EFI Digital StoreFront v2.3 : more and constant revenue streams in the Internet age

Profits are migrating away from hardware to software and services. The value offered and delivered by printers, print shops, Facilities Management and Central Reprographic Department environments to their customers will increasingly be based on workflow and process improvements. EFI has developed a solution to make the transition from unit sales to services a painless one for printers in various environments. EFI Digital StoreFront (DSF) provides a ‘mission control’ system to track and manage jobs across multiple facilities. It cuts critical time off the ‘head and tail’ of a job, increases productivity and opens up new opportunities for variable printing while raising the bar on customer service.

For users who want to enjoy additional and constant revenue streams, and be able to compete with the growing number of Internet portals that offer cheap prints, EFI Digital StoreFront is the right solution for the job.

EFI Digital StoreFront is a modular, customizable web-based solution that helps streamline business and production processes at Inplant/Central Reprographic Department (CRD), Facilities Management (FM) and Print for Pay environments by addressing challenges those target markets face in the area of job submission, job production and business management.

In an economy that is evolving towards a “Service-Oriented Architecture”, DSF enables printers to deliver highly automated print services. Working with large customers, where different departments have different printing needs is just as easy and efficient with DSF as fulfilling an order of 100 business cards from an individual customer who ordered via the Internet.

DSF’s web presence can be accessed from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week allowing customers to easily specify and submit print jobs to the print facility.

They can place an electronic order for jobs based on hard copy originals, create print-ready PDF documents automatically via EFI’s PrintMessenger PDF print driver, or upload native files and have these files converted at the DSF server side into PDF (supports popular software packages). Customers can get automated quotes, order documents from an online catalogue (document repository), use predefined document templates to easily create customized documents like business cards, flyers, mass mailings and other short-run documents, and keep track of their orders and the status of the jobs they submitted.

Challenges

DSF addresses a lot of challenges which can positively affect both sides of the printer’s business, i.e. cost savings and revenue generation. For example, when documentation needs to be wherever the people are, an EFI Digital StoreFront system can provide access 24×7 to the print products these customers need, whether they are in their own location or “on the road” — wherever they have an Internet connection available to them.

However, to many print service providers the real worry is not the technology to deliver the goods, but the actual leg work of getting a job in and out of production where profits are won or lost.

DSF combines a lot of things that haven’t been combined before. It has a customizable web solution for job submission that also automates and streamlines production and procurement processes. Customers can use a PDF print driver coupled with a web browser to specify, proof, approve and deliver files and job ticket information directly into the workflow.
Variable data printing (VDP) uses the print centre’s digital or offset output technology to vary one or more elements in a printed piece. Content (text or graphics) is drawn from the Digital StoreFront database, or other sources, according to “rules” on how the content should be used during page generation. VDP is ideal for taking advantage of the increasingly rewarding field of full colour, graphically rich, customized communications.

The Digital StoreFront Template Driven Documents module lets the print centre easily create a catalogue of template-driven documents that are automatically published to the Digital StoreFront web site. Users can access the catalogue from any network, Internet or Intranet accessible web browser, and typeset, proof and approve their own documents.

Extending a business to the Web can seem daunting at first — it can also involve a security risk. EFI’s Digital StoreFront Credit Card Module alleviates those fears. It works in conjunction with Verisign’s PayFlow service. The Payflow Pro service is a payment processing solution that simplifies the security and processing of multiple payment instruments online. Not only does Payflow Pro make it fast and easy for customers to purchase goods and services on the Web, it also frees users from point-to-point and difficult-to integrate payment solutions.

The combination of DSF and Verisign PayFlow Pro provides the benefits of an integrated payment platform designed specifically for the Internet. This allows a site to support multiple payment instruments including credit cards, corporate or institutional purchase cards, debit cards, electronic checks and ACH transfers. It provides the user with back-end connectivity to all leading payment processing networks. Designed for scalability and reliability, the solution can process large numbers of transactions simultaneously to ensure that customers are not kept waiting and that no transactions are lost or delayed during the buying process.

