Archive for the Business systems Category

Efraim “Efi” Arazi (1937–2013): Color electronic prepress systems

Posted in Business systems, People in Media History, Prepress, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2015 by multimediaman
Efraim “Efi” Arazi: April 14, 1937 – April 14, 2013

Efraim “Efi” Arazi: April 14, 1937 – April 14, 2013

One of the most important achievements of personal computers and mobile wireless technologies is that they have made it possible for the general public to do things that could previously be done only by professionals.

Take video for example: according to YouTube statistics, 300 hours of digital video is uploaded every minute of every day by people all over the world. This remarkable volume of video is being generated because just about anyone can record, edit and upload a high-definition movie from their smartphone. According to a recent Pew Research study, about one third of online adults (ages 18-50) had posted digital video to a website by 2013.

It is easy to take for granted the video production functions that are performed routinely today on inexpensive and easy to use mobile devices. Less than ten years ago, the ability to capture and edit HD video would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in digital camera and production equipment and required extensive training to use it.

The same can be said for the ability to quickly create a document in a word processing program and insert high resolution graphics anywhere on the page, cropping and scaling as needed. Applying filters and adjusting image quality (contrast, brightness, sharpness) is also second nature as these functions are today available on every mobile device.

CEPS

Four decades ago, before the personal computer existed, electronic image editing, scaling and cropping could only be performed on very expensive prepress systems that cost more than $1 million. That was during the era of what was known as color electronic prepress systems (CEPS) that were built on state-of-the-art minicomputers with reel-to-reel magnetic tape for data storage.

Arazi making a presentation of the Scitex  CEPS equipment in 1979

Arazi making a presentation of the Scitex CEPS equipment in 1979

During the 1960s and 1970s, as commercial offset lithography and film-based color reproduction were overtaking letterpress and single color work, high-end digital electronic production systems were acquired by the big printing companies and major publishers that could afford the investment.

By the 1960s—after analog electronic systems had been widely adopted in pressrooms and prepress and typesetting departments across both Europe and America—a race was on to develop a fully computerized page composing system. Companies like Hell, Crosfield, Dai Nippon Screen and other companies that had been part of the post-war electronics revolution jumped into the market to try and solve the problem of merging text and color photographs together electronically on a computer display.

However, it was a newcomer to the graphic arts industry from Israel called Scitex, founded by Efraim “Efi” Arazi in 1968, that made the highly anticipated breakthrough. Foreshadowing the impact of PC-based desktop publishing on graphic communications in the late 1980s, Scitex introduced digital files and computerization to the prepress production process and forever changed the printing industry.

Scitex

Efi Arazi (born in Jerusalem on April 14, 1937) entered the Israeli military when he was 16 and without graduating from high school. He made a name for himself as an exceptional electronics specialist while working on radar systems in the Israeli air force. Following his military service, with the assistance of the US embassy Arazi was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958 as an “extraordinary case” despite his lack of the normally requisite secondary school diploma.

While attending MIT, Arazi also worked at Harvard University’s observatory and digital photography lab. Under the direction of Harvard Professor Mario Grossi, Arazi petitioned NASA and was awarded funds to develop a camera system for scanning the surface of the moon on the unmanned lunar probes in 1966 and 1967. It has also been reported that Arazi’s invention was part of the equipment on the Apollo 11 mission that captured and transmitted video of Neil Armstrong’s first footsteps on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

After earning a bachelor degree in engineering at MIT, Arazi worked in the US for a short time for Itek corporation, a US defense contractor that specialized in spy satellite imagery. In 1967 he returned to Israel and one year later—along with several others who had been educated in the US—founded Scientific Technologies (later shortened to Scitex) with the aim of developing electro-optical devices for commercial purposes.

The Scitex Response 80 system and an example of a stitching designs from it

The Scitex Response 80 system and an example of a stitching design from it

Scitex’s first products were developed for the textile industry. The company sold nearly one hundred electronic systems that automated the process of creating knitting patterns. Since many colors were used in complex fabric designs such as the popular Jacquard pattern, Arazi and his Scitex team developed a scanner (Chroma-Scan) and image manipulation workstation (Response 80) that programmed electronic double-knit stitching looms.

