By DPS Magazine
The November/December issue of DPS Magazine looks at the trends and challenges facing the digital print industry in 2023, while the January/February issue outlines predictions for 2024.
We highlight individual company achievements and challenges as we reflect on last year and prepare for next.
Canon U.S.A., Inc. is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. The company’s production presses and printers support businesses by offering performance capabilities to handle complex jobs and demanding operations. Canon also offers workflow solutions to assist in production, streamlining operations that can work to increase efficiency. In addition, Canon offers robust specialty print communications capabilities, such as webfed and sheetfed inkjet presses, that can help add personalization and increase volume at higher speeds. Additionally, our company offers light-to-mid-volume production digital color presses to provide impressive productivity, repeatable colors, and sophisticated automation. “Our company looks to build products based on customer feedback. By listening to their feedback regarding their goals, needs and areas where they struggle, we can utilize resources, such as our Professional Services, to tailor our response to their unique operations, building service packages around their evolving needs. This is a dynamic industry and it is important to remain responsive. To that end, it is crucial to enable our infrastructure to support their uptime, and we make that the top priority,” suggests Tonya Powers, director of marketing, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions.
Powers feels it is also important to cultivate an engaged and authentic inkjet user group. “We support thINK because we believe in its mission and in the power of bringing people together.”
Attracting next generation to the print industry is a challenge, and from a company perspective, Powers says Canon is working to be proactive by partnering with high school programs that teach graphic communications to students who can become skilled labor in the industry. It also sponsors the University Inkjet Program, which is currently at three universities. We are incorporated into their curriculum, and we’re helping teach inkjet technology, host virtual demos of inkjet products, host design contests for applications to print on inkjet, and connect students with our customers to provide real-world experience in a print shop.
Color-Logic is a technology company providing color communication and print production solutions for the graphic arts, including the digital printing industry. The company offers a unique software system and a set of tools enabling designers and printers to create eye-catching metallic and decorative effects on printed materials.
In the digital printing industry, Mark Geeves, sales and marketing director, Color-Logic, says the technology is particularly valuable because it enables printers to produce metallic and decorative effects without the need for additional spot colors, custom inks, or specialty printing processes like foil stamping or embossing. This helps streamline the printing workflow, reduce costs, and expand the creative possibilities for designers and brand owners.
Color-Logic’s focus was to expand the gamut of colors available to our licensed printers, thus enabling them to meet the demands of brands. “We added 644 additional metallic colors to our color palettes—giving our licensed printers 924 metallic colors with one silver toner/ink and CMYK on paper, or the same 924 metallic colors with white ink/toner and CMYK on metallic stock. The recently released Color-Logic Touch7 technology for neon/fluorescent inks became the first digital color system for neon/fluorescent inks that enables printers to produce their own swatchbooks on their presses. The Color-Logic Touch7 system provides 500 additional neon and pastel colors for each neon/fluorescent ink available on the press. Color-Logic and Touch7 are compatible with digital as well as conventional printing processes.”
Geeves points out that all print starts with design is the Color-Logic motto. “Until designers know what is possible with digital and conventional printing, the adoption of print embellishments will be very slow. This is why Color-Logic developed the Color-Logic Design Suite—palettes and plugins for Adobe Creative Cloud—and why we provide an extensive collection of short videos on how to add embellishments into designs for printing on digital or conventional presses.”
Crawford Technologies is a visionary leader in enterprise communications processing (ECP) and customer communications management (CCM) solutions for communications produced in a digital production print environment. CrawfordTech empowers organizations to streamline their document workflows, enhance customer engagement, and achieve operational efficiency at every touchpoint.
By leveraging cutting-edge technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep industry expertise, CrawfordTech delivers tailored solutions that transform complex document processes into seamless, personalized experiences. “Our comprehensive suite of products and services enables businesses to effortlessly navigate the evolving landscape of communication channels,” says Crawford.
With a customer-centric approach, CrawfordTech is committed to driving success for organizations of all sizes and industries. “This industry is currently experiencing many changes, staffing challenges and increased cost, and new laws and regulations are affecting every organization by requiring them to change the way they think and work.”
Crawford anticipates the growth of cloud-based solutions, the increasing use of automation in printing, and the rise of accessible digital communications, as trends to watch.
