Summer Sun

12 11 2012

Well we are over the long winter (here’s hoping) and its only a few weeks before its summer again. Although there are times in the Deep South that are still reminding us of winter.

It’s officially summer next month and, as I am writing this blog, there are hail stones battering against the window. Good old Dunners.

I thought, with all the extra outdoor activities beckoning and people starting to move around a lot more, it would be a great time to talk about logistics. Getting things from A to B.

In many cases timely delivery of printed material is just as important – or even more important – than the printing of the job itself. The impact of the digital media age has meant that print material is needed in extra short time frames (when compared to expectations of just a few years ago).
Printing has always been subject to deadlines, whether it be a marketing campaign release date or an end-of-month billing run – however the lead times we were given when I started in the industry (during the 1980’s) are nothing like what are given today.

Way back in the days of fixed close and ship schedules, printers were able to maximise profits by scheduling jobs, with similar specifications, to be run concurrently. This meant less press changes, paper changes and finishing machine change-overs for the manufacturer. This was great for the manufacturer’s productivity and profits, however, customers often needed to ensure many weeks “lead time” were given to the printers. Of course you could always pay a premium for a fast delivery – did I hear someone laugh.

As technology improved the speed of machine make ready and the level of production capacity has increased exponentially – the customer can now expect to receive their job whenever they need it (hence the all-encompassing term “print on demand”).

The challenge for the print industry has been, therefore, to respond positively to the need for “print on demand”.
In the late 90’s and early noughties Wickliffe’s response to this challenge was to increase capacity and capability in production. Wickliffe increased press power by purchasing new and varied printing presses which allowed us to reduce lead times and print jobs faster.

Secondly, Wickliffe got directly involved with the post production or delivery stage of the supply chain. Wickliffe invested in warehousing and logistics services to deliver printing faster and also handle speedy distributions and deliveries to multiple sites.

The need to offer logistics solutions led to  Wickliffe purchasing Stocklink, a specialist 3rd party logistics operation in 2002. Many corporates and Government agencies found that the ability to combine print and logistics components, especially in major projects, provided huge cost savings. Good (current) examples of this are the NZ Census, local body and general elections.

Wickliffe also developed an on-line ordering tool (ECOS) that provides real-time access to printed stock, apparel and anything else our customers wanted to store and distribute from Stocklink.
Stocklink has continued to develop our 3rd party logistics offering and is now one of the fastest growing and most profitable divisions of the group. Some of the logistics and supply chain services are as follows.

  • Distribution project management
  • Multi site national storage
  • Pick, Pack and distribute
  • Web-based ordering portals (set up and management)
  • Loyalty scheme set up and management
  • Re-branding projects/ product launches
  • Trade Shows
  • Hard copy Records Storage

Interestingly, much of Stocklink’s growth is coming from non print areas such as apparel/ fashion, retail goods, wholesale goods, records management, electronic parts etc.

Today, these logistics tools and services are available to any customer, providing next day delivery into any region in New Zealand.
If you are looking for storage of products, some smart solutions for distributing your product, or just need to consolidate your supply chain – let me know and we an discuss how Stocklink can make your life easier.

We are excited to welcome Print Counsel as the latest member of the Kalamazoo group .
Print Counsel is an Auckland based print firm specialising in specialty and niche printing products. This brings some interesting new abilities into the group: primarily through the abilities of the Print Counsel’s KBA Genius 52UV printing press.

This is a unique piece of kit that uses a waterless offset process to print on thick and non absorbent stocks. It is also extremely quick to set up and has a very low levels of waste. It can take only 10 sheets to get to the sellable product – saving waste and time cost.

So the Genius is ideal for printing small to medium run packaging in boards or plastics up to 0.8mm thick. Other prime uses are plastic type cards, menus, labels and pot plant tags, shelf wobblers and so on.

The Genius allows us to offer offset quality to pieces that were considered only viable for screen printing in the past. We have some neat sample that we can share showing plastic, 3D and lenticular (image moves when you move the piece) – so ask your account manager to show off what this amazing machine could provide for that “special” printing piece you have been looking for.

For all of you who enjoy the technical details – check out the following video to see what this amazing machine can do.

Well here’s hoping you all enjoy getting into the good weather and I hope to catch up prior to Xmas.

Meanwhile – if you have any questions or comments – please feel free to contact me or leave a comment on the blog.





Happy New Year – lets stick our heads in the cloud?

1 02 2012

Janine Dunlop

I hope everyone had a relaxing and rejuvenating break over Xmas. I think many of us needed a good break after what proved to be a dynamic year in the print industry. I can hardly believe that we are into February already.

