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
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
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
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
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
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.
advantage of this opportunity!