Las Vegas—It is easy to see that Guy Gecht has a penchant for numbers. The CEO of Fremont, CA-based technology provider EFI was awash in data as he regaled the 1,500 attendees during his opening address at Connect 2018, held Jan. 23-26 at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino.
For starters, the company is marking its 30th anniversary this year and 19th Connect users conference. To illustrate the youth and vitality of the company, Gecht pointed out that one in every seven employees was born after EFI’s founding, and more than half of the staff of EFI was less than 10 years old when the company debuted.
In invoking the belief that “print is far from over,” Gecht centered his keynote speech on the nation embarking on the fourth industrial revolution. The third revolution introduced technology disruptors such as Napster, Netflix, Pandora and Amazon, which upset the balance of power for traditional providers of music, movies and television. Now, it is artificial intelligence (A.I.) and robotics which promises to be a game changer as the “Internet of Things changes our relationship with the physical world,” he said.
We’ve already witnessed how some of these continued advancements in technology have dotted our everyday lives, including gadgets and gizmos from Fitbit to Amazon’s Alexa personal digital assistant, the Roomba vacuum and smart refrigerators. The digital age has blown past many longstanding staples of our everyday lives in reaching benchmark adoption standards. Gecht pointed out that it took 75 years for the telephone to hit 50 million users, while the Angry Birds game needed just 35 days to hit that threshold.
Gecht is a firm believer in print surviving the digital revolution, pointing out that 45 percent of Americans still prefer the printed word in their reading habits compared to 8 percent for digital. Direct mail marketing spend has shown a sharp increase during a four-year span between 2012 and 2016. So while other aspects of our personal lives have been drastically altered by technology, printed communications—which have taken a hit particularly in the past 10 years—do not appear to be as under the same level of dramatic stress…at least that is what I inferred from Gecht’s presentation.
The Power of A.I.
Gecht believes the lightning-fast impact of A.I. is based on three points: big data, tremendous computation power in the cloud and fast processing power at the device level. The good news is, he doesn’t envision robotics replacing people, but rather enhancing their ability to perform tasks.
Virtual reality—a category in which EFI is a player—offers tremendous benefits for a number of verticals, including manufacturing and medical. To illustrate its breadth of capabilities, an EFI employee donned a viewer and the audience was treated to a virtual tour of the company’s Nozomi C18000 single-pass LED inkjet corrugated board press. Indeed, EFI itself benefits in giving potential customers the ability to virtually inspect a given piece of equipment.
Speaking of the Nozomi C18000, Gecht concluded his opening address by holding a Fireside Chat with two early international adopters of the technology: Eric Bacourt, CEO of Hinojosa Packaging Solutions and Mal McGowan, CEO of McGowans Print. Both executives raved about how the press has enhanced their ability to address customers’ quicker time-to-market demands and enabled them to cast a wider geographical net for new business.
On the second day of the conference, CFO Marc Olin provided an overview of the 2017 Fiery platform highlights, including the acquisition of Xerox’s FreeFlow Print Server (FFPS) digital front end business and the launch of the Fiery Command WorkStation 6. The Fiery DFE is also driving a number of new printers including the Sharp MX-7000/8000 series, the Xerox AltaLink, Ricoh Pro C5200 and the Konica Minolta AccurioPress/AccurioPrint lines.
Among the other new releases EFI featured at the event:
- EFI VUTEk HS125 Pro and HS100 Pro Fast-4 hybrid flatbed/roll inkjet press models that offer a range of super-fast four-color grayscale modes, with speeds up to 225 boards per hour. This enables more cost-effective grayscale production of distance-viewed signage and graphics.
- The EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340i, a soft signage printer that delivers a lower cost of entry into high-growth soft signage applications by offering fully integrated inline sublimation without compromising engine speed or quality.
- Version 6 of EFI’s Enterprise Commercial, Midmarket Print, Publication, Quick Print, Packaging and Corrugated Packaging Productivity Suites for advanced, end-to-end business and production MIS/ERP workflows.
- EFI MarketDirect, a next-generation cross media customer engagement platform that gives printing companies the power to deliver comprehensive management on loyalty programs, offers, newsletters, surveys and other customer communication programs.
- Escada software, EFI’s recently acquired, robust corrugated process control product.
- EFI iQuote technology for enhanced estimating of versioned and variable-data digital print work.
- The Optitex 3D Design Illustrator, a plug-in tool for the fashion textile space that gives designers the freedom to validate and customize 3D garments in Adobe Illustrator.
Looking to the future, Gecht pointed out that there are exciting things happening across all of EFI’s business units, and the company is constantly adding to its core of technical-savvy employees. Inkjet printing is a huge cornerstone of EFI’s platform, as is the Fiery business. With more than two million machines in the field, paper substrates are making room for EFI’s expansion into ink on textiles and garments, and he sees a bright future for the Nozomi line in a number of markets. One area the company is not currently moving toward is 3D printing, but Gecht says that EFI will continue to monitor that market.
“We will continue to add great talent and new engineers,” he said. “We don’t need acquisitions to move into a new area. Right now, we have so much on our plate.”