"There is a great need for individual and differentiated informationâ&#x20AC;Ś â&#x20AC;Śthat only our technology can satisfy!"
INTRODUCTION Over the course of the coming years, the company's handling of printed matter and other information will change drastically. Content, formulation and useful life will be affected, just as the way in which they are produced, distributed and used. The driving force behind the changes is the profit to be made by adopting the "Print on Demand" principle. Financial, time, quality and efficiency benefits; gains on the competition. In the past decade, more and more companies have acquired the resources for taking care of certain aspects of graphic production, and the changes starting to appear mean that the rewards of this process can now be harvested. More of the production process will be diverted to those who are paying for and using the finished articles. This does not always mean that the company produces the items itself, but it becomes a hub for a more direct, faster and more cost-effective workflow. Do-it-yourself has become a much simpler and cheaper way of doing a job - the possibility of creating printed matter in electronic form combined with inexpensive, quality scanners and digital cameras, user-friendly programs for tackling layout, a wider range of printing options from colour copiers to digital printing presses. The most important reason for these new strategies and working methods now developing is the dramatically changed industrial circumstances: shorter useful life for products, globalization and heterogeneous markets. This naturally does not mean that the graphic trade will die out. We will instead witness a multitude of solutions adapted to everyone's needs and requirements.
ALTERED INDUSTRIAL CONDITIONS Not so long ago, industrial companies manufactured their goods and stored them on the shelf. The difficult customer, who didn't find what he wanted amongst the limited range available, simply had to go to another supplier. Nowadays, companies have stopped punching out long lines of identical products that noone has ordered. The buzz-words are "customer-oriented production", made possible by new, logistical methods and forced into being by realization that the buyer is prepared to pay as long as he gets the product best suited to his actual or encountered needs. This method of production results in each variation of a product being manufactured in smaller batches, and in extreme cases, perhaps as a single item. Even the ever-shorter useful life of products leads to smaller batches. It is not long since a European-manufactured car model was expected to be on the market for 6 to 8 years, but nowadays Volvo is even launching three or four new models a year. Ericsson and Nokia present a new mobile telephone every other month. When it comes to certain durables, the customer's direct influence is a reality, whereas with other types of products, it is a matter of an increased will to take note of and supply what the market really wants. This places demands on awareness and compliance, but at the same time one is better prepared for the swings that always characterize a free market. There is also a financial aspect. By producing goods made to order and making sure that the components are not delivered before they are required, the company reduces the amount of tied-up capital and interest expenses.
MORE CUSTOMERS DEMANDING MUCH MORE Since Sweden joined the EU, "the home market" for many companies has become 15 countries covering almost 20 languages (of which 11 are official), and several more countries are set to join. National borders are perhaps starting to disappear, but there are other boundaries that in line with political decisions must be reinforced: language, ethnic, cultural, religious and regional boundaries. At a conference which the EU held in Amsterdam in the middle of May 1997, "regions and cities - pillars of Europe", plenty of proof was provided on the growing significance of "invisible borders". The companies that want to join the fray to win buyers on this variegated map must adapt their means of communication to the new conditions that apply. Adaptation to the market must take place at the same time as many other strategic, administrative and technical production changes are also making their presence felt. If activities are spread beyond the EU, it could become even more complicated. A car manufacturer was caught up in a real cultural clash when it issued a safety brochure in a Muslim country. The test dummies were naked! The entire edition had to be recalled, and a new version featuring the world's first fully-clothed accident dummies had to be printed. Different language versions, local product variations, cultural considerations, frequent product launches, customer-oriented production, decentralization to adapt printed matter to the desired extent is impossible using traditional methods. Updating it as often as one should cannot even be considered.
WHERE IS THE COMPANY? It is not obvious anymore that administration, production, research and development, marketing and other functions are all located in the same spot, or even in the same part of the world. Instead, localization is controlled by where the most expansive markets are, where the raw materials are extracted or refined, where the best competence, cheapest labour or production resources are to be found, or other factors. The different aspects of the company are viewed as free-standing functions and are localized to places that offer the most advantageous conditions. Many operations are starting to become global in the real sense of the word. There has been recent talk of a high-technological company planning three development centres: one in Europe, one in the USA and one in Asia. Research projects would then rotate around the world, keeping pace with the daylight hours, the work would never stop and the project would be finished ahead of all competitors. In addition, this would provide culturally-accented points of view on all the issues involved. One condition for this development is access to good telecommunications. Intranet traffic between different units will take place via every possible means: E-mail, telephone and videophone, fax and fixed connections for the transmission of data. The companies will also communicate by sending printed files back and forth, such as information material that is at present produced centrally, but tomorrow will be created in one place, but printed where it is to be used.
