, and significant document reengineering capabilities. According to Ernie Crawford, president/CEO, Crawford Technologies, it acts as an overseer that automates and tracks all of the steps needed in workflow data processing, document composition, document reengineering, postal optimization, printing, and finishing. It offers visibility into the processes with powerful operations management and customer dashboards.
Although the target market is primarily high-volume transaction PSPs, the workflow solution is also applicable to commercial printers and direct mailers.
Customer Canvas offers workflow solutions including W2P and ecommerce tools designed for PSPs building their own online storefronts as well as software vendors developing solutions for printing companies. The company provides template capabilities, support for printed products of any size, and VDP support.
Esko provides a range of workflow tools, but two significant systems include Automation Engine and WebCenter. Automation Engine is an automated production workflow server that automates prepress tasks. WebCenter is a user-friendly, collaborative web-based platform that manages packaging preproduction specification, approval, and project lifecycle.
These solutions sit at the center of the workflow. They provide a complete workflow or connect to complementary systems or tools.
Jan De Roeck, managing director, industry relations and strategy, Esko, points out that Esko tools are agnostic of the print process. “In fact, a number of print engine companies use pieces of Esko automated workflows to drive their digital presses.”
Konica Minolta offers a variety of workflow tools and targets environments from franchise/retail and in-plant production through the largest multi-faceted operation. These tools sit at nearly every stage of the workflow, from order intake to delivery validation of the end product.
Loftware is primarily focused in the business process workflow arena and helps brands and retailers connect with supply chain partners. “As digital print reduces the overall time required to go from idea to launch, tools like Smartflow help coordinate and manage the overall marketing campaign execution strategy. Digital printers take advantage of this to add value and become stickier with customers. By managing the digital assets, business process workflow, and reviews and approvals, printers streamline customer processes,” says Paul Goldberg, VP of product strategy, Loftware
PressWise by SmartSoft
PressWise from SmartSoft was designed by a digital print provider as an alternative to purchasing independent modules of W2P, estimating, production automation, MIS, mail preparation, and fulfillment and shipping software. “A single platform was designed to automate the entire process and eliminate manual touches from the print workflow. PressWise can take orders from multiple sources—storefronts, walk-ins, and APIs from other systems—and inject them all into a single, standardized workflow,” explains Tony Tarpey, COO, SmartSoft USA.
PressWise is available cloud-hosted by SmartSoft or self-hosted on a SaaS business model with no long-term contracts. It is easily integrated with most third-party web storefront products and accounting systems.
Tarpey says the PressWise print workflow management platforms allows users to process an entire job—from order entry through delivery—with minimal human touches. “Sales representatives, CSRs, and customers can easily generate quotes, which are then turned into electronic job tickets that flow with your orders through the PressWise system without the need for rekeying data along the way.”
The PressWise solution is designed to enable PSPs to free workers from repetitive tasks so they are better used elsewhere. Intelligent dashboards and features such as electronic job ticketing, self-quoting, automatic impositioning, and automatic batching eliminate touches and time consuming manual intervention.
Ricoh offers workflow products across the spectrum. RICOH ProcessDirector provides the connective tissue for end-to-end workflow monitoring and management. RICOH Supervisor is cloud-hosted, vendor-agnostic solution that empowers printers to accurately and quickly gather high-value data from across their operations to increase profitability and productivity. RICOH Communications Manager is a centralized SaaS platform to enhance visibility and efficiency of print and digital communication workflows. Rochester Software Associates WebCRD and QDirect deliver W2P and job management capabilities, while EFI’s MarketDirect, DSF, and MIS solutions offer value to the marketplace as well.
Rochester Software Associates
Rochester Software Associates (RSA) targets in-plants, commercial printers/PSPs, and service bureaus. The solutions tackle every area of production, from beginning—prepress and output management; middle—output management and W2P; and end—W2P and output management for accounting and chargeback/invoicing and reporting.
The company works with all production printers—regardless of the equipment—sending jobs with ticketing to devices for production. Its W2P software, WebCRD, is exclusively built for in-plant production.
“An array of integrations are available with WebCRD through APIs, including print MIS, shipping and tracking, VDP, purchasing and outsourcing software, and enterprise authentication,” says Elisha Kasinskas, marketing director, RSA. QDirect acts as the central print job manager interfacing with various systems from those that create and capture the content, tools that modify it, printing and finishing equipment, and passing collected information to reporting systems.
Screen offers a robust and mature production workflow in EQUIOS, which comes with each of its high-speed and digital inkjet offerings. EQUIOS automates job management, including accurate imposition and consistent color management across different output devices from the same user interface. A scalable load-balancing RIP solution supports high-speed VDP on connected print engines. Featuring non-stop web-to-delivery automation, EQUIOS controls all production stages from receipt of a customer’s digital job files to delivery of the finished project. The solution is generally a production workflow with integration-ready components. It accepts inputs from outside sources for job automation, and provides data and reporting for business analytics through JDF and its Trust reporting interface. Using industry standard JDF, many other tools are integrated to work with EQUIOS.
Xerox targets quick print, commercial print, franchise, and in-plant environments with its workflow software solutions. The tools are stacked before jobs are submitted to the digital front end.
“Our workflows are defined as intelligent automation, using rules-based logic in which one file can be used for varying outputs,” comments Joseph Rouhana, VP/GM, Software Business Group, Xerox Corporation.
In many cases, Xerox workflow tools are printer agnostic. “Our workflows can drive many different controllers and all kids of file formats and sizes,” he adds.
Xitron targets all areas of digital output and sits in what is traditionally considered prepress. It handles functions including file handling, preflighting, correction, imposition, step and repeat, and job submission to the print engine.
A range of software solutions are designed to improve the print production process. Each print provider has unique needs when it comes to determining which tools are the best fit. It is a good practice to consistently reevaluate overall workflow to determine if you’re making the best use of equipment and time to generate top revenue and maximum efficiency. dps
Jul2019, DPS Magazine