With business on the upswing, ZBE, Inc. drew the largest attendance of all at its 5th annual users' meeting at the company's headquarters in Carpinteria, CA. The group consisted primarily of people/portrait labs whose mission was to become more involved with digital imaging. They came from all over the country, plus Mexico and Canada, to network and to make their requests known to the ZBE staff who were taking copious notes.
When ZBE president, Zac Bogart welcomed the visitors and said,"We have no new products to announce this year," he certainly was not referring to WorkStream, the year-young workflow system that is upping productivity for it its lab users. WorkStream 2.2 workflow system, only introduced last year has 48 new features. This user-friendly program is probably one of ZBE's best-kept secrets.
Besides being a gracious host to the Summer Bash attendees, he delivered a positive message from several aspects. Around 400 Chromira users have incorporated WS to date, and it has been given gratis to their numerous photographer customers. Considering there are approximately 300 Chromira 30-inch wide printers in the field, they create numerous photographer/studio prospects for WorkStream. Although ZBE has commercial customers too, WorkStream was designed primarily for the people/portrait/studio and their photographer clients. Some questioned giving photographers the tools to make quality prints would encourage printing in house with an inkjet. This drew active discussion because most feel that prosperous photographers won't spend the time to print their orders.
Bogart is a humble, dedicated engineer. While conducting a facility tour and showing off his manufacturing capabilities he explained proudly that ZBE makes all its printer parts except for the rollers. It's this capability that allows them to control the quality of the products. Bogart is also a forthright company owner. He admitted that he was too early in announcing The Lab, a 20-inch fast LED inline printer that was highly promoted last year, and is still in ZBE's manufacturing wings. On the other hand, the long-awaited Chromira 5X 50-inch printer has been shipping for several weeks. He admits that it too is late, but explained the holdup in that they discovered they could not just make the 30" 5X into a wider printer. Because of the larger format width, it was necessary to redesign the frame."We made it more robust; it's well worth the wait, we have a ton of orders," he said.
Rick Bell from The Lab, Santa Rosa, CA was a first timer to the Summer Bash."In the past I sent my employee, but she came back with such good information that I decided to come myself." He announced that he was formerly a commercial lab that switched to the people side."The Chromira saved our business, and we just got WorkStream…. our studio photographers want it because it assures them that they will get what they want."
This comment was typical of others at the meeting, as they knew it was necessary to go digital and/or to increase their digital printing in order to survive.
The "Dukes of Phoenix" as ZBE referred to them, were a happy but serious foursome full of questions and comments. ‘We're here for feedback, not for new products, for strengthening and enhancing our business and building up service." Duke Photography is a studio that has been in business since 1950. They installed WorkStream a year ago and one of the Dukes bragged that their user base has doubled.
Brooks Clayton president of Midsouth Color Labs, Jackson, TN, said that he has 65% of his customers on WorkStream. The orders come in cropped with quantities, and notes."It has been a lifesaver and has cut our remakes." Our customers tell us it is far easier and faster to use than other workflow software. It has pushed us into sports, one of the greatest untapped markets."
As an outsider looking in, it appeared that most of the labs came because of WorkStream. A workflow system is never finished and these users had issues to discuss and a wish list of features. WorkStream goes beyond Chromira users because it will integrate with other printers. It's interesting that some shops that have incorporated WorkStream do not have a ZBE digital printer, and Chromira owners with WorkStream's Rendering Engine (RE) module can manage other printer brands, even inkjets.
It is only fair to mention that ZBE holds Chromira and WorkStream training sessions in conjunction with the users' event. Mark Hudson, service manager conducted the service training, Tom Coniglio, recently arrived from Ilford Imaging drew some serious technicians as he gave his consolidated color-management course. He talked about the purpose and needs for C.M., how to match various printers' output with the goal of eliminating testing. He is working on custom profiles for Chromira users. Coniglio also wants ZBE users to give their customers the tools for good color.
A side discussion was Kodak's announcement to eliminate black-and-white film and paper. It appeared that the ZBE labs have a market for b&w. Julie Nanni of Photographic Techniques, Houston, TX said her lab did a lot of b&w and was concerned about what b&w product to switch to. Other lab technicians were quick to tell her that AgfaPhoto and IlfordPhoto offer b&w in a wide range of products. (See side bar). However, Mrs. Nanni said she was at the Summer Bash to get a better understanding of WorkStream."I love WorkStream, without it I wouldn't be able to do the work I do. It's so fast. I also got some Ideas on how to get more business."
Bogart announced that he will again host the Summer Bash in 2006, and was toying with the idea of having it in Mexico, an idea that was very attractive to Hermilo Granados-Carrillo of Industrial Fotográfica del Sureste and his techy son were first timers. They have 11 outlets in Mexico and are in the process of incorporating WorkStream.
In my last column I reported that Rho 600 was going to KSK in Detroit. KSK is in Cleveland, not Detroit.
Arthur Shufelt Dies At 67
If you have ever sat in a presentation given by Art Shufelt when he was president of Dice America, Inc. or Durst Dice America (DDA) or vice president of Matrix Computer Graphics Business Units or Imapro Corp. one can never forget his dynamic personality and his ability to connect with those in the photo and graphics industries. He had the unique ability to spread new technology while holding his audience in awe.