EFI Connect: the magic formula
Sophie Matthews-Paul comments on the latest Las Vegas gathering organised by EFI for its customers and staff, members of the press and assorted luminaries and explores why this user forum is such a hot ticket on the print industry calendar.
For those of us fortunate enough to be making the return trip to EFI Connect there is an air of happy reunion that umbrellas the event. Set, as always, at The Wynn in Las Vegas, USA, this annual gathering of customers and channel partners has continued to rise in popularity exponentially as the years have passed. Yet despite having to cater for burgeoning numbers, the format succeeds in carrying off a community ethos. It encourages the introduction of new attendees and promotes networking opportunities among those who might not be a specialist in your own industry segment, embracing and embodying the Connect moniker.
Guy Gecht is an exemplary master of ceremonies with his ability to blend together serious topics with a brand of humour that only he can generate. As a chief executive officer who has a deep understanding of all the industry sectors that fall within EFI's remit, he is also very aware of emerging technologies and the impact they might have on the future of print.
Giving attendees the background on EFI's activities during the past twelve months, Marc Olin, who is currently chief operating officer and interim chief financial officer, also demonstrated his entrepreneurship and how he has become one of the industry's driving forces. In his résumé of the last year we were given a thorough insight into the undertakings and, of course, the success stories that have emanated from a growing portfolio across all the relevant processes.
In wide-format terms it came as no surprise to learn about the increased automation that has been added to the flagship VUTEk HS100 Pro but, wisely, EFI is simply enhancing the versatility of this combination flat-bed and roll-fed 3.2m engine. As a result, this printer is targeted sensibly at users who need high-end productivity, exacting quality standards and flexibility that represent necessary criteria across a variety of production segments.
At the other end of the scale, Olin informed us that the H1625 hybrid LED UV-curable printer had outstripped expectations and had proved to be so popular it had sold out in Q2 and Q3 2014. Likewise, the introduction of seven-picolitre UltraDrop technology has upped the quality stakes across much of the VUTEk and wide-format printer series and, as expected, the company's move away from mercury arc curing has met with continued success.
However, it was Gaby Matsliach, new to EFI as general manager and senior vice-president of EFI Productivity Software, who resonated the growing importance of true end-to-end workflows in today's production environments of all sizes. Although he is new to print, his experience and empathy relating to software shone through and his comments relating to present-day and future dynamics rang true in terms of job requirements being shorter, faster and cheaper while becoming more complex.
Driven by the need for increasing integration, this is reflected in the change of name to EFI Productivity Suite that covers print, labelling and packaging via a modular and certified set of out-of-the-box components. The company's broad-ranging portfolio, that starts with web-to-print and multi-channel, and travels via pre-press and workflow requirements to business management products, presents the ideal scenario for knitting together the various elements required to simplify and unify a true end-to-end print environment. The intention is to encourage greater efficiency and hence help businesses to grow leanly and profitably but, while EFI might labour this point as a sort of mantra, it is well justified in so doing because the company has the products, the structure and the experience to provide this kind of solution.
Discussions at Connect also revealed the growth of EFI's software-intensive DFE as Fiery continues to blaze a trail with increased processing speeds. Likewise, we were provided with updates on the Cretaprint ceramics printer, with 500 now sold world-wide, and the growing impact of the Jetrion label series on the converting market. With 60 VUTEk HS100 Pro machines in the field to date and the trend for digital packaging being among the areas ably covered by this engine, additional colours are being added for 2015 including orange, purple, light black and clear. Not surprisingly, EFI's determination to pursue the LED curing route in UV-curable has continued to reap benefits, an accurate prediction made by Ken Hanulec, vice-president Inkjet Solutions, more than two years ago.
As I write this, Connect has just closed its doors for 2015 and the attendees are contemplating or commencing their journeys home. For many, including me, the tedium of a long-haul flight will allow plenty of time to reflect on how EFI always makes such a success of this event. You come away from it feeling that, despite being one of 1,500 industry people present, you received individual attention from the company. I still can't work out how this magic formula is achieved across such a disparate gathering of printing folk.