Crawford One of the foremost challenges in 2023 lies in the dynamic transformation of enterprise communication processing software procurement. “For decades, Crawford Technologies has been regarded as a leader in delivering cutting-edge technology for tasks such as data transformation, document reengineering and post-composition. However, ECP is now encompassed within the domains of customer experience and marketing communication within large-scale enterprises. This shift has transformed it from a purely technological solution to a strategic advantage for organizations,” says Crawford.
In this new landscape, he says marketing departments tend to base their technology acquisitions on committee decisions, often not prioritizing factors like processing speeds, API functionality and ease of integration. “It is a task in itself to educate different business units on the simplicity of managing print suppression and eDelivery and integrating them at an ECP level. Many times, there is a preference for procuring new software and services at exorbitant costs, rather than leveraging software that can accomplish the task in a matter of days or weeks, as opposed to years.”
Another significant challenge revolves around the integration and training of staff in cutting-edge technologies like AI and graphical user interfaces. The rapid evolution of these technologies presented a steep learning curve for many aging professionals, requiring them to adapt to new interfaces and understand the intricacies of AI applications. “Additionally, aligning the skill set of existing staff with the demands of emerging AI and GUI technologies posed a considerable challenge, as we try to bridge the gap between legacy systems and our innovative solutions of the future. This endeavor demands a strategic approach to training and upskilling, ensuring that staff are equipped to leverage these advancements effectively in their roles.”
Customer’s Canvas is a web-to-print platform designed to empower printing companies and various other businesses to maximize the potential of online channels. Dmitry Sevostyanov, CEO, Customers’ Canvas by Aurigma, says the company facilitates the implementation of user friendly ordering workflows for customizable print products. This is particularly advantageous for printers equipped with digital machines, as it enhances the ROI from that equipment and makes short-run orders more profitable.
In 2023, the organization observed several key trends that shaped our approach and strategy. Instead of merely selling licenses, it adopted a more consultative approach, diving deeper into our clients’ needs and collaborating to create solutions. This approach received positive feedback and resulted in better return on investment for its clients. “We also noticed that clients were more inclined to start with smaller projects, developing MVPs to test the market instead of making significant investments in complex projects that might not yield the desired returns. This approach allowed for more flexibility and adaptability,” shares Sevostyanov.
Another trend is growing interest in packaging products, especially those with custom dimensions. This trend indicates a shift in focus towards more personalized and tailored solutions in the packaging segment.
For our Customer’s Canvas, specific challenges included demand for native integrations with automation tools. “Customers increasingly sought out-of-the-box integration with the tools they were already using, such as order management systems, customer relationship management, and other data sources. This required us to develop more advanced integration capabilities to ensure smooth operation with various systems. Increased product complexity was another challenge. As product offerings became more sophisticated, there was a demand for more advanced product management capabilities. This included the ability to manage more complex products, customization options, and associated data. Additionally, customers demanded more tailored personalization journeys to adapt product offerings, enable cross-sales, and sell product bundles. This required us to develop more advanced customization and personalization capabilities to meet these demands. These challenges required us to invest in our technology and processes to ensure we could meet our customers’ evolving needs,” says Sevostyanov.
DirectMail2.0 (DM20) partners with printers, direct mail service providers and agencies to provide white-label digital add-on services that bring direct mail into the 21st Century with a suite of 14 digital integrations. Since being founded in 2016, Michelle Bocchino, director of marketing, DirectMail2.0, says DM20 has run one billion pieces of mail through its platform with over 40,000 digitally integrated direct mail campaigns.
“AI is red-hot and we’re finalizing our preparations to enter the AI market with DM20.ai, an industry-first predictive analytics platform built to improve omni-channel marketing results through machine learning. DM20.ai compiles years of campaign engagement and results to analyze and predict a campaign’s most effective attributes by industry, audience type, zip code, offer, timing and creative content. It will show marketers—in real time — the steps they can take to lift response rate through historical results and AI-generated models, thereby greatly improving the likelihood that every direct mail campaign will be a successful undertaking,” shares Bocchino.
Any challenges that printers face affect our company as well, since printers are our valued partners. “Everything we do is for our partners, helping them to succeed at marketing and reach new levels through an omnichannel approach that’s smart, scalable, and results driven,” adds Bocchino.
