5 Observations from thINK Ahead 2019

The fifth annual thINK Ahead conference was held from September 16-18 in Boca Raton Florida, and SPC was on hand for this invitation-only event. The conference was attended by hundreds of members within the thINK community, which is an independent group of Canon Solutions America inkjet customers, solution partners and print industry experts.

For a while now, SPC has eagerly embraced Canon products and we have been early adopters of many of their cutting-edge solutions. To ensure that we are getting the most out of our Canon equipment and software, Canon works with us regularly on site at our facilities for intensive, hands-on training. This has helped us really get to know the ins and outs of their products, which has allowed us to take the pieces we produce to the next level.

SPC Took Center Stage

As industry leaders in the Canon inkjet community, we were very excited to be asked to join other experts at the thINK Conference, not only as attendees, but also to share our knowledge. I was privileged to be able to provide insights during the Direct Mail: End-to-End Solutions and Adam LeFebvre, SPC’s President, shared his thoughts during The Inkjet Tipping Point: The Road to Profitablity, which was one of the three live broadcasts from the conference.

There was a lot to learn, information to share, people to meet and exciting innovation to discover—all which will continue to help us maintain the level of printing expertise our customers expect from us. Here are our top five observations from our time spent at the conference.

1) A desire for better workflow

Companies are always searching for ways to do things better and more efficiently. Yet, many of them still struggle with workflow. SPC frequently sees it, as many customers inquire about the software we’re using, to make sure we’re working as smartly as possible. We get it. The Canon inkjet front end system is robust, and not that easy to understand. That’s why we make it a point to understand all of the ins and outs of the solutions we utilize.

Something we learned at the thINK conference was that PRISMAdirect is not being utilized to its fullest by most users. The workflow management solution is a powerful tool that Canon introduced to help streamline print production workflow, including order intake, production, and back-end reporting.

2) Achieving optimal variable print quality still has a learning curve

One of the topics we were particularly interested in at thINK Ahead was Canon’s Océ ProStream, which is a continuous-feed inkjet press that has gained a lot of traction within the printing industry. SPC actually got some attention as being early adopters of this digital variable data press. When utilized to its fullest, it truly is a rock star for companies looking for printing versatility.

A hot topic throughout the conference was color management and ink savings. With the cost of ink being as high as it is and very little insight into its ROI, everyone is on the lookout for thorough and accurate case studies. Using a variety of new file prepping techniques during our pre-press process, SPC has created opportunities for many of our clients to save money.

3) A strong focus on finishing

When it comes to producing a quality piece, more printers are realizing that printing is only half the battle. Finishing techniques are just as integral to making variable Direct Mail pieces look as good as traditional mailings. While coating and other premium finishing techniques may enhance the appearance and quality of a piece, many print facilities can experience a strain on their print runs due to the complexity of variable printing and cut-off.

We collaborate with several specialized vendors who support our efforts in utilizing our in-house capabilities to uncover new finishing techniques. One of the things we pride ourselves on is using all of our resources to experiment and find solutions that work. SPC goes above and beyond what our customers expect from us for their campaigns, empowering them to make a bigger splash with each mailing.

4) Sharing best practices is critical for success

While a lot of great learning happens at thINK Ahead, it was clear that networking was really the star of the show. With a focus on Canon inkjet topics and products, the conference is critical in getting current Canon customers to share their positive experiences with potential customers.

Canon and SPC work closely together to find solutions to common market challenges, and we share a passion for finding ways to utilize their technology in ways that positively impact our clients’ bottom lines. As mentioned earlier, SPC was asked to share our best practices by sitting on panels along with other high-profile Canon customers. The goal was to engage, educate and inspire other printers within the Canon network.

5) Direct mail continues to regain traction in the channel mix.

Successful industry conferences give their attendees the opportunity to make their experiences as personal as possible, and thINK is no different. The sessions were broken into five different topics:

  • Direct Mail
  • Transactional
  • Commercial/Book innovation
  • Inkjet innovation
  • Innovate for Growth

Our focus was on Direct Mail, so those were the sessions that were a priority for us to attend. And we weren’t the only ones. Advances in press quality have attracted many new customers to Direct Mail, and has introduced new, dynamic opportunities to marketers who already utilize Direct Mail as part of their marketing mix. This was reflected in the increase in interest and attendance at the thINK Direct Mail sessions.

Whether it’s a conference like thINK Ahead, with very focused topics, or a more general industry event, it’s always important for SPC to be part of the conversation. By staying on top of industry trends and new vendor innovations, it allows us to be a better resource and partner to our clients. We will continue to keep our knowledge base up-to-date, so every time a new project comes up, we can offer the best solution to meet every one of our clients’ needs.


John Gaspari
Sr Vice President Operations

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