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Interview with EFI’s Udi Arieli on FedEx Office’s Use of EFI Workflow and Productivity Technology

By Cary Smellburne

Yesterday, EFI and FedEx Office announced that FedEx Office is using EFI products for a more cost-effective and streamlined delivery of professional print services. I spoke to Udi Arieli, EFI’s Director, High End Market Business Development, EFI Productivity and Print Software, to get the scoop for this WhatTheyThink exclusive.

As many of our readers know, Udi and EFI have been thought leaders in terms of automated, intelligent workflow. In fact, at drupa 2012, the company unveiled The Automated Workflow Experience, a series of thought leadership animated videos that depicted the vision for near-lights-out print production workflow. The FedEx Office deal is one of the first times this concept has been brought to fruition in its entirety in a live production environment utilizing EFI Productivity Suite and EFI Fiery digital front end (DFE) technologies.

FedEx Office operates about 1,800 centers, supported by a number of Centralized Production Centers (CPCs) with a footprint that extends across the Americas. The configuration is an EFI Productivity Suite implementation being used in CPCs in North America and features EFI’s Pace MIS, PrintFlow Dynamic Scheduling, Fiery Central and Fiery DFEs.

Jobs are first directed to the FedEx Office National Fulfillment Center where the job is processed. FedEx Office utilizes a workflow where, for example, jobs are created automatically by the EFI Pace MIS with little human intervention. Jobs then go to PrintFlow to dynamically schedule the job and all other jobs automatically non-stop. Fiery Central can then use the PrintFlow schedule, and the job data from Pace to transmit job instructions and content files to an appropriate EFI Fiery DFE in the appropriate CPC at the right time. In a workflow of this nature, jobs are preconfigured for the target print engine by Fiery Central and the Fiery DFE, reducing the steps operators normally take to configure a press for each job. The Fiery DFE also sends PrintFlow job status information in real time, allowing PrintFlow to reschedule and reoptimize production, issuing a new schedule every few minutes.

The benefits of this type of workflow capability suit operations like FedEx Office, which has a large number of jobs coming into its centers 24/7.

When a job reaches production in this type of operation, the job ticket accompanying the job automatically configures the digital press, including required inline finishing. At that point, the operator can use a customized dashboard to monitor jobs coming in and to gain instructions about what needs to be done, such as which paper should be loaded, any inline finishing that is required, etc.

“For a complex job that has many workflow steps, the end-to-end process can take a long time to complete with many opportunities for error, but now it can happen in a fraction of the time,” Arieli says, “This is truly a game-changer – for FedEx Office and for the industry.”

Arieli points out that a lot of this integration was developed and completed before engaging with FedEx Office, and some of it is reflected in the company’s new Productivity Suite offering. “ For me, it is a dream come true and the culmination of my many years of work in the arena of workflow automation,” says Arieli. The workflow is also based on TGO – the Theory of Global Optimization that Arieli and his team at EFI developed.

While FedEx Office is clearly a large, distributed organization, Arieli strongly believes that any printing company with two or more print engines can benefit from some of this automation, much of it offered in the EFI Productivity Suite and EFI Fiery products. “It is very difficult for a printing company to make money and be efficient, now and into the future, without a workflow like this,” he says. “Printing companies can’t continue doing everything with outdated software. This implementation now proves that it can be done, and that it can be done on a large scale. I would argue that it can be scaled down for smaller companies as well, helping them position themselves well for future success.”

Are you having a FALL SALE?

I’m personally not a big fan of price promotions for handmade products, for various reasons.

Firstly, discounting sends out a certain message about your products: I’ve got left over stock, it’s piled high, it’s all about the new season, this isn’t “the thing” any more.

Secondly, it hacks away at your profit margin, which may be slimmer than you would like to start with.

Thirdly, it sets a dangerous precedent – we have all been conditioned by retailers, and in particular online retailers, to wait for the next price promotion: there will always be another 15% off and free delivery around the corner, so why buy today?

Fourthly, you are hopefully working hard to demonstrate to your customers why a handmade product is worth a premium.  We know you can’t compete on price with mass produced products, so you have to have a really strong added value proposition: your products are better, and therefore worth more, because of the detail, the quality, the uniqueness, and the heart and soul that you poured lovingly into their design and manufacture.  That is why they are worth a premium, and your real customers will appreciate that.

So, for those reasons, I don’t recommend you build discounting and MASSIVE SUMMER MADNESS sales into your business strategy.  (You weren’t going to, were you, I needn’t have worried.)

However, you are competing in the real world, against companies who do discount, in a market when it’s not easy to get people to part with their money, and you have a living to make.  So what to do?

