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Digital Directory
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AUGUST 2013



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Opportunites in Selling and Supporting Software . . . .

The graphic arts supplier business was built on consumables and the equipment that used these materials. Over the past decade the printing industry has become part of the information technology world that has software as part of its foundation. The term "software" in the narrowest sense electronically accepts input through a variety of means including a keyboard that is interpreted into instructions that display information on a screen or invisibly provide instructions that control machines or facilitate the integration of processes or functions.

Software in many people's minds is synonymous with Management Information Systems - you know estimating, job costing, data collection, inventory and accounting. But software is what makes most things go these days. Have you looked under the hood of your car? Or, how about your phone?

The heart of printing production today is software. In prepress equipment involved are driven by software that interprets data that contains digital images and delivers them color corrected and imposed to proofers, platesetters or even direct to press - offset or digital. On an offset press, ink fountain settings, stock adjustments and production monitoring is handled by software. And of course if it is a digital press of any size or speed everything from variable imaging and even smart drying are handled by software. Cutters, binding equipment and other finishing machines also have software to facilitate setup and to monitor performance. We are in an age of software.

It should be recognized by graphic arts dealers that once again an adjustment in products and services sold needs to be made. Software is one of the products that should be added to their bag of tricks. To be effective, dealer needs to invest into learning how the software works and how to support it. Support does not mean doing programing or development but gaining the knowledge on how to set up the software as needed along with learning how to use it.

The reason Dealer Communicator (DC) is bringing this up is that many dealers do not see opportunities in having software knowledge or providing software support. Actually, it is not software technology that is important. It is the application of the software that is the value added services that can be offered by graphic arts dealers.

Most dealers offer a variety of prepress, software products including color management, imposition, RIP, preflight and softproofing but their ability to support these products or provide alternative solutions is sometimes an issue. In the good old film days, a dealer was the first stop when there was a technical issue needing attention. With software based products similar expertise is needed along with the ability to recommend some choices to meet the application requirements of a customer.

Some graphic arts dealers have added software choices to their product lines.

Bob Flipse of the GrafxNetwork (http://grafnetwork.com/) a dealer serving the wide format and sign markets offers several RIP's - Onyx Rip, FlexiSign Pro and others. He commented that the software offered depends on the customer's requirements. For example, he added, "FlexiSign Pro also has excellent print and cut capabilities if that is needed in a customer's workflow."

Bill Landwer, of MKL Prepress Electronics (http://mklinc.com/) a dealer selling used prepress equipment has announced that they will be showing new workflow software at Print '13. This will support the range of CtP, Imagesetters and wide format devices they sell.

While prepress workflows are an obvious application of software sold by dealers there are many other opportunities to explore. One example of a software product that should be of interest to your offset printer customers is the QuickSet ink setting program (http://quicksetcorporation.com/). Steve Surbrook, president of the company, discussed with DC how their product works and the significance of software in its use. One aspect of QuickSet is the installation of ink fountain keys that can provide measured ink settings.

While the adjustments can be done manually, using their software to scan the image and to then further adjust each of the keys based on the printing characteristics of the press. The setup time is reduced and more importantly a measureable reduction in paper waste is achieved. This product can be offered through dealers and while supported by the manufacturer, a software knowledgeable dealer can also provide support.

While QuickSet has developed its own ink setting methodology and software there is another area that dealers need to be aware and informed about that can be used to set ink fountains along with passing settings to a wide variety of production equipment throughout the plant. The software based technology as you probably know is called JDF (Job Definition Format).

JDF grew out of a consortium of manufacturers and printers, formed in the 1990's to create software standards that would allow transfers of specifications for applications like ink fountain setting. Over time JDF has expanded to offer an information exchange between different applications and systems in and around the graphic arts industry. As explained by the JDF consortium (www.cip4.org), "to that end, JDF builds on and extends beyond pre-existing partial solutions, such as CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF) and Adobe Systems' Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF). It also enables the integration of commercial and planning applications into the technical workflow." JDF is a comprehensive XML (software language)-based file format and proposed industry standard for end-to-end job ticket specifications combined with a message description standard and message interchange protocol.

The creation of JDF data can start with a management information system (MIS) that is fed to imposition software where additional layout definitions and specifications are added. This information is electronically passed on to all the prepress, press, postpress and delivery processes used to complete a job. In digital printing, through a JDF job ticket information on the stock used plus links to inline postpress operations controls and monitors the job from start to finish. Another aspect of JDF is its Job Messaging Feature (JMF) that captures production statistics like length of run or any errors which can be either be tied back to MIS or provide its own productivity analysis.

There are a number of software products that dealers can sell with JDF capabilities that will need their expertise to do the implementation and support. All revenue generating. One example, is a new imposition program from Ultimate Technographics (http://www.imposition.com/). Their latest program Ultimate Bindery takes JDF imposed jobs and adds all the parameters needed to automatically setup JDF enabled binding, stitcher, cutting machines. This is the type of software products that dealers should know about and advise their customers.

Another example of a software product that should be offered by dealers is the ink estimating programs offered by HP and Xerox. Also XMPie has a similar capability. This software can be used on wide format inkjet printers along with the high speed continuous inkjet machines. Again, a software product with a big payoff.

There are many software based products that could be sold by dealers. However, the dealers need to make an investment in understanding how the software fits into the workflow or can enhance the automation of production equipment. JDF is here to stay and it is being used in a vary of ways across a large array of printing equipment. Go to the JDF web site and see what educational tools they offer including instructional videos.

If you are going to Print 2013 take the time to visit the myriad of booths selling software to see if there are products that fit your market. Another source is Dealer Communicator where announcements or ads promoting equipment driven by software or software products that can be sold by dealers are included.

SOFTWARE...Take advantage of this opportunity!

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