• Digital workflow: manage, measure, control and optimise
    Digital workflow: manage, measure, control and optimise

Much ado is made about hardware in the printing world – we spill plenty of ink on our pages about the latest and greatest presses. Yet without workflow software to efficiently feed them jobs, these shiny new machines may as well be expensive paperweights. Jake Nelson looks at some of the most recent innovations from workflow software developers.

When it comes to workflow software, printers are spoilt for choice, with equipment manufacturers supplying their own robust solutions in addition to the wide variety of third-party suites on the market. To help cut through the decision process, we’ve looked into just a few of the newest developments.

Visibility with Agfa Apogee

Agfa released version 11 of its Apogee workflow software in November, including a number of new features such as the automation of all prepress tasks.

Apogee v11 enables printers to intelligently combine print jobs to optimise press time, a feature which Erik Peeters, global marketing manager for software solutions at Agfa, says is a big step forward in production efficiency. “Combining orders reduces plate changes and lowers production costs,” he says. “As paper waste is significantly less, the ecological footprint decreases too. As always, Apogee looks beyond pure functionalities and takes the full production cycle into account.”

Apogee v11 incorporates AutoImpose, which processes orders in a fully automatic way. “This a key feature for digital print production,” says Peeters. “Especially combined with Agfa’s cloud-based automation solution, PrintSphere AutoPilot, which uses XML or JDF information to intelligently route orders to the appropriate output device”.

EFI connects with Duplo

EFI has linked Duplo slitter/cutter/creasers into its Fiery production workflow, adding digital finishing into the solution. Anthony Parnemann, regional manager at EFI, says it will be a boon to digital printers who need to integrate slitting, cutting and creasing. “This new offering allows for efficient, automated imposition layout and production from prepress through the finishing stages delivering precise throughput faster and saving up to 70 per cent of setup time,” he says.

“The automated solution will reduce human setup errors, plus users now will have the ability to quickly verify job designs with a visual preview of finishing lines before printing.”

This new functionality is available for the Duplo DC-646 and DC-746 slitter/cutter/creaser models. “The new integration connects Duplo devices to Fiery Impose software, giving users an automatically generated, accurate preview of slit, cut, and crease locations in their printing jobs,” says Parnemann.

“Users also can save new layouts as templates to automate imposition on future jobs, and, using the existing support for Duplo barcode support in Fiery Impose, can load printed jobs directly into the DC-646 and DC-746 for automatic setup for the job based on the barcode.

“This is another example of how Fiery solutions can easily integrate beyond printing to enable customers to be more productive and profitable,” he says.

A QuickStart for sign and packaging automation

For sign and packaging printers who need to hit the ground running, Esko, the developer of Automation Engine, has a range of turnkey QuickStart solutions that can be set up in under a week. WebCentre QuickStart for Corrugated is a design workflow management solution for corrugated converters.

According to Scott Thompson, regional marketing and channels manager at Esko Australia, these suites are based on worldwide best practices for labels, folding carton, and sign and display. “No matter the output required, you can be assured of error reduction, shorter production time and shorter lead times with complete traceability from the moment a project is initiated to the print floor and even back to the brands.

“Esko can have you up and running in five days, digitising all your products, automating repetitive pre-press tasks faster and more efficiently, and delivering on time with full transparency on the complete process,” says Thompson.

Thompson says Automation Engine is a scalable solution with extensive business integration capabilities. “Not only does this make Automation Engine the heart of any size prepress production operation, but also ensures the right information is fed to the right system at the right time.

“It enables unparalleled workflow automation with rock-solid quality control,” he says.

Fujifilm flows into the future

Fujifilm’s XMF software solution is built on Adobe’s PDF Print Engine (APPE), and designed for both digital and offset production. Its Pure PDF workflow built from the latest Adobe technology ensures optimum efficiency, says Fujifilm. “XMF has led the way in combining the creative depth of Adobe’s Creative Suite applications with efficient and streamlined print production.