This year starts off with changes for the Dunedin Sales team. We welcome Janine Dunlop and Phil Thornton to the fold as we bid a sad farewell to Leanne Downie after almost 8 years in sales support.

Phil Thornton

Both Janine and Phil have extensive experience with our logistics division and will bring that knowledge and experience  across to sales in 2012. I will introduce Phil and Janine to many of you over the coming few weeks, but let me know if you would like a priority intro and I will arrange this for you.

We are also hoping to bring you some good news regarding  upgrades in machinery and technology early in the new year……………….watch this space.

So all in all, a very exciting start to 2012.

Cloud Computing

The “cloud” seems to be on lots of “things to find out about” lists this year.

You have to chuckle at some of these IT terms. IT folk just seem to revel in coming up with terms that evoke mystery. Put very simply “the  cloud”  just means that data, software or IT  is located outside you business (or personal computer if you are operating from home) and accessed via the internet.

A good example, of a simple cloud based solution, is google’s Gmail. In fact, google offers a bunch of cloud based software such as google docs, google sites, google reader etc that are all cloud based and free. Microsoft is also getting on board with MS Office Web apps  – which is a free version of the popular Office suite (although all are cut down versions). This blog is written with cloud based software (the wonderful WordPress) and past posts are stored in the cloud.

Of course the idea of off-site software, data storage and IT is nothing new……so why all the recent fuss. Well, again, it’s largely due to our good friends the smart phone and the ipad. These devices have really made data much more accessable over the past two years. People want to access applications and files wherever they are and on a variety of devices. If your data is stored in the cloud – then it  can easily be accessed from any of your devices (laptop, desktop, ipad, smart phone). There is no need to synchronise files every time you get back to your desktop.

This has  also driven a demand for multiple presentation formats of the same data. For instance, a web site may look great on a desktop screen, however, could need to have a completely different design to make it easy to read and navigate on a smart phone or other mobile device. This is driving a whole new field of opportunities for IT developers and web designers.

Many people (and businesses) are opting for cloud based software as it also removes a lot of the hassle around maintaining software and hardware. Just think – no more expensive upgrades to keep up to date, no more hanging around waiting for the back up tape and dropping it off somewhere safe. No need to buy or replace servers to keep a handle on the ever-growing amount of information that businesses store and transfer today. The software is upgraded in the cloud without a technician in sight and there is an unlimited supply of storage available ( you just pay for the amount you use).

Cloud based software also allows for rapid deployment and lower risk when considering major software changes. With much lower capital investment required, the cost of change is reduced and major change can, at least, be considered (where previously it may not even have made the table if a whole infrastructure change was involved).

As more software organisations are offering cloud-based options we will likely see the following trends:

  • The quick reduction in the cost and availability of data storage……..How much does a 500G external hard-drive cost compared to two or three years ago?
  • Subscription based “cloud” versions of software offered as an option to buying a full license CD or download to your desktop or server.
  • Free subscriptions to cloud applications used as teasers for hardware sales (good news if upgrading your hardware).

So is there a downside to this cloud technology? There has been some discussion around compliance of data stored in the cloud. For example, data held on cloud storage servers in Germany by a New Zealand organisation may need to comply with data storage legislation in both countries. However, if the data was held in China it may only need to comply with NZ legislation. Then there is the area of property and piracy legislation to consider (lots in the news around this at the moment). To say this area is “hazy” is probably an understatement. My personal opinion, is that this will sort itself out as a matter of momentum.

I hope this gives at least a broad understanding of “cloud” computing. Just contact me if you want any more information around any of the subject covered in these blogs.

PS: As part of our sustainability programme – we have converted some waste material into memo cubes which are available, free of charge, to our valuable customers (while stocks last).

I also have some reduced size computer desk pads (with calendar) available – also while stocks last. Just let me know if you would like any of these and I’ll drop off.





DAM – What does it mean and do I need it?

29 11 2011

Digital PeasDigital Asset Management (DAM) never really took off in NZ. Part of the problem is that it’s one of those terms that seems to mean different things to different people. It seemed to segment itself before it really got started .

To most, DAM simply means, an on-line website or library to store all of your digital assets (images, document files etc). However, my mates in print production would refer to DAM as a  process (including software) that manages the ” digital asset” from creation to proof to press and then into storage. Our designers and agencies have even more definitions to share with us.