Duplo USA is a leading provider of innovative print finishing solutions for the graphic arts industry. In recent years, the company has expanded its product offerings to bring on demand print embellishment, packaging, and B2 finishing technologies to market.
“The trend continues to be for print providers to be a source for all print communication. Print, booklet making, mailing, signage, and short run packaging. Customers want a single source provider,” comments Salinas.
“Innovation is our challenge, print providers are looking for the next Wow for their customers. As a equipment manufacturer we are challenged with creating that wow, in a cost effective and timely way,” he offers.
Durst is a global leader in the development, sale and support of digital inkjet printing technologies. The company has led the conversion of print from analog to digital in multiple print segments and continue that in the label and packaging segment currently.
“The conversion of label printing from flexo and toner based digital to 1,200 dpi high speed inkjet is a big trend currently in label printing. 1,200 dpi inkjet is capable of flexography/toner quality at high speeds with minimal waste or set up. This is making short, medium and long run label production possible, at the quality standards required for prime label. At Durst we have led the introduction of 1,200 dpi inkjet and continue to enhance our platform with more solutions for productivity,” says Steve Lynn, director of labels and packaging, Durst.
“I think for us and our customers finding good, qualified people is a common theme. For us engineering help to support our growing business. For our customers skilled operators and graphics personnel is a priority,” shares Larry D’Amico, director of LFP and fabric, Durst.
At Durst North America, Lynn says it is typically challenged when our customers slow down investment in new print equipment because of increasing interest rates. “We have continued to sell because of the productivity and efficiency of our equipment is making printers/converters more efficient but it has increased buying cycle time significantly.”
Victor Gomez, director, Epson America, Inc., admits that Epson has not been immune to the interesting times we all have been through and are still living through. “We have managed surprisingly well thanks to the control the company has over our supply chain. We manufacture all the critical components in our digital label press, for example, including printheads, media transport and ink. We have redundancies in our manufacturing.”
“Pandemics happen, fires happen, earthquakes happen, acts of God happen. But redundancy can lower some of those risks. Vertical integration and redundancy translate to an ability to face things better when things get tough, to the benefit of our customers,” he adds.
Fiery is a leading independent provider of digital front ends (DFEs) and workflow solutions for the digital print industry. With a customer base of over two million DFEs sold globally, our print servers and workflow tools are installed in diverse industry segments, including commercial print, packaging, signs and display graphics, ceramics, building materials, textiles, and other specialty applications.
“For the past 30-plus years, Fiery has led the industry with customer-focused innovation that sets the standard for productivity, quality, integration, and automation for real business results,” offers John Henze, VP, sales and marketing, Fiery.
At Fiery, we are following trends like growing interest in workflow automation and AI, and interest in packaging closely and bringing to market new, innovative DFEs and workflow tools that are smarter and easier to use. “Our DFEs sit at the center of the print environment, driving multiple print technologies and printer brands with a common workflow, to optimize press utilization and help automate prepress, makeready, and color management into one-step workflows. This makes it easier to train new operators, improve margins, meet customer demands, and deliver exceptional quality every time,” shares Henze.
HYBRID Software serves package/label printers and converters with complete software systems to make their digital printing operations more efficient. “We also share our technologies with Hybrid Software Group, a network of sister companies who also serve digital printing. In fact, together we all serve a wide scope of printing applications, aptly considering ourselves ‘the heart of industrial printing,’” says Mike Agness, EVP, HYBRID Software.
Through the Hybrid Software Group PLC operating subsidiaries, the company is a leading developer of enterprise software for industrial print manufacturing. “Customers include many press manufacturers and hundreds of packaging printers, trade shops, and converters worldwide. Our sister companies are color technology expert ColorLogic, printing software developer Global Graphics Software, three-dimensional design and modeling software developers iC3D, the industrial printhead driver solutions specialists, Meteor Inkjet, and prepress workflow developer Xitron.”
As a company, Agness says HYBRID were busy sharing each business unit’s technologies, adopting them into faster, more complete products and solutions. There have been so many ways—like color management systems and 3d applications—that we can use to make our systems even more helpful for our customers.
