Web2Print is the key to promising business models

KBA Complete at 31st druckforum in Stuttgart

(PresseBox) ( Würzburg, )
KBA Complete, the joint consulting venture established by KBA and Hiflex, addressed this year's 31st druckforum in Stuttgart on 30th January with a presentation entitled "Web2Print - Business models and solutions in practice", spotlighting the use of digital networks as a possible means to realise more efficient interactions between print buyers and print providers.

Ralf Sammeck, KBA vice-president for sheetfed offset sales, welcomed the attending print experts to the prestigious "Haus der Wirtschaft" conference centre, before going on to chair the evening's gathering. When KBA Complete was founded almost a year ago, he said, the intention was to offer competent support to print companies seeking to optimise their business processes. At the end of the day, after all, the most important goal is to maximise value creation and to generate measurable competitive advantages on the fiercely contested markets for print products. Locally oriented printers may occasionally reject Web2Print as a threat to their existence, but it was seen to embody promising opportunities to attract and tie potential print customers through simplification of the ordering procedure, and at the same time to optimise and standardise company processes.

Enhance productivity for the print company

Lode Vlayen, managing director of KBA Complete, showed that actual printing accounts for only around 25 per cent of the overall process time for a typical commercial job. It is thus evident that the many peripheral and associated processes must be automated as far as possible, if the targets of higher productivity, effective cost reductions and improved profits are to be achieved. This can only be truly successful if the company's customers and suppliers are also involved. Web2Print is merely a tool, but nevertheless reveals significant potential for future business success and faster job turnarounds in conjunction with enhanced press productivity.

The purchasing behaviour of print buyers is undergoing noticeable change. As has long since been the case with CDs and books, where big-name Internet suppliers continue to record ever higher annual turnovers, more and more standard printed products are also being ordered online today. Print companies which ignore this development find themselves confronted with declining volumes of business and even more intense pressure on prices. Those who devote corresponding attention to this new market segment, on the other hand, are able to take advantage of standardised processes and lower administrative costs, as a number of the otherwise necessary organisational tasks, such as price calculation, communication and data handling, are already performed by the customer when placing an order via the Web interface.

Besides the optimisation of internal and external processes, there are several other benefits to be gained from the Web2Print solutions which have evolved from the partnership between KBA and Hiflex. These include quality reports and up-to-the-minute status information from across the whole production process, as well as possibilities for integration between press control and management information systems. Web2Print is a trend which is no longer to be halted. Although originally conceived as a business model for digital printers, it is today to be found in all manner of forms in print companies of the most varied sizes.

Cost savings and stronger customer ties

Wolfram Zehnle, head of the KBA customer centre in Radebeul, explained the fundamentals of a Web2Print solution for the B2B market. He first outlined the steps required on the part of the customer to submit an order on the basis of a predefined template, through to creation and communication of the print documents, before describing the tasks incumbent on the service provider: Maintenance of the templates, creation and checking of the print data, creation of a job ticket, integration into the production workflow and management of the overall order process. Alongside the time and cost savings for both the printer and the customer, Zehnle identified further benefits of Web2Print solutions in the guaranteed conformity with prescribed corporate designs, a point which is especially important for major companies, and the intensive customer relationships. Supply reliability is generally a prime factor for such projects, and it is thus not unusual to conclude annual contracts. Web2Print is above all an ideal channel for the production of on-demand marketing and advertising materials, business stationery and reports or conference documents, and as a system solution for direct end users. The latter are often projects embracing a broader spectrum from print production, via advertising to logistics and stock management. Examples are fan shop applications or publications for collectors of stamps or coins, and the like.

Print customers increasingly expect the possibilities offered by the Internet to be exploited in print production. For Wolfram Zehnle, this must be understood as a chance to generate income and to expand individual competency by offering additional services. Web2Print achieves long-term cost savings. Once the system is implemented, it functions almost without further intervention. The correspondingly automated and standardised processes lay a foundation for high process reliability and minimised levels of mistakes.

Tapping new business potential

Web2Print technologies are the key to previously untapped business potential. Webshops are perfect tools for any print company wishing to participate in the booming online marketplace. In a live demonstration, Hiflex managing director Stefan Reichhart presented the opportunities for print companies deploying the open and closed webshop systems offered jointly by KBA and Hiflex.

An open webshop permits new customers to test the simplicity of product configuration without demanding registration. A casual "digital passer-by" can thus explore the system while remaining initially anonymous.

A printed product is configured in next to no time by specifying a number of characteristic attributes (number of pages, colour, paper, finishing, refinement options). Plausibility checks already exclude unworkable combinations during the configuration process, and any inherently necessary processing steps are added. The products may also comprise several parts, for example cover and content. This adds up to a sheer endless range of combination possibilities. Even so, the provider must only manage a limited number of separate items in the background: After all, 20 individual components can already be combined into over 1,000 different final products. Changes affecting certain items (for example a new price for a particular paper type) must only be updated once and then apply for all dependent products.

