EFI Connect 2022 Attracts Hundreds of Printing Industry Leaders to Las Vegas to Learn About Digital Print Innovations
EFI Connect attracted printing industry leaders from across the globe to the Wynn Las Vegas resort for the 22nd edition of the conference. The event, which featured speakers from EFI, eProductivity Software, IT Strategies, and more, comprised a robust educational program both on the main stage and in the more than 130 breakout sessions. Additionally, the live, in-person event also empowered print service providers in all segments to network and learn from each other.
Pre-conference activities started on January 17, 2022, and the official opening keynote was given by Electronics for Imaging’s CEO Jeff Jacobson on January 18. Inspired by late night talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring John Carson, Jacobson’s keynote speech was a fast-moving yet approachable dive into an analysis of the printing industry as a whole as well as a report of EFI and its latest developments. The jokes were plenty, and laughter emanated from behind the face masks of the 600-plus reported attendees at the event.
The elephant in the room
The format was the perfect icebreaker to discuss the recent sale of eProductivity Software. Jacobson from behind his talk-show host desk acknowledged the topic right away as the “elephant in the room,” and a literal print-out of an elephant was paraded across the stage. Jacobson used the opportunity to show his support of the new CEO of eProductivity Software, Gabriel (Gaby) Matsliach. [Click here to read more about the eProductivity Software sale.] Jacobson and Matsliach then teased out that further introductions to the leadership team behind eProductivity Software and private equity firm Symphony Technology Group were coming. Before those introductions, though, Jacobson wanted to shift the focus back on print service providers and their challenges and opportunities.
How PSPs can transform shortage challenges into opportunities
Next, Jacobson brought IT Strategies vice president Marco Boer on stage. Boer is no stranger to the Packaging Impressions audience. He is a conference co-chair of our own annual Digital Packaging Summit and often plays a leadership and advisory role with Packaging Impressions’ sister publications.
Boer and Jacobson dove straight into a discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing the printing industry today, including labor and supply shortages. Boer, always one to bring fresh insight, noted while many are focused on “The Great Resignation” phenomenon happening now. It’s part of a greater labor supply issue that will intensify in the near future. “If you look at the demographics,” Boer said, “since the economic recession in the 2008, we’ve had half a billion fewer births. Those first babies who were born in 2008 will start entering the workforce in 2026. This means we’re going to have half a million fewer workers entering the workforce, and we’re going to be competing for those workers with all these other industries.” This, Boer explained, is one of the many reasons print service providers need to automate. The PSPs that survive and thrive will be the manufacturers that know how to optimize their operations with automation.
Boer also noted there’s an opportunity within the supply chain crisis. First, acknowledging that the pain points of finding media and inks are very real, Boer also explained that because the supply chain problems have cut across industries they have opened up the opportunity for print service providers to pass along costs. This, he said, broke with printing industry precedents.
The supply chain conversation also is helping print service providers break away from bidding contests held by their customers’ procurement departments. With this new access to marketing and branding departments, PSPs can also spark conversations with their customers about more high-value printing projects that are less likely to be commoditized. Boer shared a story of a Nozomi customer who converted business from a rather plain corrugated carton to a color box that differentiated the brand from its competition. This PSP had relayed the conversation to Boer with this telling quote from the printed packaging buyer. This buyer said in faux anger, “I’m going to be paying you three to four times more from here on out to get those beautiful boxes because they raised my sales something like 20%.”
Commitment to innovation in inkjet printing on corrugated
EFI-specific announcements also played a prominent role in the conference. With product announcements and updates made on both the main stage as well at a press conference held on January 19, 2022. Packaging Impressions’ readers will be glad to learn that package printing innovation continues to be a strong focus of the company. “2022 is going to be an exciting year for EFI from a packaging perspective,” Ken Hanulec, vice president of worldwide marketing, EFI, remarked during a press conference held at EFI Connect 2022. Hanulec explained that much of this focus is driven by the demand from print service providers like Packaging Impressions’ readers. “We saw substantial growth in our packaging business last year,” Hanulec explains, “and we’re forecasting to double that substantial growth this year.” We heard this positive sentiment toward innovating for package printing repeated by several EFI executives during the conference including Jacobson, who took every opportunity possible to mention Nozomi on stage.
