Back to the Basics: Training and Education
Timing may be perfect to return to the classroom.
In lean times, training and education can be the fine line between making a profit or not. After all, all other things being equal, the shop that can turn around the highest-quality job and do so most efficiently is the one that will continue to get the lion’s share of business.
And the best way to ensure your shop is producing quality, efficient work is to reinforce critical areas of training and education-in essence, reinstituting the basics of a continuous learning process throughout the operation. After all, it’s never too late to teach an old dog the newest tricks, or to remind the young pups about some old ones.
All across the graphic-arts market, the various players-manufacturers and suppliers, associations, tradeshows-seem to be recognizing the import of training and education. So, not coincidentally, the timing is perfect for the smart print provider to hit the classroom, even if it’s a virtual one. The mix of educational opportunities that are available has never been better.
From the horse’s mouth
Let’s look first at what manufacturers and suppliers are offering up in the way of training and education. As you might suspect, some of what’s offered here is company- and product-centric, but many companies are now partnering with other manufacturers, suppliers, and end users to provide existing and prospective customers with a broader range of knowledge and expertise. The list of companies that follows is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good sampling across the board of what’s available to print providers.
Cyrcon Cyrious users conference: Typically held in the spring on-site before the International Sign Expo, the annual Cyrious Users Conference (www.cyrious.com) comprises product-specific training, user-led roundtable discussions, expert user speakers, and info on new product features and enhancements. The 2009 event will be held in Las Vegas.
Dscoop conference: Founded by HP Indigo users and the HP Indigo company team, Dscoop (www.dscoop.org) is a user-driven community for Indigo owners and users. The group’s annual conference brings together Indigo users from around the world for educational sessions that cover business/sales, technical matters, labeling/packaging, multidisciplinary sessions, and more.
EFI Connect users conference: EFI’s annual event allows users to test-drive products, discuss industry trends, network with peers, and, of course, attend educational sessions (more than 160 at last count). The most recent Connect conference (www.efi.com) offered extended classroom sessions, expanded computer lab times, and added specialty tracks so attendees could have a focused day on a specific discipline within the industry.
ECM 2008-Extreme Color Management: Presented by the Color Management Group (www.colormanagement.com), the consortium of consultant-based resellers, this event offers an array of educational sessions designed to provide information and insights into the newest color-management techniques and technologies. Specific sessions include: "The Metrics of Color," "Workflow: Up and Running," and "Color Management’s Uncharted Territory." In addition, a track has been set up to help managers make decisions about implementing color-management techniques. The event takes place September 16-17 in New Orleans. The Color Management Group also offers a variety of webinars as well as self-paced color-management courses.
HP Knowledge Center: Via its online Knowledge Center, HP’s Large-Format Printing Workshops (www.hp.com) offer step-by-step tutorials on topics ranging from creating banners to developing backlit displays. The site also provides creative workflow videos that demonstrate how users move from concept to creation for various applications.
Ideal Large-Format Scanning Webinars: Ideal (www.ideal.com) offers three categories of webinars hitting on the topic of large-format scanning. Its Educational Webinars are open to all users and cover large-format topics such as "introduction to" presentations, overviews of various technology, and general tips and tricks. The company also offers Online Software Demonstrations and Dealer Training Webinars.
LexJet Great Output seminar: Focusing on professional photographic and fine-art printing, in conjunction with Canon, the Great Output traveling seminar from LexJet (www.lexjet.com) hits the road in September and visits 20 cities across the country by the end of the tour. Instructor Tom Hauenstein will address quality color management (calibrating, profiling, soft proofing), efficient workflows, and innovative print applications (including how and when to enter new markets), as well as provide demonstrations of the Canon imageProGraf printer.
In mid-August, LexJet hosted an open house and technology demonstration at the company’s technology center in Sarasota, Florida; the event was designed to showcase "the latest technology available in wide-format printing," and featured every component of the digital printing process, including sneak previews of products and equipment not yet released to the industry.
