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What they say... Kevin Murphy, president and chief executive officer, Onyx Graphics

What does all the noise surrounding newly introduced Onyx 18 say about development direction at this Canon software subsidiary, and in the large-format market in general?

If you were on the Onyx stand at Fespa 2018 you will have seen personnel sporting Onyx 18 lapel badges and making lots of noise about the launch of what is the company’s new wide- and grand-format software - a package that enables PSPs to prove to customers that colour accuracy, consistency and conformance to standards such as G7 and Fogra have been met. Who doesn’t want that capability? What’s more, it’s the first solution compatible with iccMAX, the new standard recommended by the ICC for all wideand grand-format print applications including textile and soft signage.

In the words of its show press materials, “the new release brings next level power and reliability to the entire portfolio of Onyx products [Thrive, ProductionHouse, PosterShop and RipCenter] with the latest Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE 4.8), a high-speed, high-fidelity print platform for increased consistency and reliability across proofing cycles. Combined with new dynamic tools for print production and optimised out-of-the-box presets, Onyx 18 delivers fast, superior output for all wideformat printing applications.”

Mark Lewiecki, senior product manager at Adobe expands: “With the Adobe PDF Print Engine now available in all Onyx solutions, customers can expect even greater reliability and consistency across their workflows, especially when jobs are built using Adobe Creative Cloud applications such as Illustrator CC, Photoshop CC and InDesign CC.”

Sounds impressive, and Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing at Onyx Graphics gets very excited about the development, saying: “Onyx 18 disrupts the status-quo of existing print solutions - it puts the power of Onyx into the hands of PSPs to go after that big account and distinguish themselves against their competition with output quality they can literally prove to their customers.”

Amid the on-stand high energy at Fespa 2018, it would seem a no-brainer that PSPs would be rushing to buy a product such as this, but a sobering thought is that of the 151 PSPs responding to the Image Reports’ independent survey of those in the UK/ Ireland’s large-format sector, only 13 (8.61%) said they would be investing in workflow software over the next two years (15.23% said they’d invest in design software over the same period, 3.31% in MIS and 1.99% in Web-to-print). But that kind of data won’t faze Salt Lake City-based Onyx which, according to president and chief executive Kevin Murphy, has seen “double digit profit growth over the last three years, and turnover approaching double digit growth too.” He’s confident that upwards trajectory will continue, adding: “We will continue with the same level of growth as in the previous three years.”

Murphy thinks Onyx has a plan to make that happen. The company - founded in 1989 and now a subsidiary of Canon - set out to help customers achieve colour printing on electrostatic printers for short run, large-format printing and continues to pursue a goal to help them increase productivity, reduce costs, and gain a competitive edge through consistent colour quality - across various print platforms where required.

Since its foundation Onyx has shipped over 150,000 Rips - an area where it “will continue to invest in development/functionality to increase global market share,” according to Murphy, pointing out that “if you take China out of the equation we already consider ourselves to be market leaders” though he admits that “no-one really knows actual market share”. He qualifies his claim by saying “our shipments have continued to grow in what is a flat market.”

And there you have a vital clue to where Onyx sees its focus for growth - not so much in standalone Rips, which used to be around 90% of its unit sales - but in workflow products, AKA ‘site solutions’.

“Printer manufacturers want to optimise their sale so they become printer islands. But we want to optimise cross-technology platforms within a print production house - so that the red printed on one machine is the same as the red printed on another from a different vendor. And we also want to give them the data they require to be able to make strategic decisions for the business, like ‘which jobs did I make money on?’,” says Murphy

He continues: “Rips are still important to us. We now have a focus for instance on developing Rips for the textile print market where dye-sub needs better colour control. And we will continue working with printer manufacturers - we work with 125 - to ensure that if you have a printer we have a driver for it, but ‘site solutions’ is where our future is.

“It is our aim to become the leader in workflow products,” Murphy continues, agreeing that they are higher revenue products, and he goes on to provide the mission statement: “Your [print] shop will never outperform Onyx. However you want to print, trust Onyx to have the solution.”

Having asked Murphy if he thinks large-format PSPs though are really ready to invest in workflow products, where there’s been something of a slowburn, he notes: “The thing is, commercial printers are getting into wide-format and they know about workflow/automation capability from their past life and expect it in this area too. So large-format PSPs that were ‘artisans’ of sorts are having to wake-up to software solutions to compete. Plus, the market has in the past not really had very good solutions for the large-format market, just tweaked commercial packages. Software suppliers too are waking-up to the fact that large-format can be a valuable new revenue stream for them if they develop proper products. It’s why we are taking more time talking to the market and asking the right kinds of questions about what they want.

“How do we get colour consistency across various platforms is what we get asked a lot so we work with kit manufacturers to come up with solutions for that, and Onyx 18 is a real step up on that front, not just delivering consistency, but providing proof that PSPs can show customers, which is a big issue.

“Site solutions for mixed technology environments is a key ask and a profitable area for us. There’s a real demand now for businesses to be run more efficiently and so people want an end-to-end workflow.

“Take OnyxHub for instance - 2.0 is due out later this year for an improved user experience. The market wants a simplified, and where possible a more automated process, with data coming from the Rip as opposed to someone having to manually input it. And they want some sort of analysis rather than just data so that they can easily see what are the most profitable jobs or whatever. When people look at Hub reports they’re often horrified by their media wastage. They just assume ink is their biggest wastage, but accurate data reporting often shows otherwise.

“The greatest growth in software over the next five years will be information led. We’re based on the ‘Silicon Slopes’ where we have a great talent pool and our aim is to develop products that suit all sizes of PSP and that offer different purchase/ subscription models - including upgrades and support - to suit everybody.”

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