December 7, 2023
At the end of September, European users of KODAK PRINERGY Workflow gathered at the European conference of the Graphic Users Association (GUA) in Dusseldorf, Germany, to learn about the latest developments around and about this versatile workflow platform. The focus was on an update of the newest software products and tools for workflow automation plus an outlook on more advances planned for the next few years.
The GUA Conference, which took place for the 15th time, traditionally serves as a stage for a whole host of presentations, demonstrations and field reports from customers – concentrated expertise coupled with ample opportunities for attendees to systematically deepen their knowledge of the workflow software. Kodak sees this lively exchange as a great way to help PRINERGY users understand how they can compete and grow with their business in a market that is constantly changing. At the same time, the company is eager to obtain comprehensive feedback as well as insights into users’ everyday work routines, to enable Kodak resources to be used as effectively as possible to develop and optimize the workflow. Those present particularly appreciated the intensive, face-to-face dialog with experts, for which plenty of time was allotted alongside the diverse sessions.
The conference was opened by Denisse Goldbarg, CMO and Head of EAMER Sales. During her presentation, she clarified the essential criteria used by Kodak to align its business today. She explained how the new management team who took over in 2019 has established a strict focus on the group’s core business – namely printing – side by side with advanced materials and chemicals. She identified the soaring costs passed on by suppliers to all manufacturers including Kodak, industry consolidation, shorter print runs and the growing skills shortage as the critical factors in Europe today. According to Goldbarg, a high degree of automation will be crucial in endeavors to overcome these multiple challenges.
Kodak is investing heavily in the printing segment: apart from ongoing improvements to its printing plate technologies, the main emphasis here is on inkjet. At the heart of all of these developments is PRINERGY – the “glue” that holds the set of all individual factors together. Goldbarg also stressed yet again the immense significance of GUA for Kodak. The exchange with users is a source of vital feedback, which ensures that Kodak software continues to be developed in line with customer needs and the requirements of the market.
PRINERGY today and tomorrow
Jim Barnes, Chief IT Implementation Officer at Kodak, addressed the changing demands of end users in a dynamic environment. He described how these represent a further challenge for print service providers in addition to market consolidation and rising costs. The only way to generate stable – or preferably higher – profits under these circumstances is to reduce in-house costs, and software can play a decisive role in achieving this. Barnes takes the view that the most effective levers here are more sustainability and the elimination of all processes that add no value.
He emphasized that investing in automation and new infrastructure is invariably a good idea because it helps people with different skills to work together efficiently. New employees, in particular, expect existing knowledge to be available anywhere, ideally on mobile devices. Clearly structured information and defined processes facilitate decisions in agile environments where increased customer demands apply.
Barnes confirmed that integrating processes is a similarly difficult task when different print shops are merged. There tend to be umpteen automation islands and manual processes that can be a widespread source of error in practice. The challenge here is to come up with an integrated solution in which all automated areas interlock seamlessly. This is why, where PRINERGY is concerned, Kodak commits to open integrated architecture, superior features, flexibility and reliable partners. This is no less important when it comes to building bridges to the customer or getting rid of bottlenecks. Customer satisfaction is highest when everything fits exactly – from the quotation and data transfer to high-quality, on-time delivery. However, it needs to be remembered that working conditions at Kodak’s own customers are constantly changing and that Kodak must therefore likewise adapt continuously.
Jim Barnes then turned his attention to cloud technologies. There may be many reasons to embrace the cloud but there are just as many valid arguments for opting out of it. Kodak explicitly supports both of these working philosophies. Barnes also underlined the dangers posed by hacker and ransomware attacks in connection with on-premise solutions. Kodak accordingly favors the development of cloud-based solutions because it frees up resources if not all servers have to be managed locally. Parallel to this, the company is increasingly relying on the Microsoft platform.
“The hardest part of this discourse is figuring out how users can optimize their workflows for the benefit of the company as a whole. Many of you attendees have different organizational roles, and you don’t always see the problems that your changes could create for other employees,” Barnes commented. “It’s not simply a question of optimizing workflows, though – it’s about the entire company and the impacts on collaboration across all areas of activity. Of course, changes to the software inevitably involve a certain amount of time and effort, but the benefits for customers in the long run will be huge.”
Jamie Reber, Product Manager, gave an overview of the many different tools that PRINERGY provides for automation, integration, efficiencies, security and intelligence. They include Rules-Based Automation, customer portals, imposition software, screening technologies and COLORFLOW Pro – a color management software product for which a dedicated session was scheduled. Decision Analytics is a tool that supplies collected production data to allow trends to be identified and plate and ink consumption recorded. Ink usage can then be calculated as soon as a new order is received. This data can be shared with the MIS system, leading to more precise quotations and higher profitability.