These optical systems replaced manual and time consuming stitch-by-stitch drawings and punch cards that had been widely used in the textile industry up to that time. Scitex also later devised a system for imaging film for printing on textiles that included overprinting, trapping and repeating patterns.

Response 300

Recognizing the potential for new technologies in the growing international printing and publishing industries, Scitex began development in 1975 of a computerized color prepress system. Arazi stunned the graphic arts industry in the Fall of 1979 when he demonstrated the Response 300 system for the first time at the GEC expo in Milan, Italy.

Response 300 included an integrated color drum scanner, image editing workstation and laser film plotter. Directly challenging the domination of high tech graphic arts equipment by Hell (Germany) and Crosfield (UK), Scitex was the first company in the world to combine color image retouching and page makeup onto a single console.

An early model Scitex Response workstation and console

An early model Scitex Response workstation and console

Prior to the Response 300, the electronic color scanning process was based on an analog transfer of color separation information directly from a drum scanner to the film output device. The innovation of Arazi and Scitex was to place a minicomputer (at that time an HP1000) between the scanner and plotter such that the color separations were captured and stored in digital form. The proprietary image files could then be color corrected, retouched, scaled and cropped on screen prior to final output as film separations.

In describing the significance of the accomplishment, industry historian Andy Tribute later explained, “It allowed you to do in real-time on a terminal the sort of things we do in Photoshop now. … I remember watching Efi do a demo where he had a picture of a person with a Rolex watch on and he changed the date in real time on the Rolex. Today that may seem nothing but back then it blew my mind”

Within one year, Scitex had sold $100 million of the Response systems to printers and publishers. Through the mid-1980s, Arazi led Scitex as it developed a suite of products (Raystar, SmartScanner, Whipser, Prisma and Prismax Superstation to name a few) that brought the latest in minicomputer technologies to high-end prepress workflows. Scitex customers gladly paid the $1 million price tag for the flexibility and time savings that Scitex provided.

DTP & EFI

The first European installation of the Response 200 system for the textile industry in 1975

The first European installation of the Response 200 system for the textile industry in 1975

Scitex remained an innovator throughout the 1980s and 1990s as proprietary technologies and CEPS gave way to desktop publishing, industry standard file formats and PostScript workflows. Scitex was among the first prepress technology companies to embrace the introduction of Macintosh computers into graphic arts production.

In 1988, Scitex partnered with Quark technologies—developer of the most sophisticated desktop publishing software at the time—and made it possible for QuarkXPress users to build compound documents with high resolution full color images to be output for both commercial and publication printing.

In 1985, Arazi pushed the industry forward with the development of Handshake, a Scitex product that allowed a wide variety of systems including those of competitors to send and receive data from the Response line of products. Later Scitex was an advocate of Digital Data Exchange Standards along with Hell, Crosfield, Eikonix and others to smooth that transfer of data between all systems in the industry.

In June 1988, Arazi stepped down as President and CEO of Scitex. Six months later, when Mirror Group’s Robert Maxwell acquired a controlling stake in Scitex, Efi Arazi also resigned as chairman of the board. While the company had reached the height of its success with revenues approaching $1 billion and 4,000 employees, Arazi knew that personal computers were transforming the industry and it was time to move on to other business ventures.

After Arazi’s departure, Scitex continued to develop prepress workflow systems, laser imaging equipment, desktop scanners, digital color and soft proofing devices. The company participated in the transition from film-based workflows to the direct-to-plate revolution of the mid-1990s.

Along with all of its competitors, Scitex began to struggle financially and ended up selling its graphic arts group to Vancouver-based competitor Creo Products in 2000. The division of the company that went into digital printing called Scitex Vision was acquired along with the Scitex name by HP in 2005. The remainder of the business was renamed Scailex at that time.

