How You VDP and Workflow in 2015

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, PODi and Caslon & Company

VDP LanguagesA couple of weeks ago I asked people in the industry to share the VDP languages, workflow solutions and MIS solutions they use. It is always good to take a quick pulse of the industry and the results confirm much of what I already suspected. Here’s what I found:

VDP Languages

I asked what VDP languages people use in their shops and, as you can see, Optimized PDF was the leader by far, followed by PDF/VT and PPML. I think that it is great news that PDF/VT utilization is growing in the industry. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at this chart.

  1. 45% of the respondents used more than one VDP language
  2. I did not specify VDP applications or volumes which might skew the results. For example Optimized PDF might be a common choice for business cards but not so much for direct mail.

WorkflowWorkflow Automation Solutions

Again, there were no big surprises here. For digital workflows, the Xerox FreeFlow family of solutions took the lead, followed closely by EFI Fiery solutions. For offset workflows the most common answer was “None” followed by Kodak Prinergy. Only 11 percent of the respondents use the same workflow automation solution for both their digital and offset workflows.

Prinergy being the leading offset workflow automation solution isn’t surprising to me, but please take the “None” answer with a grain of salt. Many of the “Other” write-in answers were that respondents didn’t offer offset printing services. I suspect that some, if not many, of the “None” answers were due to the same reason. Next time I’ll be sure to include a “don’t do offset” choice to clarify this.

MISMIS Solutions

I find the MIS space to be quite interesting. The leading answers for both offset and digital MIS solutions are “Homegrown” and “None.” EFI PrintSmith and Pace have a slight lead in the digital domain but there are no dominant solutions apparent here. Organizations do, however, often use the same MIS solution for both their digital and offset workflows with 19 percent of the respondents claiming to do so.

It isn’t too surprising for offset and digital businesses to operate similarly even though their production workflows differ. However, the low penetration of commercial MIS solutions indicates to me a lack of appreciation of the value of these solutions combined with a reticence towards changing legacy, often homegrown, business management systems and processes.

RespondentsAbout the Survey

This was a quick, industry straw poll and not an in-depth, scientific survey, but the 53 respondents are sufficient to provide directional indicators for the industry. One method I use to determine response volatility is to check the shapes of the charts at various data collection points. There were no significant fluctuations between the first 35 respondents and the final count which indicates that results are, in fact, stable for the types of establishments represented in the survey. Most of the respondents are small to mid-sized, commercial printers while about 30% declined to describe their operation.


So, the good news is that around 85% of the respondents use some sort of workflow automation and MIS solutions. More good news is that PDF/VT is picking up steam as a used standard. I also consider it good news that less than 10 percent of the respondents use homegrown workflow automation solutions. This, to me, is an indication that the market is accepting that there are enough commercial workflow solutions available to reduce the need for building and maintaining their own systems. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem that the same can be said about MIS. According to this study, 70 percent of the respondents either use homegrown or no MIS systems.  There’s a real opportunity here.

Solly McBooOne Other Thing

I’d like to close with something that has nothing to do with VDP, workflow or MIS. My friend, Dwayne Magee, Director of College Press & Postal Services at Messiah College, wrote a children’s book titled “A Blue-Footed Booby Named Solly McBoo” and is donating all the royalties he receives through the end of July to help pay medical expenses for a friend of his with breast cancer. I can’t attest to the quality of the book, although it looks good and I just ordered one for my kids, but I can attest to this being an example of how printers are good people. If you have a child or grandchild and would like to help, you can order one at:

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