The DSF Credit Card Module featuring Payflow Pro uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to secure transaction information. Payment information is encrypted between the Digital StoreFront web site and the Verisign Payflow payment processing platform. The solution comes with standard processing level anti-fraud features.
Digital StoreFront offers competitive advantages for print service providers in several key market segments. In the US, the product has already achieved significant success in each of these market segments.

In-plant and CRDs are departments within a corporation or institution that are primarily engaged in performing printing and/or copying services for customers internal to the corporation. Documents may include text, drawings, plans, books, brochures, presentations, directories, and other print products.

Services performed can include photocopying, digital printing, offset printing, and large or wide format printing. Document formats tend to be created in Microsoft Office applications, for which DSF offers several benefits.

Digital StoreFront offers distinct advantages to these operations, including:

  • Creating a brand identity for the print centre on the corporate Intranet or via the Intranet
  • Helping to drive print volume to the print centre, away from higher cost desktop or hallway devices
  • Makes it easier for users to take advantage of sophisticated capabilities of the print centre
  • Decreases job preparation time for the print centre, through workflow integration
  • Provides an ideal platform for job submission, customer service and e-commerce for Digital printing environments, which utilize Balance, Fiery and MicroPress, but also facilities hard copy job submission and to a large extent submission for offset printing.
  • Delivers better quality job input to the print centre workflow, decreasing labour costs at the print centre.

Facilities Management companies are generally outsourced service providers who administer the printing and duplicating function on behalf of their corporate clients. The types of documents created and processed are generally the same as for the InPlant/CRD.
The functions may include document creation, production, processing, printing, mailing, electronic transmission, and/or fulfilment services for printed or electronic documents. DSF advantages for FM providers include:

Home grown web-to-print solutions

The ability to replace “home grown” solutions, as well as to incorporate such functionality into print centres without job submission applications
A single DSF server can be deployed across multiple corporate customers, multiple print rooms, and multiple buildings
DSF servers can expose multiple branding instances, so FM providers can have sights tailored to multiple customers running on a single server
Provides a standard “front door” for job submission to the print centre, as well as a standard interface for print centre operators and managers
Provides integration with EFI Print MIS systems, to add sophisticated estimating, scheduling, job planning, accounting and fulfillment applications.

DSF provides job routing and load balancing between print rooms, sites or even campuses. General commercial printers usually operate non-retail manufacturing operations, and their primary printing equipment generally employs some form of traditional “ink on paper” process rather than toner-based digital printing. However, many commercial printers are quickly adding digital capabilities, as well as mailing and fulfilment services. These printers tend to have larger customers who are more sophisticated, than the quick printer/print-for-pay.

Customers may include advertising agencies, who are more concerned with issues like colour fidelity, choice of paper stocks, finishing options. They may also want to access the Printer’s VDP capabilities via the web.

A print-for-pay or quick printer is a small commercial printer that provides quick turnaround and short-run work for its customers. Print-for-pay or quick printers often accept walk-in customers through a retail presence, generally through a store front with counter service. Job submission through a Web site is a substitute for (or an enhancement to) retail presence in some cases.

DSF advantages for printers and print shops include:

  • Creates one-to-one relationship between print specifiers and print providers
  • For print providers, it locks in customers with ease-of-use, document catalog and print driver capabilities
  • Helps Print Service Providers project their brand out onto the Internet
  • Decreases labor costs through workflow integration and elimination of re-keying job tickets.
  • Competitive AdvantagesDigital StoreFront offers a “best practices” web-browser based store front/catalogue/shopping cart experience to provide the maximum possible ease of use for print centre customers to submit jobs, typeset and proof, obtain quotes or pricing, and procure jobs online.  Once jobs are submitted, customers can return to the site and enjoy customer service features, such as checking job production status, shipping information, and to place re-orders, etc.

Advanced Automated Pricing functionality streamlines the order negotiation process, by providing users with self-service in terms of pricing jobs with their desired options. PDF generating print drivers on end-user workstations mean that settings correct PDF files are delivered into the workflow at the print centre, eliminating time consuming and costly job preparation as well as customer frustration over missing fonts and images.  Workflow integration means that jobs enter the shop, and are produced with virtually no manual intervention except perhaps to pack the job for delivery to the customer.