In 1988 Efi Arazi founded Electronics for Imaging (EFI) at the age of 51. The new venture was no less successful then Scitex as EFI raster image processors were integrated in many high quality color laser and toner based printing devices. The EFI Fiery technology quickly became a standard in the graphic arts industry by the 1990s for low cost, high quality color proofs. The company—which bears the first name of its founder as an acronym—later expanded into ink jet printing devices, printing industry productivity software and print server and workflow software tools. Today EFI is one of the most important and successful technology companies in the rapidly changing printing industry. Efraim Arazi died on April 14, 2013 at age 76.

John Crosfield (1915 – 2012): Printing press automation

Posted in Business systems, People in Media History, Phototypesetting, Print Media, Typography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by multimediaman
John Crosfield

John Fothergill Crosfield: October 22, 1915 – March 25, 2012

Today’s digital and mobile wireless technologies are in a constant state of flux. As we pass the midpoint of 2015, the human computer interface is being once again transformed with haptic technology—tactile feedback from a device such as force or vibration.

If you have felt vibration in response to a touch function on your smartphone, then you have experienced haptics. What was until recently available only to virtual reality enthusiasts and gamers, is now a feature of every smartphone and tablet.

Technical evolution has been so fast that it is hard to believe smartphones have been around for less than eight years and the tablet is just a little over three years old. As we try to keep up with the pace of change, it is easy to miss the fact that the electronics revolution has been underway for more than a century and digital electronics represents less than half of that time period.

Electronic technology can be divided into two basic forms: analog and digital. Long before there were microprocessors and memory chips that exchange all information, data, code, signals, etc. in a series of zeroes and ones, there were analog electronics such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes and transistors.

The difference between a clock with hour, minute and second hands rotating around the face and the numerals on an Light Emitting Diode (LED) clock display is a simple illustration of analogue vs digital technology.

John Crosfield’s contributions to printing and the graphic arts spanned both analogue and digital electronics. His analogue systems were developed in the late 1940s and became dominant in the industry throughout the 1950s. When the first computers were introduced in the 1960s, Crosfield pioneered digital electronics and became a major worldwide provider of equipment into the 1960s and mid-70s.

Crosfield’s youth

Young John Crosfield

Young John F. Crosfield

John Fothergill Crosfield was born into a well-off family. He was the third child and second son of prominent English Quakers. Born on October 22, 1915 in Hampstead, London—a community known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations—John had five siblings.

John’s father, Bertram Fothergill Crosfield, was managing director and co-proprietor of the News Chronical and The Star, both liberal daily newspapers in London. Bertram was also leader of several Hampstead organizations. John’s mother, Eleanor Cadbury, was the daughter of the famous chocolate maker and leading Quaker, George Cadbury. Eleanor was well-known independently of her father and was elected as a Liberal to Bucks County Council.

John showed an early interest in building things. As a boy, he was often busy in the family workshop making boats, steam engines and other mechanical devices. He once built a cannon and tested it on the garage door. The projectile went through the door and damaged his father’s Daimler. He was fond of trains and, with the assistance of a childhood friend, built an O gauge model railroad on the property of his school grounds.

At age 13 John was enrolled in Leighton Park School, a Quaker establishment. He enjoyed studying physics and math and decided he wanted to pursue engineering at college. Following in his father’s footsteps, John enrolled at Trinity College Cambridge. He designed and built gliders and other flying machinery such as a winch launcher in his spare time. Although he had many hobbies, John was an exceptional student and put most of his time into his studies.

John graduated from Cambridge in 1936 and went to Munich, Germany to improve his language skills. He came into contact with anti-Semitism and Nazi propaganda and was horrified by Hitler’s methods. Upon his return to England, John’s accounts of the treatment of political prisoners in Germany were met with disbelief.

World War II

John Crosfield was a member of a generation of engineers whose formative experiences were made in World War II. Much of the technology advancements that were deployed throughout industry in the post war period originated in the struggle by the warring countries for military supremacy.

After he left Cambridge, Crosfield took a student-apprentice engineering position with British Thomson-Hudson (BTH), a heavy industry firm based in Warwickshire. BTH was founded as a subsidiary of the US-based General Electric Company (GE) and specialized in steam turbines. In 1938, he left BTH and went to work at the Stockholm facility of ASEA, a Swedish version of BTH and GE. When the war began in 1939, John made his way back to England and planned to join the Navy.