MacTac Introductory Vehicle Wrap Seminars: Through its Application Nation program (www.theapplicationnation.com), MacTac has teamed up with Rob Ivers Inc. (www.robivers.com) for two-day vehicle-wrap seminars around the country throughout 2008. Seminar topics include vehicle-design theory; vehicle and vinyl-prep techniques, application techniques for complex curves, correcting failures/problems; finishing the job; removal; and vehicle-wrap products. The September event takes place in Chicago and the company reports it may add events in Orlando (November) and in North Carolina (December); it plans to again offer the seminars in 2009.
Mutoh open house: In late August, Mutoh (www.mutoh.com) held an open house with a green theme, "How to Go Green and Make Money," at the company’s facility in Phoenix. The event focused on producing prints while protecting the environment and simultaneously increasing profits. Attendees were able to participate in in-depth sessions on the production and installation of vehicle wraps, as well as operate software, design and print, and see demonstrations on a number of special applications. Several Mutoh partners were on hand, including: EFI-Inkware, Korographics, Onyx Graphics, Neschen Americas, ST Media (parent company of The Big Picture magazine), 3M, Ultraflex, and Xanita.
Nazdar Consulting Services: Nazdar’s training branch, Nazdar Consulting Services (www.nazdarconsulting.com) offers training such as Lean Six Sigma, G7 Certification, and Chromatix Color Control, designed to improve the productivity, quality and profitability of digital and screen printers. New seminars will include "Green Understanding and Implementation;" "49CFR Hazardous Material Training" (covering the basic skills needed to prepare, offer, and accept domestic shipments of hazardous materials); and "Improve Your IQ (Image Quality)," designed to provide users with information on how to implement color management, regardless of the printing process. Next year’s classes will be announced in the fall of 2008.
New Vision: A subsidiary of Tekgraf, New Vision (www.newvisionservices.net) provides certified classroom training for a variety of products, including HP, Onyx, and others at its Greenville, South Carolina location. The company also offers an On Site & Custom training program. Its "Prints in Motion" multi-city training tour in 2008 was designed to educate print and signage vendors on how they can use solvent-printing and wrap-application services to grow their businesses. Each day-long event featured a live car wrap installation from start to finish as well as printing, finishing, and cutting demonstrations.
Roland University: Roland University offers end-user and dealer workshops for each of its product lines, featuring hands-on instruction by industry experts. In 2008, the workshops include: Born to Wrap Workshop, focusing on vehicle graphics; X-Rite Roland Color Workshop, a one-day workshop that hits on step-by-step color management strategies to help users increase productivity, avoid common pitfalls, and experience better color output; and Productivity Workshop, a one-day event to help users establish a consistent color workflow between graphics applications and Roland VersaWorks.
In addition, Roland’s Express Dealer Open House is touring the country in 2008, allowing users to experience Roland wide-format printers, printer/cutters, and more. Remaining tour venues in 2008 include: Laurel, Maryland (August 20); Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (August 21); Clearwater, Florida (October 3-4); and Pompano Beach, Florida (October 4).
3M Graphics Resources Video Library: 3M makes an array of online videos available to print providers through its Graphic Solutions page on its website. Titles and topics range from "Turn Textured Surfaces into Prime Real Estate" and "Complex Contour Applications: Vehicles" to "Advertise 24/7: Fleet and Vehicle Graphics" and "Wall Graphic Application."
X-Rite: X-Rite (www.xrite.com) and Pantone are presenting "Color Control Freak" seminars, one-day events designed to provide in-depth look at color, its value in the design process, and reproduction techniques, throughout the year. Attendees learn how to: collect, build, and specify color that remains consistent from screen to print; effectively communicate color with clients; use palette-building software tools to select and build reproducible color palettes; work with RGB, CMYK, and spot-color systems; ensure better screen-to-print matching; calibrate the monitor to improve color editing; use in-house printers for accurate prints and proofs; and do color-management setup in Adobe CS2 and CS3.
