Axel Zoeller--Taking Giant Steps
It's been little more than two years since the prepress entity known as Linotype-Hell was swallowed by the German giant, Heidelberg. A pressmaker buying a prepress company? Talk about a visionary move. As 1999 progresses, what is the direction of Heidelberg Prepress? Axel Zoeller, director of prepress marketing for Heidelberg USA, provides some answers—and some speculation.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
AXEL ZOELLER is very meticulous—in the very best sense of the word. He is naturally friendly, but remotely guarded. Zoeller (the very Americanized spelling of the traditional German Zöller) is quite the diplomat. His words are carefully selected, almost dutifully crafted, as Printing Impressions calls his attention to matters of importance: the direction of the prepress industry, the impact of Adobe's PDF, the limitations of color management, the hype about digital asset management, the debate regarding thermal imaging—in short, the very lifeblood initiatives of Heidelberg Prepress.
"Heidelberg is definitely committed to the full graphic manufacturing process, and Heidelberg can make all options available. We are carefully watching and shaping developments in various market segments such as PDF, CIP3, color management, and automated workflow and process control from prepress, press to finishing," reports Zoeller, with all the pride of a father bragging about the accomplishments of a son who is both a star athlete and star pupil—perhaps even a Hollywood star to boot.
"Our heritage is to offer cutting-edge technology combined with the best service available. And we are determined to continue to bring major innovations to market," Zoeller continues. "Our philosophy is simple: Grow larger by staying small, to be able to focus on the customer."
Zoeller has been the director of prepress marketing for Heidelberg USA since 1997. Previously, he was the manager of business development for Heidelberg's Latin American prepress sales efforts, based in Miami. Zoeller also worked in sales and product marketing for Linotype-Hell before it was acquired by Heidelberg.
What are his thoughts on the prepress industry at present—and Heidelberg's future direction? Let's ask him . . .
PI: Much of the focus of the prepress industry this past year has been on Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF). How will PDF evolve, and how will Heidelberg support it?
Zoeller: "Yes, PDF has dominated workflow discussions for the last year and a half, but the reality up to now has been that PostScript and raster- or RIP-once-output-many (ROOM) workflow solutions like Delta have been, by far, the leading systems installed in the industry. There are a variety of reasons for this, but mostly because they're highly efficient production systems that meet the needs of even high-end applications. Reproducing this type of functionality in a PDF-based workflow is taking a lot more time and resources than people had anticipated.
"The development of today's successful workflow solutions started in the early 1990s, and expanding this functionality into PDF has been a major challenge for Adobe and partners like Heidelberg. Today, every indication is that PDF will be ready for high-end commercial work in 1999.
"Heidelberg, through Linotype-Hell, has had the longest relationship with Adobe of anyone in the industry, and we continue to maintain a close strategic partnership. Heidelberg is very much aware of ongoing developments with PDF, and we will be ready when PDF is ready. Heidelberg will protect its customers' investments by extending the Delta Technology into a workflow based on PDF formats."
PI: What is Heidelberg doing to streamline prepress workflows in terms of digital asset management?
Zoeller: "We've heard a lot of discussion lately about digital asset management. Today, companies face the challenge of first having to organize their workflow processes and make them more efficient, and then tie them into an asset archive or database.
"Once companies have an organized structure and archive for internal use, then expanding access to customers via the Internet is a logical step. Heidelberg is uniquely positioned in this case with its DeltaBase server solution, which offers the tightest integration available between high-end workflow management and a sophisticated database for archiving and retrieving information. Some solutions present a server without a database, and therefore no archiving and retrieval capabilities on the page element level, while others do not integrate the database with the manufacturing workflow.
"Our advantage is that we can serve many different customers, from low- to mid-range Windows NT-based environments up to enterprise-wide solutions, with tight integration into prepress workflows, including digital proofing, imposition and CIP3 generation."
PI: The launch of the Tango drum scanner was quite successful for Heidelberg in 1997. In 1998, your company continued to release scanners that were well-received, such as the Quickstep, Topaz iX and the Tango XL. What does Heidelberg have planned for the scanning market for the next year or so?
Zoeller: "With the Topaz flatbed technology, we provided significant improvements that have proven sufficient for many applications. But in spite of the progress that flatbeds have made, drum scanning remains and will remain the superior technology, and I think the market realizes that. If customers want the best quality scanned image, without compromise, then they have to opt for the drum.
"Heidelberg has expanded its position in the market for mid- to high-end flatbed and drum scanners through innovations in both hardware and software, and will continue to do so in the future. Copydot functionality on flatbed and drum scanners will also play a more important role in the future because, as CTP systems are implemented, the need for fully digital workflows will drive the acceptance of copydot scanning."
Color management continues to be a thorn in the side of some printers and prepress houses. Is ICC-based color management viable today? If not, what needs to happen for it to become truly functional?
Zoeller: "Color management has proven itself. The technology is available now, and its acceptance is growing as more and more people come to understand the benefits.
"The issue today is not so much the technology as it is the implementation and training. Heidelberg understands the requirements of color management throughout the digital workflow, which has also been proven by the fact that both Apple and Microsoft have implemented Heidelberg's color technology into their operating systems.
"Color management is considered a prepress technology but, in fact, Heidelberg is investing a significant number of R&D dollars to assure color management from prepress to press. We want to integrate the two, based on an open CIP3 standard, with the launch of the new CPC2000 control terminal, as well as the new CPC24 color control terminal for our Speedmaster line of presses. The integration of prepress, press and finishing based on CIP3 technology is the single biggest opportunity to boost the productivity of our industry."
PI: Thermal platesetting gained acceptance in 1998, especially in the eight-up market. What is driving its success? Will the four-up market be next?
Zoeller: "The general implementation of CTP technology is not a question anymore, even among commercial printers. Printers of all sizes have realized the benefits and savings that CTP offers in the prepress arena and in the pressroom with faster makeready plus more efficient press utilization, as well as more consistent color throughout a print run. These are the key factors for the technology's positive ROI. A recent GATF survey showed an overwhelmingly positive response by CTP users: More than 75 percent of all CTP recorders installed in 1998 in the U.S. commercial industry were thermal devices, which means the market has accepted thermal as the superior technology.
"The introduction of new thermal media by various suppliers will further strengthen the thermal technology. Heidelberg, through its joint venture with Creo, is by far a leading thermal supplier to the industry, thanks to the technology of the Trendsetter line. Success of these CTP installations is not just because the Trendsetter has proven itself in the field, but because of the excellent workflow technologies in front of the machine.
"The Spectrum dot-based proofer will further strengthen the acceptance of the Trendsetter line in our industry. The four-up market has already seen significant installations in 1998; it is poised to rapidly grow and will overtake the eight-up market latest in the year 2000."