Flexible architecture

DSF is a flexible and scalable architecture. It is based on Microsoft .NET and employs a N-Tier architecture while its extensive communication capabilities depend on state-of-the-art web services technologies.

EFI offers the widest range of deployment options available in the industry today to make sure DSF can adapt to any business need or environmental requirement. DSF is available as a self-hosted system, that can be installed on server hardware in the print centre facility. It can be provided on Dell hardware from EFI, or on customer or partner supplied hardware that meets its system requirements. Installation requires a server running with the latest critical Windows Updates installed (SP2 for Windows XP is not supported). The server should be added to the domain it belongs to, and IIS as well as MSMQ must be installed. For Advanced PDF Conversion, Microsoft Office XP or Office 2003 must be installed. The customer must decide what ticket features are critical to his operations, the payment methods he will need, and who the target user will be, and how the application will be deployed to him.

Many of EFI’s Digital StoreFront licensees view security as an important priority, and DSF has numerous security features and capabilities to support even the most demanding requirements.

DSF lets print service providers begin to experience the benefits of online solutions with the entry-level Digital StoreFront Express, and grow to an enterprise configuration with an easy and complete upgrade path.  Numerous options are available to enhance the DSF experience, including Advanced Automated Pricing, Credit Card payment processing, VDP options, and more.

Digital StoreFront provides one of the most important missing pieces in a complete print centre workflow: the integration of the customer’s job information with the printer’s production systems. With workflow integration, there’s an immediate increase not only in the productivity of personnel but also in the productivity of print devices.
In facilities that have EFI Fiery, EFI Balance and/or EFI MicroPress-based digital presses, jobs flow directly from Digital StoreFront to the appropriate production device with the click of a mouse.

There is no manual intervention required to put jobs into production. Standard connectivity to EFI’s ubiquitous Fiery servers, EFI Balance and Micropress, provide the ability for jobs to flow directly from the creator’s desktop through to output on digital engines, direct image presses and CTP devices for offset printing. Print centre operators have complete visibility and control of all jobs.

The customer-facing features of Digital StoreFront provide an easy-to-use experience for customers, combined with sophisticated print centre workflow integration. The capabilities of Digital StoreFront provide a tangible increase in customer satisfaction for users, as well as streamlined order processing and workflow integration for the print centre.

These days, almost everyone has made a consumer purchase via the Internet, whether it’s books, electronics or clothing. Corporate print buyers and users want the same flexibility and speed that doing business over the Internet provides. Digital StoreFront brings the ease of use and flexibility of Internet ordering and job submission to a printer’s operation by providing an Intranet/Internet web site that reflects the services offered in the print centre.

A PDF-generating print driver is standard with Digital StoreFront. This allows customers to submit PDF files directly into the print centre workflow. Ordering print becomes as simple as printing to a desktop inkjet or to a multifunction printer down the hall. Within any application, the customer simply chooses “File- Print”, and then selects the Digital StoreFront-enabled print driver (from printer menu) just as they would any other printer.

Immediately an on-screen PDF preview of their job will appear for soft-proofing. Due to the great simplification of job submission, this feature is sure to drive additional page volume to the print centre. Unlimited users can submit files via the print driver, and it is available for both PC and Macintosh operating systems.

Digital StoreFront comes with standard support for multiple output devices integrated into the workflow. Whether there are two presses or twenty, the system can be configured to support the exact needs of the operation, for both end-users and production staff. Maximizing machine utilization is done by removing bottlenecks in production by including all the machines in one streamlined, connected workflow.

In instances where customers want to be able to deliver PostScript or PDF files to the print centre, or in environments where the PDF Driver cannot be installed on end-user desktops (because of security reasons or because of the constraints of older operating systems), Digital StoreFront’s standard file-upload capability lets the customer submit PDF and postscript files to the print centre using the web browser’s built-in upload capabilities. Additionally, native files may be uploaded using this method with the purchase of the optional Advanced PDF Conversion module.

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