Notable Workflow Management Seen at PRINT13

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

There were far too many workflow solutions shown at PRINT to fit into a blog, so I’m going to break it apart into a couple of articles. In this first one, I’ll run through a few of the major workflow management products shown. These products can range from the very simple to the very complex and, to make sense of them, I organize them into three large categories based upon how they program workflows:

  • Direct Linear Workflows: Typically engaged by dropping a file into a hot folder, these workflow management solutions then perform a fixed series of steps to drive a single outcome. A unique linear workflow must be defined for each application type.
  • Conditional Linear Workflows: These solutions still drive workflows in a single direction but contain tests to branch the flow to various workflow streams based upon job attributes. This allows common workflow steps for similar jobs to be  programmed once instead of repeated for every job as with direct linear workflows, but you still need to program unique paths for each and every possible application outcome.
  • Rules-based Automation Workflows: These solutions allow you to create reusable tests and actions and to actually process and loop workflows. This results in fewer, simpler workflow definitions with reusable elements that eliminate the need for explicit definitions for every potential outcome.

One type of workflow is not necessarily better than another. Making the appropriate choice really depends upon your specific automation needs.

Here are some of the ones I saw at PRINT13:

Rules-based Automation Workflows

  • Xerox FreeFlow Core: This is the first in Xerox’s next generation of production workflow automation products. This is a clean-sheet design, with a browser-based interface that adds rules-based automation to FreeFlow, streamlines the overall solution architecture, and elevates Xerox’s offerings in this space to a whole new level. FreeFlow Core is very targeted at workflow automation for digital workflows, although it could certainly be used for hybrid workflows as well. This will become the core workflow engine for their FreeFlow solutions and they also showed a few of these at PRINT as well. Stay tuned for a full product briefing coming soon.
  • Kodak Prinergy: Kodak was only at PRINT with a small booth intended for conversations with their customers. This decision was likely due to spending constraints linked to their emergence from Chapter 11 just prior to the event than any sort of strategic decision. Were they there in demonstration mode, they would’ve certainly been showcasing Prinergy 6, which is a rules-based automation workflow targeted at hybrid offset and digital workflows. Among other things, this new version adds an interface level that allows a much broader audience of people to program and use it without being experts in software programming.

Conditional Linear Workflows

  • HP SmartStream Production Center: HP has managed to connect with a wide number of software and finishing solutions to create a nice workflow automation package designed for their Indigo customers.
  • Konica Minolta EngageIT Automation: Konica Minolta has entered the workflow automation game with a new, clean-sheet design based on the principle that the market segment they’re targeting will get more bang for the buck by automating the 80% or so jobs which are repeatable rather than by trying to automate everything. Their approach tightly integrates a online submission and ordering interface into their workflow automation solution.
  • Xerox FreeFlow Process Manager: With a decade of customer experience and enhancements and numerous complimentary FreeFlow software solution packages, Process Manager is one of the more powerful workflow automation engines on the market. With such a large customer base, it will continue to be sold alongside FreeFlow Core for the foreseeable future.
  • Ricoh TotalFlow Process Director Express: This package is targeted at PDF-based direct mail workflows with nice, graphical programming tools, data extraction software, and various direct mail-specific elements. It can also be used for general PDF workflow automation, but really shines in the critical communications space. PODi members can read the full product briefing.
  • Canon (Océ) PRISMAproduction “Book of One”: PRISMAproduction has been driving continuous feed and high-end cutsheet printers for many years under the Océ name. It is primarily focused on transactional workflow applications but does have graphic arts packages. The newest graphic arts component announced by Canon at PRINT is their “Book of One” solution designed to cost-efficiently drive ultra-short book printing runs.

Direct Linear Workflows

  • Ricoh TotalFlow Production Manager: Ricoh showed their new workflow automation packaged targeted at small to mid-sized cutsheet operations. It is designed to be affordable and easy to use to quickly bring basic workflow automation to these types of shops with a nice graphical interface that defines specific prepress workflows fed by hot folders.
  • Enfocus Switch: This is a really nice, simple workflow automation package from Enfocus that, I think, can even make sense to run alongside other automation packages. Switch is very good at extracting information from PDFs in an automated fashion and has the capability of extracting and processing files from email notes. This means that you can use it to automate getting jobs preflighted and into your workflow from clients who insist on sending them via email rather than use your web portal. This helps let your customers to “always be right” while enabling you to still be efficient.

Stay tuned for some highlights of other workflow-related solutions I thought were especially interesting at PRINT in an upcoming blog posting.

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