CAN YESTERDAY'S TECHNOLOGY SATISFY TOMORROW'S MARKET? The need to take control and steer the flow of work prompted the development of Desktop Publishing. This led to enormous changes in the traditional graphics business, and it is an on-going process. Composing rooms have vanished and pre-press work has partly been moved to the printers. Many of them are desperately battling the economics of the small batches that are becoming the order of the day. Nowadays, one can go directly from the computer screen to the offset film or plates. The films are delivered ready for use, which eliminates the need for manual mounting etc. Digital originals have replaced paper originals, more and more photographers are delivering their pictures digitally, and on-line transmission of printed-matter files is replacing physical transportation. Professional equipment that recently cost professional rates is today within the reach of Everyone, which is accelerating the shift of the main emphasis. Traditional graphic production is large-scale and presents environmental problems. The presses take time to reset each time a new job is to be processed. At yesteryear's printers, it "wasn't worth" ordering fewer than a thousand copies, and that attitude is still deeply entrenched in both customers and suppliers.
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR INNOVATIVE THINKING The graphics business is still a niche sector with specialized suppliers. It has been pushed to one side of the direct flow of information that market forces are intensifying, and in many cases it lacks the mental preparation for flexible, fast and custom-made solutions. The positive aspect of this is that there are far-reaching rationalization gains to be made. One step in the right direction is the colour copier's transformation from an office machine to a printing press, and the digital presses that facilitate a completely digital chain of production. The great interest that companies are channeling into the Internet is no more than a pent-up need for new solutions that is now finding an outlet. Hurrah! Now all information doesn't need to be printed on paper. Whatever is produced can be read in an instant in Sydney or in Ă&#x2026;mĂĽl, and texts and images can be modified without any significant problems or costs. The high demands of the future on the information process - speed, flexibility, availability, decentralization - also mean a great need for solutions that simplify systemization, overview, extraction, modification, storing, transportation and, ultimately, presentation in the different types of media.
THE ELECTRONIC FILING CABINET Visutech's concept is called "DiamondPress". In the technical sense, it is software that converts PostScript (a language for describing graphic objects) to a file that can be interpreted and printed out on different types of printing apparatus. The "rip" software is in a computer that can be installed between the work station and the printer. But a DiamondPress rip is something more than that. It is a complete filing cabinet for printed matter. It is all that's needed, since it is both simpler and cheaper to file printed matter electronically than on a shelf! DiamondPress can be called upon to produce a few more of those printed items that have run out of stock - just by the touch of a button. When something has changed, or the name of a new retailer has to be added, it is easy to update. The DiamondPress filing cabinet allows the user freedom of choice. One and the same basic file can be used for several different end products. Printing can be done from a single copy to thousands: on paper, film, foil, plastic, self-adhesive labels or other means. It can be used for producing the films or plates needed for running a normal offset job. The items can be printed at the office or somewhere else after being transmitted on-line or physically transported some other way. Yes, whatever is in the DiamondPress file can even be published on the Internet. DiamondPress is pointing the way towards the new direction that many are seeking: greater influence, new possibilities in a changing world, flexibility, an easier way of working, direct communication. DiamondPress offers systemization, overview and the possibility of extracting any chosen parts of a data-stored volume of information. The technology can be used in all contexts where individually structured information is to be made available to a wide circle of readers.
A LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE The core of DiamondPress is the algorithms (mathematical calculation patterns) that Visutech has developed in collaboration with an American company, ColorAge, and which among other things is responsible for compressing the files, making them easier to handle. They also take up less space when filed and can be processed and transported over networks much faster. DiamondPress takes into account whether the file contains photo images, graphics, text, or only single colour surfaces. All data is optimally compressed without loss of quality, which means that sharpness, resolution and colours are not impaired when the object is "unpacked" for printing. We call this object-oriented and non-destructive compression. DiamondPress can handle individual pages in a file - this is important. In the near future it will also be able to handle individual objects. This means that an image, a heading or a column of text on the page can be modified or replaced without touching the surroundings. DiamondPress allows "blank production", i.e. easy combination of text and image files, thus creating the "exclusive" but significant printed matter suited to a specific target group, a particular language, a local variation of a product, a test market or anything else.
THREE IMPORTANT CONCEPTS Three concepts are usual in discussions on the future: Publication (or Printing) on Demand (PoD), sometimes even called Information on Demand; Print Where You Want; Push/Pull, which describes how consumers of the future search for information. Publication on Demand means that the company produces information with the help of its own resources whenever the need arises. Up to now, this has meant only printing a certain number of items when they are needed. Print Where You Want is now moving closer to realization thanks to the Internet's rapid expansion and the growth of graphic/electronic standards such as transport-safe file format. Printed matter created in one place can be finalized in a completely different place after transmittal. This wins a great deal of time, since it only takes a few minutes to transmit a file from Europe to the USA, for example. Last-minute changes can also be made since this method allows more time for completion of the job. Transportation harmful to the environment is eliminated and the user gains greater influence since the final production takes place closer to home. Push/Pull means that recipients decide what information they want to look at, instead of being passive about what they receive. This concept is currently being implemented on the Internet, and other media will soon follow.
A PRACTICAL CASE - THE CAR FACTORY! Let us look a little closer at what these new possibilities could mean. As an example, we have chosen a company that manufactures one of the items closest to our hearts: the car. The automotive industry is a rewarding example in many ways. There is tough competition, which stimulates greater willingness to switch to new methods that improve productivity. They were among the first to adopt the "just-in-time" concept, and it is not only Volvo that has moved its subcontractors closer to reduce the risk of disruptions resulting from delayed deliveries. All the large automotive companies have units here and there throughout the world, and in addition they try to meet most customer preferences. This strategy will affect the prolific number of publications that will soon be able to be handled more cost-effectively than at present.
THERE AND BACK ACROSS THE ATLANTIC Sweden imports a significant quantity of pulp wood from the USA and Canada. It is consequently not unlikely that the shiny, fragrant car brochures now crossing the Atlantic have already made that crossing once before - in the shape of raw materials travelling in the opposite direction. Well, now the brochures for the new model are en route to the American importer. The different variations in model and accessory choices available have undoubtedly been displayed and described to the best possible extent, but bearing in mind what options the customer has, and all the conceivable variations, this has only partially succeeded. Will there be enough brochures, or will they be forced to reprint? Will there even be some left over? No-one knows. Experience is all there is to fall back on, and that is not much help, since this time it concerns a long-awaited model - which points to doing a roaring trade - but on the other hand, this exclusive model will only be available through a selected number of retailers. Calculating brochure consumption is almost impossible. There are figures indicating that up to 70 percent of all printed matter is discarded as soon as it becomes obsolete. This isn't about small change. Volvo, a small manufacturer, prints advertising material in the region of MSEK 650 in the USA: just one market. But soon it won't be necessary to stockpile large amounts of printed matter that tie up capital and cost interest. It will then be possible to produce printed matter at the same pace as consumption, to update it without problems and create all the variations necessary.
WRITE THE INSTRUCTION BOOK WHILE PRODUCING THE CAR! The instruction book is one of the car manufacturers' most important publications. Nowadays it contains considerably more text and pictures than necessary, and is thereby more expensive and more time-consuming to produce, as well as being more difficult for the customer to steer his way through. Each variation of a model has to be described, as well as every possible piece of equipment. But who wants to read about leather upholstery, air conditioning, the expensive sound system and other luxuries they can't afford? With Visutech's concept, the instruction book can be printed at the same time as the car is being built. And not in some far-off printing works, but on-site in the factory. The specifications the car features are known from the outset, and therefore an individual instruction book corresponding to each individual car can be produced: a chapter on the automatic gearbox if the customer has ordered one, but nothing about the air conditioning that isn't there! To increase the feeling of personal information, the registration number and customer's name can be printed on the title page, and the cover can be the same colour as the car. The basis for this method of production is the possibilities DiamondPress presents for creating personalized printed matter by combining different text and image files. The result is an instruction book that only contains what the customer needs to read, which investigations demonstrate to be approximately 10 pages out of 100. Such an instruction book will be thinner than the current ones, meaning more economical use of resources, but it will be more informative and cheaper to produce. By it being produced in parallel, any of the inevitable last-minute changes to detail can also be included.
