EFI wants to develop the SME and MSME business

The EFI Connect was not merely a garb for a marketing opportunity but a platform to help customers to gaze into the future of print. Sriraam Selvam reports

13 Mar 2015 | By Sriraam Selvam

Imagine the sight of the dazzling, coveted Tesla further ‘wowed’ by snazzy futuristic wrap designed by 3M using EFI inkjet press. Well, that was the first attention grabber as you enter EFI’s Connect 2015 user conference in Las Vegas, from 19 to 23 January 2015.
Marc Olin, COO of EFI, who was recently named as interim CFO, was the first to address the 1,500 strong diverse (25 countries) audience about EFI’s ecosystem and mainly the state of inkjet and Fiery line of business.
“Interestingly, we are one of the few companies in the world which reinvests at least 20% of their revenue in research and development for innovations in good and bad times,” explained Olin.
The company which recently posted a record revenue for FY ‘14 (USD790 million) has an ambitious: USD one billion as the target revenue by the end of FY ’16.
Inkjet: Mission India
“Inkjet represents 50% of the revenue with the Fiery and the software suites make up the remaining revenue- (with) the enhancement of the LED technology continuing to be our focus area for the inkjet business where there is energy savings of up to 80%,” said Olin.
Olin also shared the advancements made to other Vutek presses including the HS 100 PRO which gets an automated loading and unloading option along with the enhancement in technology to run corrugated board (they can print on bubble wraps too) opening the press to packaging industry utilisation.
“One of our recent acquisition of a thermoforming ink company has enabled the possibility of our presses to even print on plastic,” added Olin to the list of inkjet related innovations.
During one of the presentations, Ken Hanulec, vice president of marketing, EFI Inkjet Solutions, said 2014 was the strongest year to date for EFI’s Jetrion line of inkjet label presses. “We had a highly successful 2014 Labelexpo, which added to a great year overall for Jetrion,” he said.
He also highlighted the success of Cretaprint with a total of 500 installations worldwide and the complete integration of the Cretaprint system with EFI inkjet.
The India numbers
Interestingly enough, India is yet to see an installation for Jetrion. To date, EFI’s installation base include 26 Vutek inkjet machines, 18 entry-level Rastek machines and eight Cretaprints. 2015 is when EFI expects to put their foot on the pedal.
One of the key takeaways from Hanulec’s presentation was the intent of EFI to utilise thermoforming inks as a possible replacement to screen printing.
“We see therforming inks as part of EFI’s analog to digital conversion strategy,” said Hanulec.
Reaching out to a billion
Guy Gecht’s (CEO of EFI) keynote and his quote worthy wisdom makes it one of the most anticipated sessions at Connect (many fondly remembered his window of opportunity speech in 2012 and his high-powered chat with Benny Landa). This includes his fire-side chat sessions with thought leaders of the industry. This year, Gecht’s keynote was funny and thought provoking in equal measure with focus on EFI’s commitment in helping print businesses navigate through an ever-changing industry using ‘GPS’ as an analogy.
“EFI would like to help you navigate where you want to take your company. We also want you to be our GPS,” said Gecht.
Dwelling into cases where he felt companies stopped using ‘GPS’, he pointed out the case of former American video rental giants, Blockbuster.
“In 2004, the company made USD 6-billion with 60,000 employees. Today, Netflix has roughly USD 6 billion in revenue, with just 2,000 employees,” he said, drawing comparisons with their erstwhile replacement in the market space.
“We spend 10% of our time on what went well and 90% of our time on what we can do better,” said Gecht, concluding the need to constantly looking at things to improve and stay ahead in the business.
The Guy-Benny show
Gecht also discussed his goal for EFI, which is to see it become a USD 1-billion company by 2016 and listed a set of landmarks for the year. The keynote also included a surprise and rather hilarious cameo of Benny Landa, appearing via a Skype call from his home in Israel, woken up at the wee hours with the motive to emphasise the ongoing work on Fiery for Landa B1 format S10.
The Gecht-Landa interaction also featured Landa showing portraits around his bed which included a life-size portrait of Gecht which threw the crowd into a fit of laughter.
“We want to help family-owned small to medium size businesses succeed in ‘The Imaging of Things’” summed up Gecht during one of the later Q&A with the media.
The Production Suite approach
The biggest news coming out of EFI Connect was the announcement of the EFI Productivity Suite (EPS) which will truly integrate production and business management solutions available with EFI. This shifts the focus from workflows for individual software offering to a common workflow for all
EFI enabled software solutions.
Speaking in his first EFI Connect conference, Gaby Matsliach, general manager and senior vice-president of EFI Productivity Software Group, said “The move towards the integrated offering will future-proof your (clients) investment in the company’s products and enable easy scalability”
“There are many best-of-breed software but the end-to-end flow is missing. It’s time for a best-of-suite approach. This (EPS) is certified end-to-end workflow out-of-the-box,” he added.
The productivity suite puts the Monarch, Radius and Pace ERP suites at the core of the entire workflow with other software solutions being knitted around them.