Off the tradeshow floor
You’re already going to a tradeshow, so why not add an educational component to your itinerary? Yes, this can provide "one-stop shopping," but it also can set up a "what’s more important" scenario in which a print provider must choose between visiting the shop floor or focusing on education-particularly if the education events are held during expo hours. In this case, look for events that provide training before or after show-floor hours, or simply ensure that you book enough days at the event. Plus, keep in mind that some associations hosting tradeshows-notably ISA and SGIA-also offer webinars through their websites as well as workshops and seminars at various locales.
Graph Expo: Graph Expo (www.gasc.org) will offer 70 educational seminars in Chicago’s McCormick Place South, October 26-29. Key major seminar topics include Digital, Sustainability, Color Management, Production, and Sales. For more information, see page 6.
ISA Discovery Seminar Series: The annual ISA Sign Expo (www.signexpo.org) offers its Discovery Seminar Series, which provides a panoply of interactive forums, hands-on workshops, and seminars that hit on digital imaging, industry applications, legislative regulations, and management as well as sales and marketing. The 2009 Sign Expo will take place April 15-18 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
ISA also offers a variety of webinars via the association’s home site (www.signs.org), including: "Color Management," "Legal Rights of Sign Users," and others. Its On the Road Series of seminars addresses various topics in locales across the country, including: "Strategies of Estimating," "Hiring the Right Person," "Hands-on Electrical Troubleshooting" and more.
PhotoPlus Expo: Geared toward image capture, PhotoPlus Expo (www.photoplusexpo.com) offers attendees more than 100 seminars and hands-on workshops. The event is held October 23-25 at Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
PMA 09: The 2009 edition of the PMA (www.pmai.org) event, held March 3-5 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, will feature more than 200 educational sessions designed specifically for digital imagers, professional labs, photographers, framers, and scrapbook retailers. The association also offers the 6Sight Conference (www.6sight.com), held November 18-20 in Monterey, California, with seminars such as "The Future of Cameras," "The Future of Lenses," "Geo Imaging," "Camera Phones," and others.
SGIA 08 Conference: The 2008 edition of the SGIA Expo (www.sgia.org) will feature more than 50 educational sessions over the course of the event’s four days, October 15-18, in Atlanta. The sessions will be placed into four separate tracks: Digital Graphics, Garment Decoration, Production Management, Business Management, and Screen Graphics. Three free "Starter Sessions" will also be offered this year: "Introduction to Digital Imaging," "Purchasing Options," and "Screen Printing Basics." SGIA also makes available an array of webinars ("Digital Imaging 101," "Corporate Sustainability," "Breaking the Print Sales Barrier," etc.) via its website, and offers various workshops, which are held at its headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.
Finely focused conferences and associations
Education-only conferences (no tradeshow component) allow the user to finely focus his or her attention on the subject at hand. Associations typically do the same. In both cases, there may be some limited type of exhibit space available (such a table top exhibits), but product exhibitions are generally not the focus of the event.
Color Management Conference: Hosted by PIA/GATF, the annual Color Management Conference (www.piagatfcolor.org) will be held December 7-9, 2008 in Phoenix. Specific session titles include: "Managing Spot Color Processes Across Different Printing Processes," "Best Practices for Successful Color Management," "When to Use a Color Consultant-and When to Do It Yourself," "What Breaks Color Management" and others.
At the Graphic Arts Information Network (GAIN, www.gain.net), sponsored by PIA/GATF, print providers can find an ongoing list of PIA/GATF seminars throughout the country as well as further sources of customized training.
Information Management Institute: Conference coordinator IMI (www.imi.maine.com) produces conferences designed to assist the digital-printing industry in understanding technology developments, markets, and applications requirements. US-based conferences include the Inkjet Printing Conference (winter 2009, locale not yet specified), the Toner & Toner Chemicals Conference (also winter 2009), the Security Printing Conference (November 17-19 in Baltimore). Earlier in 2008, IMI offered a week-long Digital Printing Summer Camp in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, as well as a score of other conferences.