RIGHT MANUALS IMPROVE QUALITY OF SERVICE All manufacturers who produce goods of some complexity also produce some form of service documentation. In keeping with the fact that the variety of products is continually increasing, new items appear more frequently, companies seek new markets (new languages), and the technical content is increasing (think about all the microprocessors in today's products). So, too, are the demands on service manuals increasing. But they are still being produced in the conventional way, which means that they cannot be distributed as fast as desired. Even the "additions" take time to produce. Service personnel risk being left without guidance, which could lead to incorrect action, claims, unforeseen costs, safety problems and other consequences. It takes our car manufacturers at least six months to produce a normal 600 page service manual. But the pace of change in production is fast, so even before the workshop manager has received the new manual, a few "service messages" detailing corrections and additions have already been issued. Using DiamondPress technology means it is faster and simpler to produce and update these manuals. Files previously printed are stored in ripped format, which in itself is a considerable time-saving measure. The compositor can page through a file and easily find what he is looking for. Only modified pages will be re-ripped, and the process can be followed in the computer etc. Perhaps the information is to be presented on the screen via Intranet (global company networks), where it can be printed out via the service staff's laptop computers? No problem â&#x20AC;&#x201C; DiamondPress evens supports these types of solutions. Manufacturers' workshops are generally located across the globe. By using the Print Where You Want concept, everyone receives their own personal version of the manual, in the right language and which includes those models being sold in the country in question. Production takes place centrally, but printing is done either at the general agent, the retailer or at a nearby printshop with the resources for on-line transmission.
A BRIEF REPETITION: WHAT IS GAINED BY PUBLICATION ON DEMAND À LA DIAMONDPRESS? •
No more printed matter lying in the storage, and ready access to a current version featuring the correct information.
Electronic filing is easily updated and modified since it is always accessible.
Versions covering the need for different language editions, product variations, test launches, exhibition or special issues etc. can easily be supplied.
"Those little requests" that previously couldn't be met can now be satisfied.
Service levels are increased since maximum control of the production process has now been achieved.
Greater preparedness for any alternative measures or improvisations necessary, owing to faster, on-the-spot production and shorter decision-making channels.
Information production can be streamlined by eliminating roundabout methods or peripheral processes.
Independence from external suppliers is increased, which leads to better control over budget and time schedules.
Deadlines can be postponed and delivery will still be sooner than was the case previously.
Sensitive material need not leave the premises, thus improving security levels within the company.
Four-colour printing at the same cost as previous black and white rates.
Better control over content and formulation. It will be "made-to-order".
Resources for producing a professional job more often and in several contexts.
Prevents the spread of out-of-date items and reduces the risk of misunderstandings or other problems.
Widest possible freedom of choice for different technical production solutions. Even when external printers are employed, the DiamondPress files can be used.
Tied-up capital and interest expenses are eliminated. The money can then be channeled into core operations.
The fast and economical "Print Where You Want" concept can be developed, which also makes way for a wider choice of suppliers.
Profit from all the internal and external environmental advantages that a predominantly digital production environment entails.
Easier to keep track on an electronic filing system than printed items lying all over the place on storage shelves.
Company becomes a trailblazer in leading the way to developing productive and profitable solutions.