If you have stock that is ageing, seasonal, or failing to move for another reason, you may have to consider putting it on sale.  Now might be a good time.  People do love a bargain, and there is no doubt that discounting does stimulate sales.  Stock that has been hanging around for months or even years is not good for your cash flow or your energy, so a cheeky discount may get things moving again.

On the subject of cash flow, this can be another good reason to hold a sale: if you can see funds starting to dry up, and are worrying where you will find the cash for the next month’s bills, emergency measures may be required.  You may have to park your pride and profit predictions for a short while and use a sale to avert a cash crisis.

Don’t just hold a sale because everyone else is doing it.  If you are happy with the level of business you are generating, then fine.  But if you do feel under pressure financially, you can still hold a sale without losing your dignity or damaging your brand. All in the best possible taste.

Avoid falling into furniture warehouse speak: “MUST END SOON” and “PRICES SLASHED” are probably not on-brand, so make sure you communicate your sale to your customers in your usual tone of voice.

Think of clever ways to promote your discounts – perhaps you only offer them to your top customers as a thank you, thereby keeping them exclusive and creating goodwill among your most valuable audience.  Rather than applying blanket discounts to everything, create some promotional bundles: three cushions for the price of two, or buy a necklace and get free earrings.   These offers add value for your customers without feeling cheap.

Consider partnering with a magazine or blog to create a reader offer.  Again, this gives an element of exclusivity, and can also promote your sale to a wider audience.

Finally, give people a clear timeframe for the offer.  They need to know it’s not open ended.  In other words: “MASSIVE SUMMER MADNESS MUST END SOON!”.

If you are running a sale, please feel free to post a link to your site in the comments box below.  We will be covering pricing and selling in more detail on the Create a Craft Business e-Workshop, which starts 8th September.

What is the Gardening Cycle?

Plants can live from a few days to months depending upon their type but they go through distinct stages of changes as they grow, just as animals and humans do. The basic stages that plants go through starts from seed to sprout, then gradually  through vegetative stage, budding stage, flowering stage, and finally the stage of ripening.

When you’re ready to start your garden, it is important that each stage in the process be considered. From seed selection and soil preparation all the way through planting seeds or bulbs (for example: potatoes) there are specific needs at every step of your gardening project!

1.     Sprout

There is a small parcel of nutrients in each seed which contains all the essential nutrients for germinating and growing into leaves.

2.     Seedling

As plants’ roots start spreading around and developing, well balanced nutrients according to the type of plants are being provided which helps in the rapid growth of spindly seedling into a healthy pant.

3.     Vegetative

Plants contain a green pigment called chlorophyll. The key component of chlorophyll is nitrogen, so it’s the critical nutrient which provides energy for growing stalks and foliage.

4.     Budding

At the start of a plant’s reproductive cycle, Phosphorus is in high demand, which aids in the transformation of growing leaves into buds.

5.     Flowering

Plants use Potassium as a primary nutrient for producing and transporting of sugar and starch which is used by plants for developing healthy flowers and fruit.

6.     Ripening

When flowers and fruit of the gardening plants are getting to their full maturity, they need plain water without nutrients for one to two weeks. This lets them use up all the absorbed nutrients and transport them throughout the plant. This process is called “flushing”

what are the stages of gardening

Knowing the life cycle of plants is important for designing a garden. A plant’s lifespan depends on how long it takes from seedling to become mature enough and bloom, as well as production rates before ultimately dying off. Depending on the plant selection, your garden design can focus on color, form, or foliage.

Plants belong in one of three following categories: annuals, biennials, and perennials.

  1. Annuals

Annual plants complete their life cycle in a single growing season. They typically sprout out from seed in spring season, bloom, produce seeds, and eliminate before winter comes again.

Annual plants are best selection for you if you want the most bangs for your buck. Most of the garden vegetables and many herbs are annuals, because they need to be replanted every year.

  1. Biennials

Biennial plants live for two growing seasons. In the first year, they sprout and grow their leaves and root while flowers and seeds come in the second growing season, after which the plant eradicated. Biennials are relatively less common in home gardens.

  1. Perennials

Perennial plants live for at least three seasons, and many live more than that in the right being provided by right climate. Perennials can be of two types i.e.   herbaceous, the plants with soft stems that die to the ground in winter season and grow back from their roots, or woody, those with hard stems or trunks (like trees, shrubs, and woody vines). Woody perennials are of great importance in creating a backdrop for other plants, and provide them with a habitat for wildlife.

Perennial flowers have a distinct blooming period lasting several weeks, although some flowers keep on blooming throughout the summer. By choosing a combination of early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers, you can have continuous color as different flowers bloom and fade. 

So that’s it!  I hope this gives you a solid overview and understanding of the gardening life cycle.