A great example is Global Graphic Software’s Smart DFE, a 2023 Pinnacle Product Award in the Technology category. SmartDFE is a turnkey DFE for high-speed, single-pass presses printing fully variable data. Built upon Harlequin Direct it provides rasterization and inkjet drop generation for the best possible image quality and quickest printing speeds. SmartDFE combines on-the-fly color management from ColorLogic with powerful workflow automation from HYBRID Software, real-time rasterization via Harlequin Direct, and the inkjet expertise of Meteor Inkjet and Xitron—all in-house technologies.
InSoft is focused on Layout Planning for Print—Dynamic imposition, Smart Nesting and Fastest Ganging engine. One software for array of jobs for printing on variety of printing technologies.
“Workflow automation to print hundreds of jobs of 1 to few copies and deliver within 24-48 hours. Only way for delivering high number of jobs is unmanned workflow – Industry 4.0 compliance.
Santosh Mulay, VP, business development, InSoft Automation, says resistance to change is the challenge. “Giving up working on legacy solutions for years is not easy. Bigger the business, bigger the challenge to adapt to new technologies.”
InSoft is working with the same motto of Simplifying complexity with agile development. InSoft’s Deep Tech integrates with Deep IT to automate and optimize print business.
The company introduced a novel No-mix ganging feature, in version 13 released in July 2023. “This invention empowers packaging printers to optimize overall production without loosing on advantages of ganging.”
Landa Digital Printing produces Nanographic Printing Presses, which liberate printers from the limitations inherent to traditional digital and conventional analog printing. “Our presses bridge the gap of digital and offset by printing stunning images of extensive color range, at any run length, on coated or uncoated media, in B1 format and in fast turnaround times,” notes Chen Lalzary, marketing communications manager, Landa Digital Printing.
The pressure on time to market is at an all-time high. “We see customers facing demand for shorter runs at much tighter delivery times. New products and offerings have to be introduced in zero time. In addition, there are wider trends such as inventory reduction and employee turnover. Our customers had to onboard new employees quickly and find every way possible to reduce waste and make the most of limited inventory.
Lalzary We’ve seen last-minute demands for specific solutions. In some cases, we pushed ourselves to deliver our printing solutions in record time to allow a prospective buyer to address a nascent market opportunity,” adds Lalzary.
Locr GEOservices and MAPS is a leading provider for geomarketing services. “We offer personalized maps for direct mail, magazine covers and other print products to show customers the way and create a unique, personalized approach. We also use geodata to segment target groups by travel time or distance, leading to more cost-efficient campaigns and a higher return on investments,” say Randy Hardy, representative North America, and Thomas Schnettler, business development, Locr.
It also plays a role in sustainability. “Location data allows to create more efficient and therefore sustainable campaigns, as customers who live too far away can be filtered out. That saves time, effort, and money and the resources will be used in the best possible way,” shares Hardy and Schnettler.
They point out that packaging samples with personalized maps have been popular at trade shows, instantly creating interest, supporting marketing messages, and adding value to the product and brand.
MBO America is a solution provider for folding and finishing systems for the commercial print industry. Print is only part of the process required to get a final product out the door. Finishing is where the final product comes alive, able to communicate with the reader. MBO America provides finishing systems for both cutsheet and roll/web-fed digital print systems, primarily in the commercial print, specialty, and direct mail segments.
“Finishing needs of print service providers has become more demanding. Making the product stand out for increased conversions is more important than ever. Consequently, we have seen the need for additional finishing modules within the finishing line,” says Lance Martin, VP, marketing, MBO America & Komori America.
Modules to add an additional fold, add a new cut, score or perforation, add coating, or maybe tipping on a card in the finishing line are trending. “We see modules added to existing lines as an easy retrofit, or larger lines installed initially.”
The company showcased ZSS 23 Automatic Splicer, SC 23 Spot Coater, CC 23 Contour Cutter, SVC 23 Sheeter now 23-inches wide to fit all web widths from the Inkjet Press Suppliers, DFT 23 Buckle Folder also now 23” wide like the sheeter. I have included images of the Splicer, Coater, Contour cutter which are quite impactful to the finishing abilities of the continuous forms inkjet market at Printing United 2023.
