Transitioning to new business models

Chris Knighton
Friday, August 7, 2020

Chris Knighton explains how HP’s cloud-based software can help printers transition to new business models and plug the gap between the print buyer and the print producer.

Chris is PSP global head of sales and business development at HP’s Solutions Group. He is responsible for taking HP’s production and automation solutions into the PSP (print services provider) world, specifically helping to grow the number of brands that are connected to HP’s PSP community.

HP’s Site Flow software is now used by PSPs in around 40 countries around the world – last year 200 million items were produced through the platform.

We now have some 600 brands connected to those print providers including well-known providers such as Zazzle, Pearson, Photobox, Kellogg’s, Cloudprinter, Wonderbly and Cimpress – you name it they’re sending items through our platform.

However, what we've seen during the Covid-19 pandemic has been quite phenomenal.
Due to the situation a lot of people have been at home, and they’ve been at home with their children. So they're placing orders for B2C products and B2B2C products.

Some of our customers are saying they are four- or five-times up on where they were last year at this time, and have been rushed off their feet.

The other side of the situation is, unfortunately, that a lot of PSPs have found themselves in a position where their work has dried up.

We at HP thought, let's try and find a solution from a business continuity perspective and try to help everyone.

Our Site Flow solution is designed to help organisations take their first steps in online ordering and we now have a ‘light’ version: Site Flow Light.

It does exactly what it says on the tin, it means that PSPs can get started within an hour or two, and then a brand or another print service provider can get connected to them and start submitting some jobs.

There are two products involved: Site Flow, which is the receiving tool, and then we have another solution called Brand Centre, which is used by anyone to send the orders.

As a service provider you get both of them so you can both send and receive. Importantly, there are no monthly subscription fees.

The level of interest that we've experienced has been very, very strong and we think it’s compelling. We see huge amounts of opportunities for PSPs to work together – we call them the Site Flow family. All of the leading companies across the industry are using our platform, because it helps them to scale.

For example, we were working with a customer last year that submitted 100,000 orders within one hour. And that involved two million artwork files!

To handle that HP span up about three and a half thousand servers in AWS (Amazon Web Services cloud computing) and we were processing 35,000 API calls a second.

That’s the sort of power that global brands are relying on, and that's what the PSPs are subscribing to. It means that they don't need to build that infrastructure themselves, they don’t have to scale their own operation, because it’s in the cloud. That’s the problem that HP solves.

What we want to do is help PSPs create faster, easier connections with other PSPs and with brands. By creating a single gateway, a single platform, that both the brands and the print service providers connect to, it then means that everyone's got a common adapter – a common plug, and a common interface to be able to shift the jobs around.

Site Flow Light is typically geared up for customers that want to take their first foray in providing digital orders and provide an API. Not all printers have the technical capabilities to set up an API themselves.

As soon as a PSP signs up for Site Flow Light, they have an API and they have credentials, and people can connect to the PSP and send orders.

Once customers start taking advantage of the platform, they generally don't move away from it and there’s a number of different reasons for that.

PSPs want to take advantage of the Site Flow product for what it is, which is an infrastructure solution.

Our goal is to provide that scalable infrastructure which means the printer doesn't have to try and do it themselves.

Also, from a production perspective we can help introduce huge amounts of efficiencies because of all of the automation that we have in the system.

Any job that comes in isn't touched until it gets printed. Every single pre-press step is automated and then all of the scheduling and shipping is barcode driven as well, so there's very little operator intervention required.

And then, from a sales perspective and perhaps from more of a CEO perspective, PSPS are particularly interested in it because they can gain volume.

If you look at online buying behaviour in general we as consumers are now either completing our transactions without human interaction, or we're doing the research for the products that we want to buy online, and then we're calling up to place the order.

We're intelligent consumers, making most of our decisions without human interaction.

We have to provide the toolset to PSPs, so that over the next few years they can be equipped for that as well – because the old business model of having a large army of road warriors out there selling print across the country is just not economically viable anymore.

My advice to customers thinking about using Site Flow is to start with one brand. Once you've got them onboarded, and once you see the value, you will then be evangelising this across all your production staff, you’ll be taking it up to your salespeople, and you'll be equipping them with the knowledge that they need to find more customers like the first one.

Everyone that you then onboard thereafter where you've got the automation, you've got zero touch… your margins are just that much higher.

What we've tried to do is build a system that is easy to configure and fast to deploy. Some of our customers have deployed it in as little as a week and have been in a position where they've been able to produce and ship thousands and thousands of jobs in the days following that.

It’s also important to note that we've also built it in such a way that PSPs don't have to throw everything away that they’ve invested in over many years.

If, for example, a firm wanted to introduce automation into their finishing setup they could potentially be faced with a huge capital outlay.

Instead, what we've tried to do is identify where the touch points are and remove as many of those wherever we possibly can throughout the lifecycle of a job.

So, it means that if a PSP has a certain set of equipment, they don’t need to touch that. Because we are automating all of the other things that need to be done.

Finally, we also see number of PSPs that have built their own systems or have stitched together a collection of tools with some code to accomplish some of what Site Flow does.

Unfortunately, many have experienced poor reliability combined with spiralling developer and infrastructure costs. They now employ expensive teams to expand, maintain and rebuild these home-grown solutions, which no longer provide competitive advantage or differentiation. Leadership teams in many of these PSPs are now making the smart decision to transition to HP Site Flow, freeing up their resources and substantially reducing their people and systems costs.

Any PSP or brand can take advantage of our solutions, irrespective of whether they are producing on HP devices. Of course, we'd like to have them to be producing on HP equipment, but if they're not, then we'd like them to be a future equipment customer too, but it is not a requirement.

So come take advantage of our solutions and we can help you on that journey to increased sales and productivity, reduced costs and higher margins!

To find out more about HP Site Flow visit or email us at



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