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Printcafe Conference Examines Success Models

August 2002
By Bill Esler

LAS VEGAS—Aiming to improve the odds for business success, 700 Printcafe management system users converged here June 9-12 for Connect 2002, the annual user meeting. Also present were 120 personnel from Printcafe and 13 exhibitors.

Licensees of ProGraph, PSI, PrintSmith, Logic, Hagen, AHP, Automation and Elysium systems—all linked by the Printcafe umbrella in 2000—heard CEO Marc Olin's roadmap for cross-platform application development and Web utilities. These applications will ultimately work within all the management systems offered by Printcafe.

Among several new items was PrinterSite, a Web browser application for Hagen Systems to check job status, customer ordering and sales entry usage via hand-held computers. By improving management systems expertise via dozens of application-specific sessions, those in Vegas hoped to fend off the vagaries of a mostly sour printing marketplace.

The event took place as Printcafe drew near its initial public offering—since completed through the efforts of underwriters UBS Warburg, Robertson Stephens, U.S. Bancorp, Piper Jaffray and McDonald Investments. An IPO is "not an exact science," said Olin, noting that the investment community mostly struggles to understand the wayward manufacturing schema of the commercial printing industry. "Print has no finite number of products, no predictable raw materials," Olin adds.

No other industry accommodates such production oddities as unlike jobs gang-run multiple up. Printcafe has 8,000 user sites at 4,000 firms, not including thousands more PrintSmith customers at smaller shops with one-time licenses.

Customers randomly queried were generally positive. "Three years on, Printcafe is an organization that looks focused," observed Mark Mitchell, CIO of PMP Ltd., Australia's largest printer.

Exhibiting were strategic partner/investor Creo, as well as Komori, Apple, SmartLinc, Sappi, Hewlett-Packard and others.

HP is examining how evolving Printcafe workflow utilities and "integrative middleware" software can feed its Indigo digital presses at commercial print shops. The convergence of prepress workflow and business management systems was continuously evident, as demonstrated by an alpha version of PRIME production planning software. During the conference, JDF was labeled "a huge beast" by Printcafe Vice President of Marketing Andy Schaer, who noted that the idea that it's "plug-and-play is wrong."

Words of Wisdom

An "Industry Titans" session included presentations by CEOs Amos Michelson (Creo), Yves Rogivue (MAN Roland USA), Paul Reilly (Mail-Well) and Standard Register Document Management President Mark E. Little.

Reilly encouraged the gathering to adopt computer-integrated manufacturing, but warned, "You cannot automate a process unless your underlying processes are under control." Little told the group of Standard's refocus, investing $6 million in 6 Sigma and ISO certification. "Integrate the print value chain," he admonished. "As printers, we cannot be successful with the failed model of isolated shops."
 

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