We recently returned from the PIA Color Conference in San Diego! After our long history of supporting the event as a sponsor, Heidelberg was happy to continue contributing with multiple speaking engagements discussing a variety of topics including standards, inkjet technology, and printing to specifications including G7. This year’s conference continued to develop by enriching its content and audience mix. With a 40% increase in attendance from the previous year, PIA also had the largest attendance at the conference in the last 10 years; attendees included brand owners, CPG’s, designers and printers. The event also changed with an increased focus on packaging— including both the impact of design on the consumer and production of the package.

At the conference, I was joined with my two colleagues, Jim Ross and Joe Suffoletto, who provided many demonstrations of our color solutions— including Prinect Color Toolbox and our Multicolor Toolset. Joe Suffoletto gave a great educational session discussing the different process standards used in the industry, how to achieve the pass/fail metrics for each of them through the use of Prinect Color Toolbox, along with the reporting functionality that can also be provided for proof of compliance.

Heidelberg at PIA Color Conference
Ready to spend time with customers
Color Toolbox Example
Example of Color Toolbox from Joe Suffoletto’s session

The conference featured a fantastic array of keynotes including Google, Adobe, Carnegie Mellon University, Diageo and 3M who covered topical, relevant and intriguing subjects including brand management strategies, the impact of design and the user experience (UX). The conference started with a discussion on mops from David Hogue from Google. Yes, mops. Their message was that you need to look at the whole process and not just the machine. The example they gave was the Swiffer mop— the chemicals were not better than competitors, but the customer experience was improved. David went on to explain that it takes a team to deliver a great UX. Taking us through the whole process of UX, it was great to see the Prinect workflow used as an example of UX in the print industry.

Example of UX
Example of UX from David M Hogue, Google, Keynote, 2018 Color Conference

Later in the conference, we had interactive session, “Production Inkjet: Get Great Color with Less Ink,” where I collaborated with George Promis from Ricoh and Terry Wozniak from Kodak and address web and sheetfed inkjet presses. Inkjet fits as part of the wider production arena and offers a number of unique advantages. In inkjet, it is well understood that ink costs play a significant role in the final cost of the printed material; however, optimizing the color/ink usage tradeoff to achieve sellable quality can have a major impact on cost per piece. As the amount of ink used is reduced, this will have a negative impact on the color gamut, but to what degree, is dependent on the substrate used. The session addressed the balance of quality and cost, along with the introduction of artifacts into the images and the solutions used to minimize these.

There were 43 sessions in total! On the production track, highlights included the application of G7 across a wide range of materials / print process and the consistency of digital presses, which showed that the standardization and process control is critical. Process controls remain a key factor to the successful implementation of color management, as we discussed earlier this year in our Color Thoughts for 2018. Process controls and instrumentation is core to a successful quality print operation. It underpins the production lifecycle and provides the basis for producing accurate, consistent, and repeatable prints for customers. It is difficult, if not impossible, to effectively manage the process to meet customer expectations without measurement to quantify the process. Many sessions in the standards and research track emphasized this and the tools available to achieve predictable color. Brand and design was well represented in the conference starting with how we see colors, what are reasonable expectations and how do we manage it in the supply chain.

The conference wrapped up on the last day with a very interactive and well received panel discussing the impact of standards on the industry, moderated by Don Schroeder with Steve Smiley, William Li, Ray Cheydleur and myself as panelists. Standards work really started in the graphic arts to aid with the transfer of files between different workflows in the 1980’s. The use of standards has developed significantly since then to cover all aspects of the graphic arts industry. They are developed collaboratively, and today’s standards are recognized as being essential to helping companies be innovative, reduce costs, improve quality and maintain competitiveness in an international marketplace. There are currently 91 published ISO standards under TC130 with 28 in development— all aid in the productivity and quality in the graphic arts.

The 2018 Color Conference showcased where we are today with color management and how it works. We have many tools and solutions to consistently get accurate and predictable color day in and day out. We are excited to be back again January 12th to 15th, 2019 in San Diego to support this important industry event. See you there!