Around 10 years ago many DAM solutions sprang up due to the need for customers to manage their ever-growing digital assets. Many of these software solutions allowed the customers to manage files on their own servers. This started a shift from all assets being stored and owned by agencies to in-house file management and hosted storage. This was a (potentially huge) revenue loss for agencies who responded by developing even more sophisticated DAM systems. Tools that could provide collaborative on-line file editing and proofing, video and audio file storage and file format conversion. At the same time Google, Microsoft, Xerox and other giants have been developing document storage solutions that act as a DAM tool.

There is no doubt that ” digital asset” storage and administration has fast become a must for most businesses. Almost everything seems to a have a visual component now. With the rapid growth of social media through smart-phones and tablets (% of mobile phones in use that are smart-phones hit 20% last year. Australia is now at 37%) it seems that everything points to a website, You Tube video or just an image. This has led to a whole new need and term – re-purposing.

No longer are images required just for A4 printed pages and websites they are needed for smart-phone compatible websites, wide-screen displays, low resolution, high-definition displays, wide format banners and thumbnails. Images may need to be reformatted to suit the device they are being displayed on (or the purpose of the message). Some DAM software systems include conversion tools so that you can sent a provider the image in whatever format they require (Native, PDF, EPS, TIF, Gif etc). The alternative is to store different format versions on file – exponentially increasing the size of your asset list and the time required to admin.

DAM systems have generally proven to be difficult to use (if you don’t use them regularly), they are also fairly expensive. Many have a license fee for users and a monthly storage-space fee per Gig of data storage.

If this all sounds complicated – you can see why many customers still prefer their designers and agencies to manage their assets for them. So whats the point of DAM software if we can just leave it to the designers and agencies as we did in the past?

Well speed for a start – if you can handle the assets yourself you can save a lot of time and effort. From a printers perspective, we often get less time to print the job than it takes to get the finished file signed off (and into our eager hands). A customer may give us a heads-up on Tuesday that they are hoping to get us a file on Thursday and would like to take  delivery, of the finished product, on the following Monday. Most often, final sign off, proofs and delivery of the file to the printer  takes longer than expected and we get the file on Friday afternoon. So any tool that speeds up file delivery to us could, potentially, double our lead time.

Cost is also important in the current economic climate. Most designers and agencies need to charge fees of between $30-200 per file download depending on format, and amount of re-purposing required. This can add up to a lot of money over 12 months.

There is some good news though. There has been some development of open source DAM software recently. It will take a while to become really robust and bug free, but it will come; and will be particularly useful for smaller businesses when it does arrive. These open source software systems will also help drive down the cost of existing DAM solutions. The increasing acceptance of software and storage in the “cloud”  will also mean reduced bulk storage costs are just around the corner.

There is also a global move towards a standard file format. Adobe has always led the way with their PDF and JDF formats and I think it is logical to assume that we all move to complete file standardisation eventually.

Wickliffe has had fun over the past few years  developing a Digital Asset Management tool. Its called Digital Peas. We started off with a vision of developing a modular system that could be sold to customers in modules as best fitted their needs (including on-line proofing, advanced editing and complete agency style file converting )………then we ran out of money.

In a way, that was a good thing. Technology, the market and our customer’s needs have radically changed over the past two years. The Digital Peas that we have recently released is now a PDF based asset library. Best of all, it is free to customers who have awarded Wickliffe Solutions (or any other member of the Kalamazoo Group) preferred supplier status.

The main features of Digital Peas are

  • Simple hosted storage of assets in a library – keeping all your assets at your fingertips
  • Super easy Version Control and archiving administration
  • Category, attributes and tagging controls to easily find, track and group assets
  • Versatile user and asset permission controls to ensure strict control of asset sharing
  • Automatic Publication of images to our ECOS ordering site to link with print on demand ordering
  • A platform designed to easily adapt to the future

Who would benefit from using Digital Peas? Well the answer to that is easy; anyone who is asked to supply files to staff, suppliers or partners on a regular basis. Even small businesses would benefit from using Digital Peas for storing assets. You would be surprised how much time is wasted hunting for mis-filed files or arranging for someone to forward a particular file on.

If you want to have a look at our at our DEMO site (http://www.digitalpeas.co.nz/sign_up) – just send me your email address in the comments box and I will return the demo user id/email address & password.

Give me a call if you would like me to pop in and take you through Digital Peas in more detail. You are more than welcome to come into our office in Kaikorai Valley if you would like to see it on the big screen……….I’ll even make you a coffee and let you in on the secret of how we came up with the name.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow my blog to auto receive new posts.