Crosfield used some connections at ASEA to get an assignment by the Admiralty to the Mine Design Department. It was here that Crosfield’s electronic genius would begin to be expressed. He worked on a magnetic mine project that could detect German boats near British harbors.

Crosfield also designed and built a prototype of an acoustic mine that could pick up on the sound of the propeller of wooden German E-boats. The acoustic mine became a success with 200 being deployed in the Baltic Sea and sinking 47 enemy vessels. Crosfield and his colleagues later worked on the development of both acoustic and subsonic mines. He got involved in the production process and in 1944 Crosfield’s inventions proved extremely effective in major battles at the Straits of Dover and the Western Approaches.

Crosfield Electronics Limited & the Autotron

1949 advertisement for the Crosfield Autotron, the first automated electronic register control system

1949 advertisement for the Crosfield Autotron, the first automated electronic register control system

After the war, John Crosfield decided—after having learned from his experience at ASEA that some of the projects that he had worked on would never be funded—to start his own business. In 1947, he set up a lab in Hampstead and began working on new projects. He later recalled that in 1945, while he was in charge of electronics research for the Admiralty, he was approached by a printing industry representative about the problem of color registration on high speed rotogravure magazine presses. There was a need for an automated system to align all the process colors in the printed page to improve quality and reduce press waste.

With about £2,000 of his own money and another £2,500 borrowed from family members, Crosfield set out to design an electronic and automated registration system for color printing. After 18 months of hard work, the “Autotron” was tested as a prototype on the production of Women’s Weekly at Amalgamated Press in London. Prior to the Autotron, a magazine production run would often waste 25-30% of the impressions using manual controls. Crosfield’s automatic register system brought the waste figures down to 4-5%.

The Autotron consisted of a scanning heads mounted on each printing unit and a control cubicle that was located away from the press. The scanning heads picked up “register marks”—unobtrusive symbols on the printed page that were hidden from view—to regulate the movement of the printed image from unit to unit with an accuracy of one thousandth (1/1000) of an inch.

Word about the Autotron travelled quickly in the printing industry and Crosfield was soon taking prepaid orders from companies in Britain. An opportunity to show the system at the British Industries Fair in 1949 made Autotron an international phenomenon and orders were quickly being placed from printers in countries around the world.

Pressroom automation

The success of the Autotron encouraged John Crosfield to invest in further research in pressroom automation for gravure magazine printing and other presses such as offset newspaper and packaging print.

In Recollections of Crosfield Electronics, 1947 to 1975, John Crosfield wrote, “My philosophy was to concentrate our research on new electronic aids for the printing industry, in order to maximize the use of our electronic ‘know how’ on the one hand and our sales contacts in the printing industry on the other. Eventually we had the greatest range of electronic equipment for the printing industry of any company in the world.”

In the 1950s, Crosfield developed a suite of successful automation products for the industry:

  • Secatron: an optical system for packaging printers that kept images in the right position on the cardboard so they would look right on the finished carton.
  • Webatron: a system similar to Autotron for high speed presses that regulated the movement of paper through the press for delivery to folders and sheeters.
  • Trakatron: a system for regulating print on web-fed cellophane and wax paper presses.
  • Idotron: a system for measuring ink density on a web press to keep color reproduction consistent during press runs.
  • Viscomex: an ink viscosity control system that added solvents to the ink automatically as needed as a result of evaporation.
  • Flying Paster: an automatic splicing mechanism that enabled production to go from one roll of paper to the other without slowing down or stopping the press.
Crosfield Idotron measured and adjusted ink density inline on a high speed rotogravure press

Crosfield Idotron measured and adjusted ink density inline on a high speed rotogravure press

Many of these systems relied upon photo-electric cells to detect movement of paper or printed images on the paper. Crosfield’s expertise in the area of optical sensors lead him to several other important breakthroughs in the composition and preparatory stages of print production. These developments took place in an environment of intense global competition with companies in Europe, the US and Middle East.

