For many years now the graphics industry has benefited from cloud computing, initially with the Software-as-a-Service model pioneered by Agfa and latterly with a growing range of subscriber based cloud services.
Adobe started the cloud ball rolling some years ago with CSS subscriptions and HP has developed the industry’s most ambitious offering with its PrintOS service, available since 2016. Most of the leading manufacturers offer cloud based services and support of one sort or another, but the emphasis on data analytics has not been much trumpeted. That could be changing. Kodak recently announced an extension to its Prinergy prepress workflow and resource management system, intended to optimise human resources and the use of consumables on press.
This new service not only helps offset print service providers save money, but also improves environmental impacts by helping to improve the management of waste, ink and energy usage. It’s based on continual analysis of ink and plate usage, and the data is collected via the Prinergy workflow system. Print service providers can use this information to improve planning and consumables purchasing decisions. The idea is to use real life data to anticipate what to buy and how much of it, and it’s in line with purchasing and procurement models in other sectors such as hospitality and transport.
Kodak reckon that the snappily named Decision Analytics Ink & Plate Usage Service will make it easier for companies to produce accurate quotes and to protect margins, since costs will be known, including labour costs. Inventory planning should also be improved, particularly for packaging printers dealing with lots of different inks.
High level business intelligence is becoming a feature of the wider graphic arts landscape and it will be a tool that allows smaller companies to compete with the megasaurs. Companies that lack their own IT department or business intelligence specialists are vulnerable to competitors who have such resources in place and which use data analytics in their cash flow forecasting and inventory management. But data analytics are not natural companions for inky fingered traditionalists, which is why smaller printing companies should take heed of Kodak’s announcement and start the conversation. Partnering with a manufacturer who can help make sense of the data and how to work with it, is a lot easier and far cheaper than trying to turn oneself into a data mandarin.