But there’s a new darling on the block for inkjet printing on corrugated, and it’s something that Packaging Impressions has been covering since the printer’s original announcement in 2021 — MCorr. At EFI Connect 2021, the excitement around this device was palpable, with the audience reacting strongly to conversations about convergence and how MCorr can enable more print service providers to enter new markets.
This was a message echoed by Hanulec during the press conference, “It’s a much different story when you can go to a printer and say, “Hey, for a million dollars, you can get started in this business. … When you think about a company like DS Smith, in Europe, for example, that’s got 90-plus production locations: They don’t necessarily need the horsepower of 1,000 boards an hour at every one of those sites, but they have a couple of the big production houses and then the feeder locations that can do a couple of hundred boards an hour. MCorr satisfies the needs of those markets.” MCorr is scheduled to come to market in Spring 2022.
Software innovations take down roadblocks to digital printing optimization
Any discussion around production printing wouldn't be complete with a conversation around software. This was also true at EFI Connect 2022, where EFI conducted the first-ever live demonstration of the new EFI Fiery FS500 Pro DFE at EFI Connect 2022. The company says the EFI Fiery FS500 Pro, the most advanced print server in EFI’s 30-plus year history, processes graphics-intensive jobs up to 50% faster than previous EFI Fiery DFEs. And, a Fiery JobExpert feature for the DFE can streamline job prep tasks, saving valuable time by automatically choosing the correct color and imaging settings. Fiery FS500 Pro also provides an extensive collection of additional, innovative new features that address top challenges print businesses face, such as shorter runs, faster turnaround times, less experienced staff, increased security standards, and the need to reduce costs.
Of specific interest for label and packaging print service providers was the debut of the EFI Fiery Impress DFE, a scalable, flexible server, and color management solution for inkjet label and packaging applications as well as for inline manufacturing lines that need variable print. The Fiery Impress DFE can drive entry-level, mid-range, or high-volume inkjet equipment on a range of hardware platforms. For example, users can output TIFFs to a storage location for entry-level CMYK digital presses or produce rapid, RIP-while-printing output of variable-data content to high-volume, continuous-feed seven-color digital presses. Fiery Command WorkStation is standard with the Fiery Impress DFE. A wide range of integrated software options, including prepress, color management, workflow automation, and EFI IQTM cloud analytics are also available.
Training for the future
Connect 2022’s educational offerings included a two-day, accelerated Expert/Professional training for certification on Idealliance G7 print specifications. G7 certified print professionals know how to analyze color and print-related issues and take corrective action to bring systems and processes in control to a set method, standard or specification with repeatable, predictable results. Skills that are especially critical as the printing industry experiences an influx of employees new to the trade.
On the subject of young employees entering the printing industry, perhaps the session that pulled on the heartstrings most strongly at EFI Connect 2022 involved Hall of Fame Pitcher and MLB All-Time Saves Leader Mariano Rivera. Although Rivera is retired from baseball, he is still striving to be the greatest of all time. This time, Rivera is working to transform the lives of underserved minority youth with an occupational training program through the Mariano Rivera Foundation. During the keynote session, several of the foundation’s graduates joined on stage and virtually to explain that the vocational training programs provided them with an occupation and a sense of purpose.
The foundation’s new graphic arts industry-sponsored activities began in 2021 with a training program in Gainesville, Florida. The program will expand through a new Mariano Rivera Foundation center to be built in New Rochelle, New York. EFI was also an early collaborator with the foundation — helping the foundation understand the certifications crucial to the students’ future success in the printing industry, such as the aforementioned Idealliance G7 certification.
At Connect 2022, several of the foundation graduates received their certifications online. Additionally, EFI used the inspirational session to compel several of its printing industry partners to support the foundation, joining early supporters of the Mariano Rivera Foundation, including NAPCO and the Printing United Alliance.