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EFI Connect brings together “community”

Las Vegas seems to have signs and print in its blood. Its Neon Museum preserves iconic Las Vegas signs, complete with unique stories of who created each one, where and when they were made, and the inspiration behind them. It is no wonder EFI holds its annual user group conference, EFI Connect, in this vibrant city. So, I packed my bags and headed to Nevada (it is a tough job) in search of answers—how is the print industry faring in 2018 and why do customers value EFI technology so highly?

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Guy Gecht of EFI finds out how the Nozomi has boosted productivity with Eric Bacourt of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions and Mal McGowan of McGowans Print

Kicking off the conference, which took place from January 23rd to 25th, was Guy Gecht, chief executive officer of EFI, who stated that “print is far from over” despite the decline of many traditional printing establishments. He advises that those who move with the “window of opportunity” will survive—a reminder that the companies which move with the times and evolve, are the ones that will succeed.

Focusing on the concept of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, with advances in robots, AI, big data, and virtual reality, Gecht says it is an exciting change to witness and be part of. The company is already using virtual reality to give demonstrations of its impressive Nozomi C18000 and I expect more is still to come from this innovative manufacturer.

Gecht spoke to Eric Bacourt of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions and Mal McGowan of McGowans Print next in a ‘fireside chat’. Both guests talked about how EFI’s Nozomi has boosted productivity, with Bacourt saying: “The finishing of the image is the best we’ve found for corrugated board. It is state of the art.”

Passionate industry

The next day I spoke exclusively to Ken Hanulec, vice president, inkjet marketing, about why EFI Connect is so important and where the future of printing is heading.

“Each year it [EFI Connect] gets bigger and more exciting,” says Hanulec, adding: “I think it’s popular because it’s a community where we share best practices, come up with new creative ways to generate business ideas, and ultimately grow businesses. It’s a wonderful community of amazing people—business owners, entrepreneurs, and passionate zealots about the printing and publishing world.”

EFI showcased its new dye-sublimation soft signage printer, the Fabrivu 340, at the event. With growth in soft signage, Hanulec says it is particularly popular with brands and marketeers across the globe.

However, it is inkjet that Hanulec says is full of opportunities: “The benefit of inkjet technology is that because it’s a contactless-based printing, it opens up the opportunity to print on just about anything. It is up to the creativity of the designer, brand owner, or marketeer. The future of inkjet is clearly heading down a path towards single pass technology. We launched the Nozomi C18000 last year and with several installs now, it’s doing well.”

The future of inkjet is clearly heading down a path towards single pass technology 

This middle day of the conference was jam-packed with industry speakers, including EFI’s Marc Olin, Gaby Matsliach, Frank Tueckmantel, John Henze, and Barb Willans.

Olin spoke of two new products from EFI for Q1: the first is the Vutek HSF4, a high-speed four-colour printer for outdoor applications, and the second is the Fabrivu 340i soft signage printer with inline fixation.

Another exciting addition to EFI’s portfolio, which was revealed exclusively at the event, is its Market Direct customer engagement platform. Aimed at printing companies, agencies, marketing service providers, educational institutions, and small to medium corporations, this new software gives users the ability to develop and track customer communications for loyalty programmes, offers, newsletters, and more.

It builds on the company’s successful Direct Smile platform to deliver comprehensive crossmedia marketing applications for lead generation and new customer acquisition. One feature is EFI Smart Campaign, a HTML5-based crossmedia design tool, as well as storyboard automated campaign-creation feature, so customers can build a campaign quickly using drag and drop tools. It can be used on its own or alongside EFI’s existing web-to-print solutions.

EFI Connect was held at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, where over 100 members of the international trade press attended

Revolutionising business

Another vitally important part of EFI Connect was the customer success panel, hosted by EFI’s Frank Mallozzi. EFI customers that took to the stage were Sally Gilbert, director pre/post production of Gilson Graphics, Felipe de Jesus Sanchez, director of Grafolaser, and Peter Wagener, manager director of All Flags Signs and Banners. 

I caught up with Wagener after the panel to get an in-depth insight into his business and find out why it has built a purely EFI-based showroom, with eight of its machines and counting.

All Flags Signs and Banners is based in Perth, Western Australia, and prints stickers, banners, flags, soft textile, rigid boards, stadium and sports signage, displays for exhibitions, billboards, truck sides, car wraps, and general signage. With 2,500sq m of production space, 31 full-time employees, and 50 part-time employees, the company is thriving at what it does best.

“We have eight EFI machines on our floor at the moment and two more on the way,” says Wagener, continuing: “The first major piece of digital equipment we bought in 2001 was an EFI 5330, which is a 5m wide solvent machine and it is still running today. We bought a first generation Fabrivu in 2006 and we still run that today as well to produce flags. Then we bought a 5300, which is another 5m solvent machine, a QS2000, and two H652 small hybrid machines. Recently we have purchased the brand new Fabrivu 340, Vutek 5r, LX Pro, and Pro 24f, and we have another 5r on its way.”

We have eight EFI machines on our floor at the moment and two more on the way

Commenting on the difference the machines have made to his business, Wagener explains: “It’s outstanding; I can’t say how much of a difference it has made. The Vutek 5r has revolutionised our business. For example, we got asked by a mining company to produce 1km of fence mesh and 30 teardrop flags 3pm on a Wednesday, and they needed them for 2pm on the Friday. Without a machine like the 5r, that would have been an impossible task.

“With the Fabrivu 340 we can get 340sq m an hour out of that machine, it’s outstanding. The LX Pro has revolutionised our flat boards. You can take them to any customer, as long as they’re not looking for fine art, and it’s a very saleable product—better than any other flatbed in the marketplace.”

From spending time with EFI, I can see that while the company is large, it is close-knit team. This is why, I imagine, its relationships with its customers remain strong.

Wagener concludes: “All our equipment is EFI and one of the reasons we have gone with EFI is the reliability of their machines. I can’t speak more highly of EFI and their service. They’re very service orientated as a company.

“It’s a partnership. EFI look after us and as we’re in such a remote city, we need that reliability. They are market leaders. They don’t claim to have a machine that will do everything because no machine can, but they have the best available in their market segment.”

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

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