Phototypesetting and color scanning

The Crosfield Lumitype 450 was the first phototypesetting system designed and built in Europe. It was licensed to Crosfield by the US based Photon.

The Crosfield Lumitype 450 was the first phototypesetting system designed and built in Europe. It was licensed to Crosfield by the US based Photon.

By the 1960s, the printing industry had been moving rapidly into offset lithography. A major factor in this regard was the displacement of hot metal typesetting with cold type, i.e. phototypesetting systems. While Crosfield was not the inventor of the first phototypesetter, his company was a designer and builder of the Lumitype 540 under patents from the original inventors at Photon in the US. This relationship would continue through the development of the high speed Photon 713 in 1965, which was the first computer controlled phototypesetting system.

Among the greatest successes of Crosfield Electronics, Ltd. was its color scanning systems. The Crosfield Scanatron—which was developed in 1958—was the first scanning technology that could make color corrections and eliminate the time-consuming work of retouchers.

The Crosfield Magnascan was the first color scanning device that could retouch color electronically.

The Crosfield Magnascan was the first color scanning device that could retouch color electronically.

Crosfield continued with advancements in color scanning throughout the 1960s. The Magnascan was introduced in 1969 and it was capable of scanning a color transparency. It also had the software capability to adjust the size, form, color and hue such that the printed image was of the finest quality anywhere.

While the Magnascan was an international success, it was developed at the same time as Rudolf Hell’s Chromograph. Recognizing that a battle over who invented and patented the drum scanner first, the two men signed an agreement giving cross licenses for a modest royalty. Crosfield and Hell remained good friends from that point forward.

Impact of desktop computing

John Crosfield receiving the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973

John Crosfield receiving the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973

In addition to accomplishments in the graphic arts, Crosfield Electronics Limited (CEL). also developed computerized business systems and—leveraging the expertise in optical devices—invented a very successful automated bank note sorting and processing technology.

While the company was very successful in the printing market, an attempt to take CEL public in 1974 was made during a collapse of the stock exchange and Crosfield ended up selling his business to De La Rue. The color scanning segment of his business—the most profitable aspect of CEL—was sold by De La Rue in 1989 to a joint venture of Fuji and DuPont called Fujifilm Electronics Imaging.

With the introduction of the desktop PC—and especially the desktop publishing system associated with the Apple Macintosh computer in 1985 and shortly thereafter desktop flatbed scanners—Crosfield’s era graphic arts electronics had come to a close.

John Crosfield received many accolades for his contributions to the printing industry over nearly five decades, including four United Kingdom Queen’s Awards and the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973. He remained a board member of De La Rue until 1985 and thereafter was Honorary President of CEL. A very modest, personable and generous man, John Crosfield died on March 25, 2012 at his home in Hampstead at age 96.

What is CRM and why do you need it?

Posted in Business systems, Mobile, Social Media with tags , , , , on April 24, 2015 by multimediaman
CRM Logos

CRM solutions (clockwise from top left) Salesforce.com, Microsoft Outlook Business Contact Manager, ACT! and SugarCRM.

I have used CRM software tools for more than ten years. Some of these were single user apps, some were client/server-based and included workgroup collaboration. Others were integrated with corporate-wide ERP systems and linked all departments together. Among the well-known solutions I have used are ACT!, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Microsoft Outlook Business Contact Manager.

Each of these has its strengths and weaknesses. Many functions and features are common to them all such as contact management, sales pipeline management, sales forecasting, etc. Each also has unique and distinguishing capabilities. Among the most important technical features of a CRM for me have been:

  • browser access
  • mobile app access
  • staff and management user levels
  • customizable dashboards
  • email client/server synchronization
  • APIs for ERP integration
  • automated email and text notifications for both staff and customers
  • custom and automatic report generation

The purpose of this article is to review the evolution and importance of customer relationship management as a business discipline and then explain some key lessons I have learned in my experience with CRM tools over the past decade.

Although it did not always have an acronym or business theory behind it, CRM has been practiced since the dawn of commerce. In short, customer relationship management is the methods that a business uses when interacting with customers. Although CRM is often associated with marketing, new business development and sales functions, it actually encompasses the end-to-end experience that customers have with an organization.

