High hopes for low-cost file-checking

Chris Jordan
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

As the number of digital colour presses - or, as I prefer to call them, 'variable presses' - increases, even in this economic downturn, I continue to search for new inexpensive workflow or high-value tools to help service providers.

This quarter, the UK’s installed base of variable presses will pass 10,000, which means an enormous number of small jobs will be printed on those presses on a daily basis. I still believe that for the majority of digital press users, far too few automated file-checking tools are used.

Cost vs value
In many cases, this is because the sales person selling the digital printer does not understand the value of workflow to the digital service provider, or more often, particularly in Q4, because their sales manager believes that talking about workflow delays the print engine sale.

More often used is the argument that the workflow tools cost too much. Obviously, the higher the cost the more difficult it is for the sales person to give disbelieving digital service providers any good return-on-investment incentives.

So, I am pleased to say that this October a new low-cost digital workflow tool is being shipped. By low cost, I am assured the list price is $5,000, which means it could be as much as £5,000 in the UK, which still makes it very inexpensive.

The product is called Express to Print, or, to give it its correct name, FreeFlow Express to Print. Yes, it is part of Xerox’s digital workflow collection. Although it is targeted at Xerox users, it is not, however, targeted at iGen users or necessarily at high-end, more expensive, variable engines. Its capabilities sit between engine Colour Servers and Xerox’s main FreeFlow products, most of which cost about three to four times as much at £15,000 to £20,000.

The benefits sit between the capabilities of FreeFlow Make Ready and Process Manager. It is a template-driven tool shipping with at least 50 predefined templates to enable easy job composition and file checking. It can check most native composition file formats as well as the less well checked Microsoft Office native files and, obviously, PDF files. The inclusion of an Adobe normaliser means that the file conversion should be of a high standard. The use of templates is because Xerox has found many customers do not want to build or define their own workflows.

It is best described as a ‘semi-automatic’ workflow, not totally ‘hands-free’, but a good step in the right direction. The price point means that customers will be able to easily download and install the software and many will be expected to train themselves. It also probably means that the sales staff are unlikely to be given an incentive to sell it, so I just hope they understand its benefits. The price is very good for many new to or just setting up to sell digital print; I only hope that its low price point does not mean it is neglected by the sales guys.

Chris Jordan is an independent business consultant working in graphic communications. Email: jordanjordan@clara.co.uk


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