IPA: The Association of Graphic Solutions Providers (www.ipa.org) offers webinars as well as conferences for pre-media professionals in the creative, corporate, print publishing, packaging, and in-plant sectors. Webinars (live as well as recorded) are offered in categories ranging from Graphics Workflow, Graphics Applications (software-specific), and Color Management to Business Improvement, Solution Selling, and Sustainability. The association’s three conferences include: the IPA Technical Conference (June 8-10, Chicago); the Business Development Conference (January 28-30, Scottsdale, Arizona); and its CEO forum.
National Environmental Health & Safety Conference: The annual NESH conference (www.nehsconference.org) addresses the latest trends and updates on sustainability. Topics at the 2008 edition of the event included: "Learn to Comply with Regulations & Avoid Fines and Penalties," "Find Out How to Become a Sustainable Printer," "Update Your Hazmat Materials Transportation Certification," and "Discuss How HR Can Support Your EHS Initiatives." The 2009 event will be held March 16-18 in Indianapolis.
The Signage and Graphics Summit: The only event that brings together top-tier executives from high-volume digital-printing, sign, and screen-printing companies, the SGS event (www.signage
andgraphics.com) allows attendees to discuss common challenges, learn best practices, and explore new avenues for growth as these industries converge. The 2009 event, held January 26-28 at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, will have a special emphasis on sustainability and lean-manufacturing issues. Specific sessions will include: "Sustainability for Competitive Advantage," "Lean Manufacturing in a Lean Economy," "Profiles in Sustainability," "Using Lean Ideas to Get Jobs to Production Faster," "Establishing a Leadership Culture," and others, plus the event’s popular "SGS Buyers’ Panel." The event is owned by ST Media Group, parent company to The Big Picture magazine.
WrapQuest: Hosted by the Professional Decal Application Association (PDAA, www.pdaa.com), WrapQuest ‘08 will be co-located with the SGIA Expo in the lobby of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, October 15-18. The event will include vehicle-wrap demonstrations by PDAA Master Certified installers; after each demo, participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and try out various manufacturers’ films on different vehicles. Also new to WrapQuest ‘08 is the world’s first WrapQuest Speed Championship, which will consist of daily short exhibitions among PDAA contestants.
Xplor Document University: XDU, from document-technology association Xplor International (www.xplor.org), offers more than 30 pre-recorded classes via its XDU Online division, and adds classes each month. The 2008 Xplor Document University Conference and Exhibition was co-located with the On Demand Conference in Boston and offered 20 courses on document printing and related topics.
Other training opportunities
There are a few other training opportunities out there as well. What follows are a handful of events and groups that don’t neatly fit into the earlier categories.
CorelDraw Unleashed Boot Camp: A three-day training session in Cave Creek, Arizona, the CorelDraw Boot Camp (www.unleash.com) is designed to help users get the most out of CorelDraw and Corel PhotoPaint.
Graphic Communications Institute at Cal Poly: GrCi (http://grci.calpoly.edu) is an outreach effort of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication department, providing industry professionals with access to the university’s resources via workshops, custom training programs, consulting, and research initiatives. Workshops for the printing and imaging industries are held on the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo, California. Workshops in 2008-2009 include: "Sustaining the Printshop in a Greening World," "Lean Printing: Pathway to Success," "FSC Certification," "Flexo Bootcamp," and others.
Institute for Graphics and Imaging: Located in the Harry V. Quadracci Printing Education and Technology Center on the campus of the Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, IGI (www.igi.org) is dedicated to the development of workshops and training programs for printing companies, publishers, and related industries.
Prepress Training Solution: This online training and testing company (www.prepresstrainingsolution.com) offers subscription-based courses on prepress and graphics. Training is available 24/7 and takes place in a Web-based software simulator (Flash Player is required). Current courses include: "Color Management Theory," "Troubleshooting Digital Files," "ICC Profiling," "Soft Proofing," and a various application/software-specific courses (FlightCheck, Adobe Bridge, Dynagram, Creo Preps, etc).
Gregory Sharpless is editor/associate publisher of The Big Picture.