ePS Connect 2023 Conference Does Not Disappoint
The following article was originally published by In-plant Impressions. To read more of their content, subscribe to their newsletter, IPI E-News.
Though the Connect user conference has been a fixture in Las Vegas every winter for 23 years, this year’s meeting marked the first time it was hosted by eProductivity Software (ePS). Comparisons with past EFI Connect conferences were inevitable.
Held once again at the Wynn Las Vegas, Jan. 23-26, Connect 2023 drew more than 700 attendees, fewer than the 1,000+ who attended some previous incarnations, but several hundred more than at last year’s pandemic-influenced event. There were more exhibitors this year, though – 24 in all, including HP, Ricoh, Canon, Agfa, EFI, and Fiery.
The crux of the conference were the dozens of user sessions, which delved deeply into specific products and features, offering how-to techniques and problem-solving advice that enthralled attendees. They focused on ePS systems like Enterprise Commercial Print (e.g., Monarch ERP), the MarketDirect Platform, the Midmarket Print Suite (e.g. Pace), and Packaging offerings like Radius ERP.
One of the biggest updates to ePS products is the move to browser-based interfaces. Products like iQuote, an intelligent job quoting and planning tool, and PrintFlow 4D, a job scheduling tool, were demonstrated using the new browser interface. The most powerful aspect of iQuote, proclaimed Nick Benkovich, VP of portfolio product management for ePS, is its “calculate” button, which does thousands of estimates in seconds based on different press configurations and papers, to come up with the best price. Any parameter can be changed, such as requiring a job to run on an offset press, and iQuote will generate a report showing the old and new prices.
The Pogo app was also debuted at Connect 2023 as part of the Midmarket Print Suite. Available soon, it will allow field service installers to capture signatures and photos as proof of delivery.
Connect was also peppered with high-level keynote presentations covering convergence, sustainable packaging legislation, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Customer panel sessions brought out feedback from customers on their experiences with ePS products. And a woman’s networking luncheon featured the stories of successful industry women and an opportunity to brainstorm ways to introduce more women to printing industry careers.
‘Unlocking Business Value’
In his welcome address, Gabriel (Gaby) Matsliach, CEO of ePS, talked about the challenges customers have faced since 2020 and how we are now entering the fourth year of unpredictability.
That said, he insisted that “our passion is always about unlocking business value. This is our commitment to you in years to come.”
Matsilach lauded attendees, noting that they, along with ePS, “enable the creation of innovative communications and consumer experiences that drive a more engaging, colorful and sustainable world.”
A fireside chat brought ePS Executive Chairman Mark Olin into the role of interviewer as he sat down with Ford Bowers, CEO of PRINTING United Alliance, to discuss the evolution of the Alliance and the state of the print industry. Seven years ago, when Bowers took the helm of the association – then called SGIA – he saw screen printing being replaced by digital printing, and noticed how inkjet technology was being applied to commercial and packaging applications. In his quest to get commercial and packaging printers to attend the SGIA Expo, he steered the association into a partnership with NAPCO Media, the publisher of In-plant Impressions and Printing Impressions, which already had myriad connections to these businesses. SGIA eventually purchased NAPCO and changed its name to the PRINTING United Alliance.
The association’s goal, Bowers said, is to “carry the flag” for the entire printing and packaging industry, touting its value, providing education, and fostering partnerships.
“We’re trying to build an industry-wide platform,” he said. “We really want to partner with other associations.”
Bowers confessed feeling a strong sense of pride from being part of such a vital industry.
Noting the increasing amount of convergence in the industry, driving commercial, packaging, and wide-format printers to diversify their services, Bowers encouraged these companies to consult with clients about the services they are buying elsewhere before deciding which new products to begin offering.
“It’s easier to expand your relationship with the customers that you have,” he noted.
Those customers want to be able to buy different types of print from the same source; if your company can’t provide those additional services, your customers will find a provider that can, he said.
In her keynote about sustainability, Jessica Lobo, Global Goals and Climate Programme Manager at UN Global Compact Network UK, pointed out that companies that embrace sustainability and take action on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues show better stock performance and improved customer loyalty than those that don’t. Studies show that 49% of investors are willing to divest from companies not taking sufficient action on ESG issues, she said. What’s more, employees prefer working for companies with sustainable values.
Lobo went on to list the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and presented examples of companies that have incorporated SGDs into their practices. One ink company challenged its employees to come up with ideas and has since put many of them into action, such as redesigning ink containers so customers can get more ink out of them. Another company reinvented its packaging with sustainable materials. Sustainable packaging, Lobo added, is the number one preference of consumers when it comes to sustainability initiatives. In short, she said, companies that innovate around SGDs are today’s leading companies.
Rounding out Connect 2023 was a keynote by Flexible Packaging Association president and CEO Alison Keane, who leveraged her quarter of century of experience as environmental attorney in both the private and government sectors to bring clarity to the myriad of extended producer responsibility laws being implemented at a quick pace by states. Click here to read more about Keane’s keynote address.
Exhibitors at Connect 2023 were very pleased with the inaugural ePS users conference.
“We needed to be here,” said Bob Raus, HP’s Category Manager, Workflow and Partner Programs.
HP has worked closely with ePS to integrate its Pace and Radius systems with the HP Indigo digital press portfolio. At Connect, Raus shared with attendees how HP has invested in production automation for prepress, press and post-press operations, and talked with them about HP's PrintOS Cloud print production operating system and other HP investments in automation, such as fully automated on-press G7 certification.
“The partnership’s been amazing,” he said.
Being at Connect, talking with customers, and listening to their concerns, Raus said, is invaluable. HP’s goal at Connect, he added, was to “help accelerate customer success.”
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.