Muller Martini is the world’s largest producer of print finishing solutions for commercial and book printers, trade binderies, newspapers, and digital book manufacturers.
Its groundbreaking “Smart Factory: Finishing 4.0” platform delivers innovative systems, software, and machines that seamlessly accommodate offset, digital, and hybrid printed products while optimizing workflow. With Digital Solutions from Muller Martini, you can fully exploit the potential of digital printing—whether in perfect binding, saddle stitching, or hardcover production.
“Our modular systems enable you to create the perfect, individually tailored digital solution, right down to run lengths of one. And they are cost-attractive for every user and every business. In addition, through MMServices, Muller is a leading provider of performance enhancement programs which offer continual improvement for equipment, people, and processes. With U.S. headquarters in Hauppauge, New York, Muller Martini’s extensive sales and support team provides responsive service to printers and binderies nationwide,” say Mike Wing, solutions manager, book technology and digital solutions, and Carlos Martins, solutions manager, Muller Martini.
More integrated inline finishing solutions due to challenges in labor market and complexities of short –run production. Wing and Martins says systems such as a completely integrated book production line as an example a integrated inline solution using our Sigma line in connection with our digital perfect binding equipment that is fully integrated into the digital press. “It starts with blank paper rolls and ends with finished softcover book. These are types of systems we are seeing more and more due to challenges in digital finishing and labor requirements.”
Mike Wing and Martins comments that the labor challenge we see today certainly has driven its customers to require more highly automated and inline systems for labor reduction, as an example customer went from more than eight people to three to produce the same production.
“Similar to the industry as a whole, talented labor is difficult to attract due perception our industry has of a declining and dying industry not the thriving industry we see today. Marketing programs are in place to try to change this perception,” they note.
They feel that intelligent workflows to manage inline systems for short-run production is also a trend.
For equipment suppliers like Muller Martini, Wing and Martins says finishing devices will be more integrated with digital printing devices from physical connections with finishing but also with intelligent workflows that will handle the entire process from files to the finished book. “This is what Muller Martini has been working toward last few years where start with file and blank roll of paper and you and with a fully variable finished book.”
Plockmatic Group develops, manufactures, and markets an extensive range of document finishing systems sold under the Plockmatic and Morgana brand names, as well as the recently announced Intec Printing Solutions. These products work inline or offline together with the world’s best digital printing systems.
Ray Hillhouse, VP sales and marketing, the Plockmatic Group Offline Business Unit, says a growing demand for automation from our Morgana offline products, and for the inline print finishing equipment from Plockmatic.
That inline demand is actually coming via the print engine suppliers—all of the main players have a relationship with Plockmatic. “With offline products, our biggest recent success has come with the development of digital die-cutting equipment – a low-cost free-standing product that offers printers a quick and easy way of producing cut shapes without the need to use costly third-party cutting forms. This type of product, that offers a fast pay-back to the printer, whilst offering them a neat point of difference against his competition, is proving a real hit,” shares Hillhouse.
Fortunately, Hillhouse says Morgana and parent company Plockmatic International have been able to keep themselves heading in the right direction thanks to continuous product development, and strong relationships with both our international sales teams, and our partnerships with the print engine suppliers. For Morgana there are also strong links between the local sales teams and each individual print shop—relationships that have built up over many years. Further developments in booklet making technology has allowed the business to create products to suite many markets, both offline and inline.
Quadient is an international company specialized in smart mailing and shipping software and hardware, business communication cloud software solutions and smart parcel locker solutions. The company offers the industry’s most comprehensive family of high-tech digital printers and labelers, as well as tabbers, for every size mailer.
“We’ve seen that color printing continues to enjoy strong sales, as well as an uptick in demand for small format media printing, such as seed packets and coin envelopes,” says Kevin O’Connor, VP, channel marketing and planning, Quadient.
RISO allows a print operation to re-introduce ink into the mix through a digital cutsheet Inkjet technology. “It’s Ink but on a digital platform anyone can use, you don’t need a dedicated operator. Our customers use RISO as a compliment to their fleet of Mono and Color Toner Presses,” offers Andre D’Urbano, VP of sales, RISO, Inc.
