The highlights of this year’s conference and what EFI’s products mean to dealers.
Above: EFI President & CEO Jeff Jacobson kicks off the EFI Connect Conference.
On January 17, CJ and I made our way to Las Vegas to attend EFI Connect 2022. It is fitting that our participation at EFI Connect 2022 represented the first major conference we have attended in two years. The event was kicked off by EFI CEO Jeff Jacobson. Rather than doing the perfunctory opening speech, Jacobson recreated a version of the Johnny Carson show and opened by saying, “Let’s make it fun.” His guests on the opening panel were Ken Hanulec, EFI’s vice president of worldwide marketing, and Marco Boer, vice president of EFI’s IT strategies.
Like Carson, Jacobson had his guests sitting on a sofa, and they each took turns responding to questions that fell within their respective areas of responsibility and expertise. They were asked about the current environment, including supply chain issues and labor shortages, as well as the need for people to come together in the creative process. The consensus was print will be important in the restoration of our industry. During the pandemic, corporations reverted to direct mail as one small example of something that was positive that COVID-19 enabled.
In response to the question of trade shows and whether they are coming back, both panelists agreed. Many of the smaller events will disappear. The larger ones, such as Printing United, will return.
Jacobson led the discussion into what print service providers will require in the post-pandemic period, and the response was that there is more flexibility on those large flatbeds which enable printers to become sub-contractors producing things such as cabinets and much more. Ceramics will be another area exploited by inkjet printing, including flooring and a host of other objects printed on ceramic material.
All agreed sustainability is very complicated and difficult to attain. The biggest thing EFI can do is help customers reduce waste, lower production costs, and encourage commercial printers to print things that can be used right away. We would add decorative boxes, but that is a story for another day.
Another area Jacobson and his panel explored was packaging. The big consumer producers such as Procter & Gamble are looking to differentiate themselves in their packaging.
Jacobson then did his impression of Johnny Carson performing his Carnac the Magnificent act wearing a turban and pressing a letter to his head, which supposedly contained a question of great importance. Being Carnac the Magnificent, he knew what was in the letter without opening it and responded, “We have never seen the opportunities I have seen with industrial inkjet—from display to building products and all on inkjet printers.”
The panel continued with an opportunity to discuss just what EFI has been working on during the pandemic. Last year, EFI introduced nine new printers. These included the fastest roll-to-roll printers in the industry, the EFI VUTEk Q3r and Q5r UV LED printers. I believe this is going to be a big year for EFI. Look at Fiery remote diagnostics and UV ink and for EFI to leverage its capabilities developed for textile printing.
We learned a great deal about how EFI is approaching the post-pandemic period. “Consolidation is another important development [for EFI] to do more with fewer disparate models,” said Hanulec.
The panel’s message was that print has an important role to play in the years ahead. It is far from a decaying business. Packaging, display, and improved capabilities of large inkjet flatbeds are the wave of the present, and these will open many new opportunities in the future.
These trends are something we believe in and endorse. We believe print to be the greatest single opportunity for dealers, and we understand what the naysayers have to say about it.
This conference had a lot packed into it, and we came away with some insight as to how EFI anticipates developing the software and hardware to turn the print industry from printing on paper to printing on substrates four inches thick.
The conference also had a special track for the press, featuring a session on what’s new with Fiery in the office. It was presented by Giselle de la Moriniere, senior product marketing manager for EFI. She began with the cut-sheet Fiery customer landscape, an area that many dealers are fully conversant. de la Moriniere made it clear Fiery was up to the challenges facing commercial printers, as well as office/corporate/departmental printing. For the commercial printers, in-plants, and print-for-pay, the task is to get jobs out the door fast with accurate color, reduce costs, and increase profit potential.
For the office that includes creative agencies, professional services firms, education, real estate, and legal. The task enables faster file printing and easier in-house printing with accurate color and integration into corporate environments.
The development of the Fiery in the office is all about making the customer more efficient. This is done by making it less expensive to produce high-volume jobs and being able to reproduce logo-quality color for the most challenging applications.
Another informative presentation was by Toby Weiss, COO and general manager of the EFI Fiery business. His message revolved around customer-focused technology. He started with Fiery JobExpert—Intelligent Automation, which is focused on printing jobs right the first time with no need to hire a prepress expert. By using the latest Fiery technology, waste is minimized, fewer reruns are required, and press utilization is maximized.
The conference had a consistent message that by taking advantage of what Fiery offers, customers can reduce turnaround time, obtain maximum machine performance, capture state-of-the-art graphic color consistency, and more. It can and should be considered a tool to combat inflation.
One of the benefits of attending EFI Connect is the fireside chats. Guy Gecht, former CEO of EFI, instituted this compelling way to interview a leading figure in the world of print and software. To Jacobson’s credit, he continued these chats and did not miss a beat. He picked right up where Gecht left off and interviewed an old friend, Kevin Warren, CMO of UPS. They had worked together at Xerox.
To its credit, EFI added a charitable component to the conference schedule. Frank Mallozzi, EFI’s COO, interviewed Yankee Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera, who discussed his foundation aimed at helping young men and women obtain education and training to become technicians with Fiery certification. Thanks to the efforts of Larry Weiss, CEO, Atlantic, Tomorrow’s Office, and Luis Villa, head of production print for Atlantic, they helped Rivera create a program to train these young people to become fully capable to repair production printers.
What I’ve offered here is only a small fraction of what EFI Connect 2022 had to offer. This conference was completely devoted to print. It addressed everything from the cut-sheet office applications to textile printing.
The years 2022 to 2023 will be pivotal for our industry and particularly for dealers. The world is a different place than the one we knew in 2019. Those changes are permanent, and dealers need to stop looking at recreating the past. Do not make the mistake of taking this shift as a negative. The fact is it is very positive. I believe the next two years are going to present dealers with the greatest opportunities that have ever been offered. All we need is for manufacturers to provide all the support possible when dealers take on their latest production print models.
We thoroughly enjoyed EFI Connect. We would like to end by offering a favorite quote of mine that CJ has heard many times. I believe it sums up everything we experienced at EFI Connect:
“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” Winston Churchill