WHAT HAS VISUTECH ACCOMPLISHED UP UNTIL NOW? We started working on our concept in 1988. That was a time when computers were not used in the graphics industry, except, possibly, for writing letters and bookkeeping. Likewise, in the computer industry and software companies, little was known about the special needs of graphic production. A few years later, colour copiers were introduced onto the market. Whereas most people only saw one of these machines when they inserted their original, pressed the button and obtained a fine copy, we had completely different visions. Within a few years, colour copiers would be a part of practically every other office. At the same time, companies and organizations were turning more and more to producing their own printed matter - the Desktop Publishing revolution had begun. We thought of things this way: if we created a direct connection between the DTP computer and the printer, it would then become more useful. Digital documents could be printed without having to go somewhere else to churn out hundreds of copies instead of just one copy now and then. Companies would be able to handle part of their printing needs themselves, instead of having to rely on outside suppliers. Those working with the media, such as magazine publishers, advertising agencies and catalogue producers would have a new tool at their disposal. And professionals such as architects, designers and illustrators would have a new instrument to assist in displaying their talents. The condition was, of course, that the equipment had to be simple, fast-working and inexpensive so that the accountant would consider the investment justified: qualities that from the outset have been the hallmark of Visutech's products. The rest, as they say, is history. The product we came up with is called "rip", an abbreviation of "raster imaging process". In a strictly technical sense, it is a powerful computer with special software that we have developed in collaboration with some of the world's most brilliant brains in the USA.
What in the beginning was "just" a connection between DTP and the copier is today a digital filing cabinet for printed matter. Digital originals are filed here, so they can be quickly and easily updated or printed out in the quantity desired. By using various printing methods, whatever has been filed can be converted into all sorts of different end products: overheads, brochures, folders, posters of up to one meter in format, self-adhesive labels, stickers. Maybe someone will say, "It's just like any other server", but that's not true. The hardware is indeed based on Intel or Pentium standards, and that only means advantages. But the software is completely tailor-made for graphic production, with the file formats used there, and with colour calibration, sorting, imposition, operating routines and much more. What's been happening since then? Well, at home in Sweden, Visutech has a market share of approximately 80 percent. Three out of four colour copiers are sold with the rip function, and in the after-sales market more and more "electronic filing cabinets" are being installed. DiamondPress and colour copiers play a significant role in production of the IKEA catalogues. They are also used at SAAB's military aviation department, in the designing of Levi Strauss clothes and by a wide range of advertising agencies that walked off with the prizes at the latest Golden Egg Awards.
WHAT APPLICATIONS WILL WE SEE IN THE FUTURE? Up to now it's been about graphic applications, but we are developing a new technique that can be generally applied when a quantity of information is to be made available for individual profiling. Let us for a moment imagine how this could be used in the future..! Teachers support the principle of individually adapted tuition, but at the same time tough austerity measures are being imposed on schools. This affects the textbooks, which in many cases are both out of date and in bad shape. Tomorrow's textbooks could perhaps be a "nation-wide tree of knowledge database" that is regularly updated, and where each class or pupil, based on what they are studying for that day, collects and extracts the information they need. It is a mix of text and finished pages with pictures, audio and video sequences. It can be reproduced on the computer screen as well as being printed out for books and exercise books containing up to date and correct information. Each extract is individual. The material on offer can be used extensively, edited or compiled from different sources. Nation-wide material can be complemented with local/regional additions or personally collected information. Students whose mother tongue is not Swedish can instead retrieve the text in their own language, which increases their prospects for better learning. Was the exercise book accidentally forgotten at school now it's time to do homework? No problem. Just log in and download a new one! Top-rated work can be sent on-line to another class or made available to all. The database will make any corrections necessary, so that the tired teacher can take an evening off. The results of tests and exercises can be entered and used later as evaluation material by the different school authorities. The possibilities of the IT revolution are endless! Just get started!
TOMORROW'S NEWSPAPER WILL ALSO BE PERSONAL In the future, information will be given an individual profile. We won't be reading what the sender wants us to read, but what we decide on. This is yet another use for individual information selection. Do I want to receive tomorrow's newspaper in print or in electronic format at my E-mail address? That's the first choice. If I am going abroad for a few days, but still want to receive the local news, I simply change my subscription to the E-mail issue during that time. Then it comes to the editorial content. I decide on the cultural and business section and the local news, but leave out the sport and overseas articles that can be seen sooner and better on TV. I would also prefer to receive the articles in their entirety, not in the summarized telegram format. I would also like to receive the stock exchange rates, updated via E-mail in the afternoons. When Aunt Elin comes from Argentina to stay with us, I also order the Spanish-language edition, and during the holidays I give priority to the weather forecast for shipping in preference to the general weather forecast, so that I can plan our sailing trips properly. Advertisement content is next on the list. I have chosen to eliminate a large proportion of the advertising, and therefore have to pay a higher subscription rate, but would like to receive certain advertisements, anyway. We are looking for a cheap last-minute trip, and have therefore ordered all the travel advertisements. I was also thinking about replacing dear, old Maxin with something more modern, and have consequently subscribed to "Boats for Sale" until further notice. On the other hand, I have declined all advertising from shops more than 20 km away.