The acceptance of production cutsheet Inkjet as a mainstream product for many. “In-plants—municipal, state and county in-plants along with school districts, colleges, universities, healthcare, utilities, and large non-profit in plants—all making Inkjet a staple on the floor of their print rooms. These organizations are investing into Inkjet at both ends of the Inkjet spectrum—from RISO devices as well as seven-figure devices coming from Canon, Xerox, Ricoh, KM to name a few,” adds D’Urbano.
Rochester Software Associates
Rochester Software Associates (RSA) is the provides prepress, transform, output management, and web to print software solutions to support digital production print workflows. “For over 30 years, our customers have used RSA solutions to turn printing into productivity, automating their print centers and seamlessly converging printing from the data center, in-plant, and distributed enterprise print environments,” comments Anthony J. Leccese, product manager, Rochester Software Associates (RSA).
Products like WebCRD, QDirectOutput Manager, and ReadyPrint, prepress software maximize employee productivity and corporate profitability, boost operating efficiency, are designed to increase print volume without increasing staff, and delight customers with better turnaround times and 24/7 access.
Ecommerce is another area to watch, which Leccese says is influenced by online experiences on sites like Amazon, expectations for the entire web to print user experience are changing. Ecommerce is seeing evolutionary improvements as a result—especially in the area of order processing, as people look for a seamless, cleaner experience, with accessibility from anywhere, across all of their devices. Now in preview, our newest version of WebCRD—our Web to Print software solution for in-plants—reflects this, with an innovative and intuitive UI built from the ground up, and an unmatched user experience from any device, anywhere. It modernizes our ordering experience for the end user, to give it a more seamless user experience that’s available from every device.
The rise of automation is another important area. “With the pandemic and everything that’s happened since—including the ongoing labor shortages—print centers have started to realize that automation isn’t just a luxury anymore. It’s something they have to do to keep up with the changing workforce. So while automation was once something that was embraced mainly by the smaller shops, this year quite a few larger enterprises are taking it on. Government, healthcare, and entities with national and international footprints are finally getting around to bringing in some of the software and printer enhancements that will build automation into their printing processes,” adds Leccese.
Leccese says supply chain issues continue to be a challenge. “You wouldn’t think this is relevant for software, but in the print industry it is. The inventory constraints and supply chain issues we saw in 2022 created both challenges and new opportunities for us. Thankfully, they’ve started to ease up now. Because our solutions are resold through all of the major printer manufacturers, our sales are very directly tied to theirs. Printer hardware vendors typically only sell software with new printers and the cost for software is usually financed with the hardware. If they don’t have any printers to sell they obviously don’t sell as much of the software either. That doesn’t mean sales were lost—they were usually just delayed. We also had to find new ways for our partners to sell our software as a standalone to customers. But now that inventory issues are being resolved, there’s much more activity for combined hardware and software sales again. And existing customers that were holding off on making printer changes are doing so now, leading to new software sales or upgrades to the latest versions. We’ve seen a big uptick on that side of the business as a result.”
S-One Labels and Packaging uses a channel-partner model, allowing us to take redundant costs out of the channel and provide products with low minimum order quantities and short lead times.
“This model helps label and packaging converters plan more effectively while providing them with an expanded portfolio of label and packaging supplies. We are the exclusive distributor of Michelman in-line and off-line primers in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries throughout EMEA to HP Indigo Digital Presses. S-OneLP also offers a full suite of overprint varnishes, films for flexible packaging, and capital equipment,” says Sharon Beeman, VP of global sales, S-One Labels & Packaging.
Beeman says converters have a strong interest in recyclable, compostable and PCR content flexible packaging solutions that minimize one-time use of plastics. To better serve converters, S-One Labels & Packaging develops a portfolio of sustainable packaging solutions according to industry requirements.
Many S-OneLP global customers want to lessen their environmental impact with sustainable flex packaging solutions. S-OneLP FlexPaper Barrier Paper launched this year to meet customers’ needs in EMEA. This product is made with sustainable FSC-certified wood pulp sourced from sustainably managed forests.
SCREEN provides production-class inkjet printing solutions for a wide range of markets including commercial print, direct mail, publishing, label, folding carton, flexible and paper pouch packaging. Since the introduction of the Truepress line of digital inkjet roll-to-roll printers in 2007, there are over 2500 Truepress printers installed and still running around the globe.