“The idea is to enable each of our functional consultants to evolve to business consultants who can help their clients in futuristic business decisions,” said Matsliach.
The Productivity Suite is expected to roll out by the end of March 2015.
“The effort in developing these certified workflows began about eight months back and every day we are fine tuning them and coming up with new iterations” said Nick Benkovich.
Dismantle the walls
Speaking exclusively to PrintWeek India on the sidelines of EFI Connect 2015, Guy Gecht sounded optimistic about the Indian economy under the newly-formed NDA government.
“Apart from our strategic plan for India, we are quite bullish about the overall economic environment in the country under the new government and we see India as a significant contributor to our one-billion target,” he added.
Gecht spoke in length about the company’s new office in Fremont which has been developed on the open office architecture that “removes all walls and any sort of partition in the environment and no designated cabins to anyone”.
“It’s challenging for many, but I personally seem to love it because it gives me the freedom to walk around and interact more with my team than ever before,” he explained.
EFI in Bengaluru
Interestingly, the Fremont model has been replicated in Bengaluru too. A majority of the research and development for the flagship Productivity Suite is taking place in EFI’s development centre located in Bengaluru. “In fact, Bengaluru is the only place where you can find teams for all EFI software products,” explained Benkovich.
(An aside: The possibility of EFI’s Indian centre’s strength being greater than EFI’s headquarters at Fremont was part of the banter during the conference)
Fiery: Collaborating for success
“The Fiery team is working hard to ensure you get the maximum from your digital print engine,” said Olin, talking about EFI’s flagship product which continues to be the most popular and widely used digital print server.
Fiery FS150 Pro was one of the new introductions for the year along with the command workstation, which has seen several thousands of download so far.
Dynamic HD text and graphics for enhanced results on fine details and text enabling higher degree of clarity was demonstrated, and the FastRIP option, which increases speed by seven to eight times from before, was also highlighted.
“Fiery also is the only digital front end to get a VIGC perfect pass certification,” added Olin.
Toby Weiss, senior vice-president and general manager of Fiery products, believes the roadmap for this group of products involves constant collaboration with the OEMs to produce the best results customised for their presses individually.
Fiery: 200 Indian developers
“The Indian market has huge scope for growth and we are excited about the possibilities especially in segments like photo album industry,” added Weiss, when asked about specific plans for Fiery in India.
Wiess reiterated the Indian connection vis-à-vis EFI’s R&D.
“We have a flurry of development for the Fiery servers happening in India. In fact, we have almost 200 developers exclusively working on Fiery in India,” he explained.
EFI Connect featured various exhibits from partner digital press companies who have collaborated to customise the Fiery to ensure maximum throughput for each of their press specifically. 
This included Xerox with their Versant 2100.
Canon, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Esko along with companies like 3M (who were busy with all the attention on Tesla), AccuZIP, SurgeX, etc were other companies who were part of the event as exhibitors.
The first of Guy Gecht’s fireside chats first featured Tom Quinlan CEO of RR Donnelley who was frank about his thoughts on the state of the printing industry and shared his views on the dynamic nature of the market.
“Our industry is doing better than most people think – printing’s death has been greatly exaggerated,” Quinlan told Gecht whose company is ranked 264 in the Fortune 500 list.
“Print is going to be a core component to any communication plan – it’s tangible and shareable,” he added.
Quinlan talked about RR Donnelley’s three Cs for success: “It’s about putting the customer first, then capacity and cost,” he said. Quinlan stressed the emergence and the ever-growing importance of having personalised relationships with customers (RRD’s client’s client).
“Personalisation is key. We try to synchronise our message, to help our customers’ customer have more of an interaction with them.” Quinlan also spoke in length about recovering from mistakes while asked about the highs and lows of his career.
““The equity we had built up, over that time period before I got here, by my predecessor and their predecessors, allowed us to survive that and go on, and that’s something we cherish,” said Quinlan.
The second fireside chat with Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D systems was much anticipated and many described as terrific (in terms of redefining printing for the future).
“It’s not a question of if every house will have a 3D printer someday, it’s a question of where will you put it,” said Reichental, when asked on his prediction of the future of 3D printing.
Reichental spoke in length of 3D print applications including in healthcare (‘printing’ of human parts for implants) to consumer product printing (he literally unbelted to show off his ‘3D printed’ belt)
“In the traditional print space, we see every print shop having a 3D printer in the near future as a means of prototyping replacing 2D blueprints for manufacturing and other industries,” he explained.
“The application is actually limited only by imagination. We live in exponential times and as technology companies our job is to disrupt,” added Reichental.