MORE OR LESS INFORMATION? In the future, we will most probably devote just as much time to assimilating information. By the time that is presently spent in sifting through everything will be spent tomorrow on broadening and refining. A swing from passive receipt to active choice. The option of personally deciding what to read is already available on the Internet: you enter your information profile, then the Net program searches for and downloads whatever you have requested, while you do something else in the meantime. Most media will soon be offering the possibility of tailor-made content. Your personal version of the daily newspaper, business news or golfing magazine, TV viewing and radio broadcasts. Consumers' demand to decide for themselves what information they would like to receive will be one of the next decade's strongest market trends. For the sender, it will be the challenge of the century. The old, blunt weapons no longer have any effect. For information to reach its target now, it must be personalized and only contain text, images and offers that the recipient is receptive towards.
THE SLUGGISHNESS OF MAN Will printed media still be around at all in one or two decades, or will we be reading everything from a screen? Everyone must evaluate the following pros and cons and draw their own conclusions. The newspaper (printed matter) does not require any telecommunications network. It can be read without any aids (apart from spectacles, perhaps!), wherever and whenever preferred. It renders excellent text and pictures, is cheap to produce, is manufactured from renewable material and is recyclable. On the other hand, it requires physical transportation and to a certain extent is a drain on resources. It takes time to produce and update, and contributes to the rubbish heap. Though going out barefoot on the dewy grass one sunny summer morning to fetch the newspaper or trying to tear the wrapping off an eagerly-awaited trade journal. The technical optimists choose to ignore the preservation instincts in us all. We invent new technology, of course, but when it comes to applying it. Changes only take place at the same pace as people die and new generations with different attitudes take over. There is also a degree of the preservation instinct in different community structures, which has cost political prestige as well as investments. It is not long since we believed we would soon be able to carry out a number of different tasks with the help of our home computer: banking, booking tickets, buying groceries and other things. Special terminals were produced, which people were allowed to borrow free of charge, yet time ran out on this experiment. Earlier predictions are only now becoming a reality: not with the help of special terminals, but thanks to the Internet. At school, our children are not learning from future generations (which would have been best!), but from the mistakes and discoveries of past generations. In that way, the experience of their forebears is borne into the future, and will have a curbing but simultaneously stabilizing effect. Things do not happen as fast as they could, and in that there lies both a risk and an assurance.
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE WITH THE INTERNET? No company can ignore the Internet in its planning and visions for the future. Is the Internet just a fad? Just there for companies? Only for private use? Something we will look at on the TV of the future, instead of on the computer? Two French researchers at the distinguished INSEAD school of economics and business education in Fontainbleu, Albert Angehm and Jean-Louis Barsoux, believe they have found the answer, and have sketched an image of the Net's development as a marketplace, which corresponds remarkably well with our own model. Their creation is called the ICDT model, where each letter stands for different "rooms" in the virtual space, where different types of business will be conducted. The Information room contains a gigantic notice board. It displays who's who, what is for sale, how much it costs etc. There could be different levels of access for different users, and in principle it is a room with one-way communication. In the Communications room, an interactive forum for creating contact, exchanging ideas and points of view is provided. Members of the virtual business world can rapidly communicate at low cost without having to bear in mind physical or geographical boundaries. The Distribution room deals with deliveries. There are limits as to what can be delivered, and it is only suitable for products and services than can be completely or partially digitized. In the Transaction room, trading takes place. It resembles a stock exchange, where no goods change hands, just purchase orders, contract deals, invoices and payments. Communication will not only take place inside these rooms, but between them as well. And it's here we are convinced that there will be a demand for Visutech's skills. We are seeking the "exclusive" and technically qualified niches. The broad, general applications we gladly leave to the giants of the IT world.
Author: Jan-Olof Jungersten ÂŠ Visutech AB