“Across all the markets we serve, we continue to see supply chain challenges, particularly with substrates. While some paper markets have returned to normal, there is still significantly less capacity in the supply chain and this continues trends we saw before the pandemic. The pandemic did accelerate a developing labor challenge issue, with both early retirement and a tightening supply of entry level and mid-level employees. Finally, while the pandemic related supply chain issues interrupted many just-in-time manufacturing models, it only seemed to accelerate the trend of sku-proliferation, versioning of printed material, and faster times to market. There are more jobs at lower volumes and this is pushing print providers in every market to examine workflows, integrate automation and find new efficiencies in these lower value jobs,” says Mark Schlimme, VP, marketing, Screen Americas.
Significans Automation is a software and process integrator that provides best-in-class customized workflow automation and integration solutions, communication development, color management, prepress training, and seamless business integrations—all with the goal of facilitating an unmanned, fully automated, end-to-end production environment for digital print and other environments.
The Significans’ team has over 100 years of combined experience serving all types and sizes of printers around the globe. Its most recent client engagements have also included web-to-print, e-commerce, and business-system integration. In addition, we have our own proprietary software solutions to bridge key software gaps in the print-production process. With more and more short-run jobs and faster turnaround times being the norm, our automation and seamless integration services are becoming even more essential to keep costs in line, meet tight deadlines, ensure optimal print quality, and maximize profits. Our solutions have saved digital and other printers worldwide hundreds of thousands of dollars and more each year and our client list continues to grow.
Sean Davis, VP of technology, Significans Automation, says n surprisingly, the printing industry has been increasingly adopting customized workflow automation and integration to improve efficiency and reduce costs. In fact, in a survey conducted by Canada’s Digital Imaging Association at the Graphics Canada tradeshow in May 11 to 13, 2023, in Mississauga, ON, well over 50 percent of respondents cited automation as the number one industry trend, with the majority seeing it as essential to future success.
“Digital printers now need to handle a larger number of smaller orders – and only automation will allow them to do this cost-efficiently while meeting the faster turnaround times demanded by customers. Plus, as I mentioned previously, the print industry is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. Automation will allow many important production processes to be handled by less skilled employees. Next, the package printing sector will continue to grow, driven by e-commerce, changing consumer preferences, and the need for bold new packaging designs that boost ‘shelf appeal.’ This, in turn, will necessitate even more customized automation and integration specific to the very detailed needs of the packaging printer,” adds Davis.
As a customized workflow and process integrator specialist, Significans Automation’s challenge is to be pro-active and meet the needs of diverse, growing and ever-complex printing environments. “The key word here is ‘customized,’ therefore our solutions must meet the very specific needs of each individual and unique print shop. Therefore, our solutions must be tailored to fit their needs. To further facilitate this, and stay well ahead of the technology curve, we also continue to partner with the industry’s best companies to bring even more value to our clients. This includes leaders involved in the realms of robotics, packaging, web-to-print, color management and so on. This allows us to offer the best of the best to our customers. The other challenge is to continue to create new products that offer more and more benefits. Two recent examples are the launch of Turbo Switch Packs and Virtual InkBooks,” says Davis.
Turbo Switch Packs is an easy-to-adopt suite of software and support services that help companies quickly and affordably begin their journey into modern, customized workflow automation. They were developed for three industry-specific markets: Labels and tags, digital printing, and wide-format printing. They combine best-in-class workflow automation and layout software with software maintenance, specifically configured workflows, powerful Enfocus Apps—produced by Significans Automation, as well as installation, training, and support from Significans’ workflow experts. Unlike many other solutions, Turbo Switch Packs can be fully deployed in just one or two hours, delivering immediate capacity gains and ROI.
Skandacor is a premier equipment and materials provider to the print industry, with a focus on embellishment and automation. With over 20 years of experience in the business, our team provides the most proactive support a digital printer could ask for. Additionally, our three locations across North America position us for rapid distribution of our print finishing products. More than just a supplier, we consider ourselves a coach to our clients and commit ourselves to the phrase “Real people, helping real people, in real time.”
