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Evolving Needs in AEC Present Revenue Opportunities for Wide Format Providers

9 Sep, 2010 By: Peter Lawrence, Océ North America imageSource

Evolving Needs in AEC Present Revenue Opportunities for Wide Format Providers

Now more than ever, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals are looking for ways to streamline operations and do more with less, while continuing to deliver high-quality results. The industry is also facing demands to comply within tighter budget constraints, complete projects on shorter deadlines and adhere to stricter standards and accountability. It’s also no secret that the AEC industry has been hard hit by the recent economic recession – a fact that has also impacted the bottom line of wide format equipment dealers that serve the industry.

However, the changing landscape and requirements within the AEC industry presents a unique opportunity for dealers to promote the use of wide format printing solutions, which can help their customers meet their unique business needs. Dealers can also capitalize on the chance to expand their own solution offerings, while increasing their revenue stream. Next-generation wide format printing solutions are uniquely positioned to address the four most critical market trends currently influencing how AEC professionals conduct their operations.

Increased Decentralized Printing
As the technology for publishing and distributing information in digital form has evolved, the AEC industry has transitioned from a print-and-distribute to a distribute-and-print model. This approach allows professionals to print detailed files at the point of need, such as at the construction site. However, to realize the benefits afforded by this model — reduced waste, improved file accessibility, faster distribution of data, minimized shipping costs — AEC professionals need to have systems that are specifically designed to address this trend.

Point-of-need printing requires fast, easy-to-use, reliable printers for lower-volume print demands that can meet the unique needs of walk-up users. Ease-of-use is critical in this environment as the equipment is used by a variety of walk-up users with different printing requirements. Additionally, allowing walk-up users to print and scan documents at the system with a USB flash drive eliminates the need for carrying plan rolls from one place to another – ideal for building plans and other documents that are frequently revised.

When printing in a decentralized environment, users need to consider the printer's efficiency and durability as well as its ability to fit into tight spaces on the job site. When printing at job sites, users need systems that create little in the way of noise, heat, or ozone emissions, and withstand the workload of multiple users. Many all-in-one print/copy/scan systems fulfill these needs without sacrificing print quality.

Adoption of Color
Over the past decade, AEC professionals have experienced an increased need for color data to accelerate the design and build process, reduce mistakes and clarify information on more detailed drawings. In addition, the expanded use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), color CAD drawings and mixed originals (technical information with embedded photos and renderings) are also triggering a need for color. Color more effectively communicates detailed information in fine line drawings used in architectural design proposals, construction bid sets, grading cut and fill diagrams, 3D renderings, GIS maps, and even satellite photos processed in CAD applications.

Incorporating color throughout the entire project lifecycle minimizes complexity and adds clarity, which can significantly reduce errors and omissions, requests for information (RFIs), and construction change orders. These benefits help AEC firms avoid costly mistakes, delays and rework.  In addition, many firms are increasingly interested in scanning, printing and distributing red-lined mark-ups in color to achieve the many benefits mentioned above. This is something many firms don’t have the capacity to do, but they want to do.

With the expanded use of color, however, comes larger files that can be slow to process, view, and print, creating major workflow bottlenecks. Perceived higher costs associated with the use of color in CAD drawings have also stymied full-color adoption. Recent advances in color CAD printing technology and next-generation printing systems are enabling AEC professionals to overcome these challenges and reap the aforementioned benefits.

Use of single-footprint systems, such as the Océ ColorWave® 300, which can print, copy and scan in both color and black & white, allows users to more easily incorporate color workflows into their operations. Architecture firms no longer have to invest in separate systems for printing large format color and monochrome documents, making the jump to color more economical. 

Focus on Sustainability
With the growing demand for projects that are environmentally friendly and meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards, sustainable design and operating processes have become essential. AEC professionals are looking for large-format printers that support these initiatives and enable responsible paper use, low emissions, energy conservation, and reusable components. Print systems that use a modular, upgradeable design will prevent equipment from prematurely entering the waste stream.

Features such as “instant-on” capabilities reduce energy consumption associated with warm-up time by enabling printing to start as soon as the printer receives the file. Additionally, selecting equipment that allows users to preview documents prior to printing helps minimize waste by reducing the need to reprint incorrect documents.

Supporting Print Management Software
A critical component to realizing the benefits of wide-format printing systems, especially in a decentralized printing environment, is software that seamlessly connects the equipment and the users. Print management software allows end users to easily build, preview, and submit print jobs to a wide variety of printers – wide or small format, color or black & white, local or remote – all with the same user interface. Specific workflow rules can be created for the automatic distribution of jobs to the most suitable printers, for example by document format, use of color or size of the print job.

Software that allows individual documents to be previewed before printing with WYSIWYP – What You See Is What You Print – functionality that shows exactly how they will print on the selected printer, enables accurate checking of document contents and eliminates the need for check-plots. This minimizes the number of incorrect and unnecessary prints, saving time, money and energy.

Integrated job tracking and accounting capabilities provides a significant advance in wide format print software functionality. Accounting features allow all print, scan and copy jobs on wide format devices to be tracked automatically. As well as optimizing internal cost control, these functions ensure that printing costs can be charged to projects or customers instead of disappearing into overhead.

In today’s competitive environment, dealers must prove that they have a thorough understanding of the market trends impacting their AEC customers. Additionally, those dealers that offer effective wide format hardware and software solutions to support customers’ ever-changing needs have an opportunity to increase business from an existing customer base and grow their business among new prospects.

Peter Lawrence is the Marketing Manager for Océ North America. “Océ” and “Océ ColorWave” are registered trademarks of Océ-Technologies B.V.  For information visit www.oceusa.com 

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