Reber went on to explain PRINERGY Workflow’s various incarnations before winding up with a synopsis of the main features in the latest version. Version 10.0 of the PRINERGY Workflow software provides numerous enhancements and new functions for more productivity and application security. Jamie Reber subsequently gave a rundown of the changes and improvements that have been implemented in PRINERGY following requests from users at the previous GUA. She also summed up various other items that are currently still under development. This feedback was very much appreciated by the conference attendees.
Product Manager Patrick Kerr cast a spotlight on the extensive possibilities offered by PRINERGY Access. PRINERGY Access is a smart, scalable solution that is specifically designed to meet the needs of small and medium-sized print shops, enabling them to process jobs without any manual intervention. It integrates all relevant features such as Preflight+, color management, file management, data backup and file forwarding. It also includes file submission capabilities as well as remote customer collaboration and supports online approvals. Designed as a browser-based SaaS model, the solution ensures Microsoft Azure-based security.
PRINERGY Business Solutions
The participants subsequently learned how to build a complete ecosystem that is suited for addressing both commercial and packaging printing. A PRINERGY Workflow integration with web-to-print and MIS solutions is a key prerequisite. Kevin Bell of Vpress outlined why a web-to-print system is increasingly important for the print business. As print buyers get younger and younger, expectations regarding mobile applications rise and hybrid working models have become the norm today. Printers need to be available 24/7 and ideally in a position to quote a price immediately. 70 percent of all orders for print products are placed online. Automated production is essential here as well as, in certain cases, a connection to the customer’s purchasing system such as Oracle or SAP. Vpress integrates all of these requirements conveniently into PRINERGY Workflow. Jörg Hüner of PrintVis followed this up with an explanation of the smart MIS solution, which is based on Microsoft Business Central and explicitly adapted to the requirements of the printing industry.
The mood among attendees was overwhelmingly optimistic, and it was generally agreed that the 15th GUA Conference had been well worthwhile for everyone. GUA veteran Mads Bindslev of Lasertryk in Denmark concluded: “In 2022, we were simply glad to get the GUA off the ground again in the wake of Covid. This year, there was a lot more time upfront to find out what people really wanted to learn and talk about. The mood was far more positive as a result. Intensive use was also made of the three hours allotted to meet and discuss with Kodak’s various experts, and the frank conversations were highly instructive.”
In conversation with Chief IT Implementation Officer Jim Barnes
How would you rate this year’s GUA?
2022 was the first year that the GUA was finally able to take place again post-Covid, and it was also a first for me. This year, we had significantly more time to plan the event and fill it more specifically with content. Our customers, too, took advantage of the longer period upfront to prepare intensively for the conference, with the result that they were more committed to their participation. We’re thoroughly satisfied with both the quantity and the quality of attendees for those reasons. The depth of expertise in their questions was likewise awesome, which of course had real benefits for everyone present. The spirit of partnership during the discussions was also very noticeable, and I regard that as elementary for the event’s long-term success. That’s why, this year, we went out of our way to emphasize just how much users’ wishes matter to us. For instance, we gave attendees a detailed summary of all requests received from users last year that have been implemented to data as well as all those which are still being implemented. I’m glad that this concept met with so many people’s approval and that they could see that we listen to them very carefully.
How willing are your customers to accept cloud-based offerings?
Fundamental differences are emerging here between our cloud business in the US and Europe. It depends on where a print shop is located: there are often problems in Europe when it comes to obtaining the required bandwidths if it isn’t situated in a metropolitan area. As a graphical workflow system, PRINERGY can’t help but generate large volumes of data, and in Europe this can be problematic. We can still support these customers in certain ways nevertheless. For instance, even if PRINERGY isn’t operated entirely in the cloud but remains on premise, archiving can take place in the cloud, so that it’s possible to get back up and running again faster following an incident, regardless of whether it’s a fire or a ransomware attack. We’re working on as many flexible solutions as we can here, in response to the given connectivity challenges.
You got attendees to vote on which features to prioritize for further development. What is your verdict on the outcome?
It doesn’t surprise me at all that attendees’ number one priority is to optimize their workflows. However, even if it sometimes seems that mapping business processes is not top of their list, they’re generally keen to bring these different areas together and implement a holistic system. From a graphical workflow perspective, the business part may not be critical, yet everything still has to mesh in order for an organization to work and unlock the full potential of software automation.
How important is the workflow aspect for Kodak as a company? Let me reiterate that we’re deeply committed to the workflow aspect. Jim Continenza, our CEO, has also made that very clear. Kodak wants to continue being a leader in this field – not only from the traditional offset viewpoint but also where digital printing is concerned. The transformation of print is a fact, and so we need the best workflow system to connect these two segments together. More investments will be necessary for PRINERGY to remain the leading workflow. We’re aware, too, that although we have some fantastic digital presses to offer, they’re not able to cover the entire breadth of print production. That’s why it’s important to ensure an open architecture, so that all systems in the market can be integrated. If they’re going to be successful, users need a workflow that networks with their complete production environment. High flexibility will be key here.