The applicable prices (market prices) are shown immediately for various order quantities. The potential customer can then call up a PDF quotation containing a full product specification, and is offered direct information on the last deadline for receipt of the job data and the scheduled delivery date. The form of dispatch can be selected individually on the basis of the determined parcel or consignment weight. Following registration, the customer is able to complete an order by selecting an appropriate payment method, for example payment by credit card. An invoice is generated automatically as a PDF file and sent to the customer via e-mail.

Closed webshops, by contrast, use assigned login data to grant customers and/or suppliers access to an individually configured area of the print company website. Possible actions in this reserved area include, among others, orders for customer-specific standard products, order tracking, calls of stocked items, CI-conformant personalisation, order-specific data communication and the releasing of orders for production.

The next process step is common to both open and closed webshop applications, namely the uploading of print data to the provider. These data are subjected to an immediate preflight check and the customer receives direct notification as to whether the data are suitable for printing. The Web2Print system can also handle the approval process on a digital basis (online proof).

A combination of open and closed webshops, furthermore, permits registered customers to define products using a configuration tool, and at the same time to order standard products with customer-specific details.

Great interest among regular customers

KBA user Walter Grieger Offsetdruck has been using a Hiflex e business solution for many years. Managing director Wilhelm Drießen is especially proud of the added value which can be offered to customers. This value is founded on the cost savings of a process chain which automates required activities according to predefined actions. For example, Grieger customers are able to order business cards and other office stationery with die-stamped embossing and/or digital imprinting. A link provides access to a login dialog and subsequently an order page on the company server. The customer is there presented an overview of the products currently available to his particular company: Business cards, certificates, letterheads and so on. He can choose from among the corresponding templates and can then enter individual texts in the fields provided. After checking and, if necessary, correcting the inputs, the required quantity can be specified. This concludes the actual order process; a printable PDF is generated and the product can be sent to the press. It goes without saying that Grieger is able to integrate further controls and correction loops into the approval process where required by the customer. Operating on the basis of the Hiflex eBusiness software, the system here permits a practically unlimited scope of variants to customise and simplify the purchasing chain, especially with regard to standard print products.

The absolute highlight of the e-business model at Grieger, however, goes one step further. For the customer TerraTec, Grieger handles not only printing, but also finishing and logistics for the products, and is thus able to offer its customer all-round fulfilment. This service starts with the production of all printed items, and continues via logistics and stock management through to packaging of the final product. All processes in the commercial and logistics systems are initiated via the Web application and then run fully automatically. TerraTec is presented an exact overview of stock levels and the corresponding product movements in the Grieger warehouse in Viersen/Dülken, and can at the same time use a job tracking function to monitor the status of each transaction generated, confirmed and initiated in the system. The product manager at TerraTec is responsible for preparing a so-called "parts list" and for the purchasing of all the corresponding hardware components (e.g. the actual product, including all cables and connectors). When an order is placed, the print and packaging items on the parts list (e.g. packages, operating or assembly instructions, warranty cards, user manuals or inlets) are printed (or procured) and made available by Grieger.

"Our e-business models place the added value for the customer in the foreground. For us, the prime objective is the seamless integration of all business processes," says Wilhelm Drießen.

Business concepts for open systems

To conclude, Lode Vlayen and Stefan Reichhart presented concrete examples to illustrate the functioning of open Web2Print systems. PRINTello, for example, is aimed at end users who wish to configure their print product online. Following unambiguous definition by way of attributes such as paper type, number of pages, format, finishing options, run length, etc., a fixed price is calculated. After completion of the financial transaction, for which the customer can choose between direct debit and credit card payment, a ready-to-print PDF or appropriate open data are uploaded. A preflight check provides feedback as to whether the data are correct, or else indicates the changes which need to be made. Upon approval and confirmation of the order, the production process commences with automatic scheduling of the job in the print company's MIS.

Printplaza, on the other hand, is the front-end platform for a business cooperation bringing together four print companies from Germany and one from Belgium. The different specialisations of the individual companies, among them Druckhaus Berlin-Mitte and the Universal Media Group from Munich (both KBA sheetfed offset users), permit the marketing of a much broader product portfolio via the Web2Print portal. When an order is received, it is automatically passed to the partner or partners best equipped to handle the product in question. Regional proximity is another factor taken into account when assigning orders. The added value of such a solution to the customer is the greater diversity of product options available at a single address, while the contributing print companies are able to offer a wider range of products and can thus secure the custom of additional target groups.
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