“As it is based solely on APPE, and not slowed down by legacy PostScript applications, XMF is considerably faster, more efficient, and far better placed to handle tomorrow’s more complex files,” the company says.

Because it is built around the JDF standard, XMF can link with MIS systems and allows communication between applications plus full visibility of job progress and costs. “Add to this the fact that XMF is scalable, with the ability to add multiple additional servers, and it’s evident that an investment in XMF today is an investment in the future,” the developer says.

Prinecting to Industry 4.0

The 2019 update to Heidelberg’s Prinect workflow software adds Prinect Smart BI business intelligence software, which Dierk Wissmann, national sales manager for Gallus, Prinect and digital at Heidelberg ANZ, says will help connect printers with big data operations. “The primary target of this cloud-based big data service is to provide print shop management teams a deep insight into their print shop numbers to better identify untapped potentials.

“Print shops will gain within days a far better understanding of their actual production and business situation, with one target: to take better and fact-based decisions for a profitable future,” he says. “Pre-delivered reports and easy tools to define individual reports and dashboards within minutes will allow insight into the print shop’s performance.”

Prinect 2019 is available on a subscription basis, meaning no upfront investment is necessary. Wissmann says, “The payment is based on the actual usage and not on the functionality of the system. This allows each company to set up the process to become the smart print shop of the future.”

Kodak taking care of consumables

A new addition to Kodak’s Prinergy workflow software is the Decision Analytics – Ink and Plate Usage Service. Aimed at offset printers, the system is designed to optimise the use of consumables, analysing and predicting ink usage on press and allowing operators to monitor results by plant, press, product and/or job.

Allan Brown, vice president and general manager of Kodak’s unified workflow solutions, says the service will translate into improved efficiencies, reduced risk, and cost savings for printers. “Kodak’s Ink and Plate Usage Service opens the door for granular visibility into the actual costs of manufacturing for printers. It affords them the ability to optimise the manufacturing process and reduce costs, which ultimately leads to amplified profitability," he says.”

PrintIQ thinks with portals

PrintIQ, operated through a web browser, offers a range of features including outsourcing, capacity planning, picking and processing, and a digital storefront.

This last feature offers big benefits to printers, according to Mick Rowan, product director. “The most powerful feature might just be the ability to get online with a customer-facing, brandable digital storefront with little internal effort,” says Rowan. “The portal is built to make it easy for customers to engage over the web, on their phone, or on a tablet, and comes without the baggage of many standalone, or bolt-on, digital storefront applications.”

The cloud-based nature of the software is also an asset, says Rowan. “The PrintlQ workflow offers the reliable single source of truth about every job accepted for production and if you pair this with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, the cost to bring the solution in-house and operate it effectively brings modern tools without severely impacting capital,” he says.

Ricoh brings offset and digital together

Ricoh’s TotalFlow print server, which ships with presses including the Pro C7200 and C9200 series, allows seamless integration of digital into an offset workflow.

Henryk Kraszewski, senior product manager for commercial and industrial print at Ricoh says, “For example you might have a business that operates Heidelberg presses and bases its workflow around Prinect. The pre-press operator only touches the job once, and then determines where it’s best output – the Heidelberg press, or the Ricoh presses with TotalFlow print server.

“The job doesn’t get reprocessed, which ensures job and colour integrity,” he says.

Kraszewski adds that with TotalFlow, the operator can select where it would be most efficient to print.

Equios is end-to-end

Screen’s Equios workflow software is a scalable solution designed for both conventional and digital printing, which supports print-on-demand (POD) and computer-to-plate (CTP) applications and enables high-speed variable-data printing.

According to the manufacturer, Equios can handle jobs from beginning to end. “Equios controls production from the time a job is captured or created through all stages of production to postpress and delivery of the finished project.

“Wherever JDF is deployed, Equios integrates seamlessly all the way to the bindery, thanks to the Equiosnet Partnership Programme with third-party vendors of hardware and software,” says Screen.

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