Therefore, customer relationship management is an important part of every business; how you manage your client relationships—from initial contact to account acquisition and development through delivery of products and services … and beyond—is vital to your future. It stands to reason that companies that are very good at customer relationship management are often among the most successful businesses.

Around the time that computers were used in business—especially the PC in the 1980s and the World Wide Web in the 1990s—the phrase customer relationship management and its acronym CRM began to acquire a specific meaning. By the late 1990s, entire schools of business thought were developed around strategies for the collection and handling of information and data about customer relations. CRM-specific technology platforms that place the customer at the center of business activity grew up around these theories.

In the first decade of the new century, the warehousing of customer information as well as the availability of demographic data about the population as a whole made it possible for CRM tools to be used for integrated and targeted marketing campaigns for new customer acquisition. Later, the growth of Big Data and cloud computing services moved CRM data out of the IT closet and made it available with software as a service (SaaS) solutions that are very flexible and can be deployed at any time and anywhere.

Most recently, social media has added another layer of information to CRM whereby companies can monitor or “listen” to dialogue between their organization and customers in real time.

CRM software industry growth

Source: Gartner Research

Business software industry experts are reporting that investment in CRM tools has been exploding and shows little sign of slowdown. According to an enterprise software market forecast by Gartner Research in 2013, total spending on CRM systems would pass that of ERP spending in 2016 and reach a total of $36 billion by 2017.

Cloud adoption by business functions

Source: Really Simple Solutions

The Gartner Research study also showed that by 2014 cloud-based CRM systems would represent 87% of the market, up from 12% in 2008. Meanwhile, in their Cloud Attitudes Survey, Really Simple Systems showed that cloud-based adoption by CRM users is more than double that of all other business functions including accounting, payroll, HR and manufacturing.

Mobile CRM adoption

Source: Gartner Research

Along with the growth of Cloud-based CRM solutions—and also driving it—is mobile technology. According to Gartner Research, mobile CRM adoption experienced the following in 2014:

  • 500% growth rate in the number of apps rising from 200 to 1,200 on mobile app stores
  • 30% increase in the use of tablets by the sales people
  • 35% of businesses have been moving toward mobile CRM apps

While these trends show that expectations are very high that increased CRM resources and investment will produce improved business results, there are countervailing trends that the path forward is far from a straight line. A survey by DiscoverOrg showed that nearly one quarter of all businesses do not have any CRM system. Additionally, one industry study shows that many organizations face setbacks during implementation and some (25-60%) fail to meet ROI targets.

Finally, other research shows that companies that have invested in CRM tools do not take advantage of some 80% of their potential benefits, especially integration and extension throughout the entire organization. All of the above statistics correspond with my own experience. While decision makers and business leaders have expectations that a CRM solution will significantly impact their bottom line, the challenges of implementation can be daunting and bog down the effort quickly.

Therefore, it is critical to have a CRM implementation plan:

  • Develop an integrated CRM strategy that places the customer at the center of all company departments and functions.
  • Map your IT infrastructure and identify all centers of customer data.
  • Evaluate, select and test a technology solution that is appropriate for your organization.
  • Utilize IT resources to build an architecture that will bring all or most of your customer data together within one system.
  • Identify champions in each department and build support and buy-in for the CRM throughout the company.
  • Work on your data quality and make sure that the information that is going into the system at startup does not compromise the project.
  • Provide training and share success stories to encourage everyone to use the system throughout the day.

In our intensely competitive environment, it is clear that CRM tools can enable an organization to effectively respond to multiple, simultaneous and complex customer needs. Every department—marketing, sales, customer service, production, shipping and accounting—has a critical role to play in building the customer database and using the CRM.

The following conclusions are derived from my experience:

  1. Few companies have implemented CRM technologies and even when CRM tools are available, few people embrace and use them.
  2. Those with effective CRM implementations are significantly outperforming the competition on the service and communication side of their business.
  3. The best and most successful companies connect their CRM infrastructure with business strategy and make its use part of their corporate culture.