“Along with bringing print-finishing in-house, we also saw a lot of printers looking to capture more audience by producing high impact embellished products vs ordinary boring print. They’re also leaning more on the advantages that automation will provide and investing in machinery to support their production floor output,” says Jon Congdon, manager, Skandacor Direct, Inc.
Although Skandacor has been proactively working on new and innovative products, some supply chain issues have caused slight delays in the release of new products to market.
Therm O Type
THERM-O-TYPE manufactures digital finishing and enhancement equipment. Current products include foil stamping/embossing/die cutting presses, sheet-to-sheet gluing equipment, foil fusers, cutter/slitter/creasers and rotary die cutters. THERM-O-TYPE also sells fusing foils, makeready supplies and thermography powders.
“Requirements to increase equipment automation, ergonomics, safety and productivity. Also a focus on ‘value added’ and specialty application capabilities to minimize competition and increase product value,” says Chris Van Pelt, president, Therm-O-Type.
Van Pelt says current trends for increased productivity/automation/ergonomics/safety have been positive factors in its NSF foil stamping/embossing/die cutting press sales. “Our sheet-to-sheet gluing models have become very popular with customers who produce thick printed products that want to eliminate high manual gluing labor costs or the high cost of cohesive adhesive papers.”
Transformations is a software solutions company and the developer of Uluro, the most comprehensive CCM software on the market for creating, producing, delivering and tracking critical customer communications.
Transformations’ manufacturing knowledge was used to create Uluro, an all-encompassing solution for service providers and mailers challenged by the complexities of high-volume production and distribution of bills, invoices and other customer communications. Uluro is a true front-to-finish suite of solutions all integrated into a single, fully automated document production system, allowing service providers to streamline and reduce the cost of complex print and mail processes and enabling recipients to choose how they receive their correspondence, as well as helping deliver highly personalized mail across physical and electronic media.
Uluro’s suite of solutions incorporates all processes of the document production workflow into a single platform allowing clients to realize several key benefits around operational efficiencies and quality assurance while also providing modules focused on additional revenue channels and compliance such as multichannel delivery, online document management, electronic presentment and payment, and securing/protecting confidential data.
“Transformation’s mission is to empower our customers with the most secure, compliant and innovative technology solution in the customer communications management market. By constantly delivering value, we aim to become the most trusted and indispensable tool in our customers’ communication processes,” says Ryan Semanchik, president, Transformations, Inc.
The importance of AI holds true for our organization as well. “In fact, our opening session was about AI at our User Conference in Nashville this fall. The impact of AI is twofold for us. First, it will impact how we operate our own organization, specifically from a development and customer service standpoint. For example, we are researching and also implementing ways to make our own business operations more efficient and productive. Examples include software development, automated code generation, bug detection and resolution, test automation, code optimization, project estimations and many areas in customer support. Secondly, there are many areas where AI can be utilized to improve our software products from predictive analytics in the production environment, revenue cycle management, customer journey mapping and recommended content and automation in document composition, to name a few. The integration of AI used properly presents many benefits,” says Semanchik.
On the electronic delivery front, we are seeing a definitive increase in the use of SMS (text). “Everyone has a mobile phone and text is a convenient tool for communication. We have made several enhancements to our products to keep up with consumer demand, including the ability to attach documents in a text, streaming documents securely directly through our Smart Delivery viewer and making electronic payments from a text within the secure viewer,” adds Semanchik. “We continue to place great importance on compliance and data security. We have built compliance into our products, including user access restrictions, detailed audit trails and specialized reporting on uniquely identified industry verticals”i.e. healthcare, finance, insurance. In addition, we offer end-to-end encryption for both data in transit and at rest. We will continue to invest heavily in compliance and data protection.”
Xerox production print is prioritizing investments in and around making sure client centricity. “We are in the mindset that everyone can print pretty pieces but it’s the end to end that everyone can create creative experience,” says Andrew Gunn, director of production marketing, Xerox.
An end-to-end ecosystem for digital transformation is essential. Xerox uses this as a guiding principal to dictate its strategy beyond just pushing paper. “If you talk about giving more time prepress automation workflow shouldn’t break the bank for those getting into prepress,” says Gunn.
The digital print industry relies on ink, consumables, digital print engines, fishing equipment, and workflow improvements lead to a more automated future.
Dec2023, DPS Magazine