EFI reveals its technological direction at Connect 2015

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re in Las Vegas. Among the long-legged showgirls, dubious blackjack dealers, and Elvis-themed wedding chapels, it is very difficult to tell fact from fiction. So it was very sobering for me to be among a congregation of EFI users who were immersed in the hard truth about the future of printing.

Cleverly, EFI did not climb the pulpit to pontificate the direction their customers should take. Instead they let them know with reasoned assurance that where the company was headed was indeed the path of salvation. I do not say this with tongue in cheek. It was very clear that every decision the company makes is based on two things: a focus on markets that offer the greatest growth potential and a dedication to walking in its customers’ shoes.

EFI’s Direction: inkjet

Wide-format represents 50% of EFI’s business. So the company invests a great deal in perfecting its inkjet offerings. And there are many, from thermoforming inks that stretch around moulded surfaces to Fiery-driven ceramic-tile decoration, but the overriding theme for me was that the company is rapidly moving to transform all of its inkjet engines to cure with LED technology. The line of LED printers continues to expand, available in just about every width with either or both flatbed and roll-to-roll feeds. There is even a narrow-web LED label printer and a high-speed entry-level system that gives newcomers to wide format a highly competitive place to start.

Why the obsession with LED? Three reasons, according to EFI. First, LED allows you to print on extremely delicate materials. I was given the opportunity to touch and feel LED-printed, sliver-thin metallic substrates that would no doubt melt in a traditionally cured UV engine. This gives EFI customers the ability to reach new markets with products that were challenging, if not impossible to produce previously. Second, many of these printers perform at production speeds and offer single-pass white ink lay down, which also allow customers to produce a wider variety of products cost effectively. And third, EFI’s LED technology consumes significantly less power and produces far less waste, giving users a more economical, environmentally friendly option.

EFI’s Direction: productivity software

EFI spent an equal amount of time presenting a revelation in print-management strategy. If you follow the company, you know that from its first e-commerce acquisition of Print Café to a more recent purchase of cross-media company, DirectSmile, it has accumulated a litany of digital front end and print management solutions, all of which serve EFI customers in immeasurable ways. What’s different now is that the company has reorganised all of these solutions into segmented “ecosystems.”

By ecosystem, EFI refers to the entire digital workflow with every engine and all instructional data interacting and co-existing in a harmonious, highly efficient environment.

The company is taking all of its print management products, organizing them by market segment and integrating them to create specialised ecosystems. The first segment is the EFI Enterprise Suite which serves commercial and publication printing and includes mailing and fulfilment. The driving product is EFI Monarch. The second is the EFI Enterprise Packaging Suite for label, flexible packaging and folding carton producers. The central product is EFI Radius. Next comes the EFI Midmarket Suite which caters to commercial, digital and super-wide print providers who might also offer fulfilment. EFI Pace rules here. The final segment, EFI Productivity Suite comprises standalone solutions such as, cross-media marketing (DirectSmile), dynamic visual estimating (iQuote), web to print (Digital StoreFront), and so on.

The structure of each segment is modular and scalable allowing it to evolve with their customers’ changing needs. EFI has also broken each segment into four functions—new revenue generation, pre-production, production, and efficiency and profitability. Various products enable these different functions.

What is key here is that the company promises to integrate individual products into a symbiotic workflow environment that ensures organic-like efficiencies. EFI even promised to release all upgrades in a single segment simultaneously to keep the ecosystem from ever unravelling.

What the company presented to its flock of roughly 1200 customers was quite ambitious to say the least. Is the company up to the task? Based on the skill level demonstrated at EFI Connect 2015, I’d say it’s a sure thing.

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