RGB Digital Print and Ricoh SA are setting the standard for online print in South Africa. RGB is moving its processes and workflows online to enable customers, be they technically proficient or not, to design, create, order, submit jobs, track orders and receive invoices via the Web.

Online services are crucial in a world where mobile computing and the Internet proliferate, said James Hawkins, MD of RGB. I set about delivering our services online with everything being automated, a journey that began 11 years ago when I returned from Australia to join my father in his business. At the time it appeared to be a copy shop and I knew we had to change.

Hawkins fought to revolutionise the business, the first step of which was procuring Ricohs Pro C901 Graphic Arts digital presses. That process began 11 years ago and the expedition into the online arena, now ready to roll out, has been 18 months in development.

That development, though, was a challenge. Hawkins learned that there is no single system that delivers all the facets of the solution he needed and on which he would base his revolutionary customer service. He saw components of it, some for sale, some for lease, but no single, homologated system. After months of searching for the right partners he found them in the UK and they began developing some of the systems from scratch while others he plugged in through the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

One of the first solutions we acquired the rights to was Doxdirect, he said. It is squarely focused on the corporate market with its array of features. You can preview on-screen exactly what your document will look like and it offers all the parameters that corporates might want to manipulate without the complex jargon and terminology that print professionals are comfortable with. This technology is two years ahead of the curve.

The system updates in realtime so as corporate customers make changes they see them replicated on-screen. Customers have complete control and there can be no mistakes. It eradicates the use of e-mail to send files and send requirements so there is no potential for human error. The Web interface is simple and easy to use, like a smartphone app, but it contains all the back-end complexity required for typical corporate print jobs such as training materials, presentations, internal documents and more.

The new RGB service also contains a system for existing RGB customers familiar with print requirements and more complicated options. They typically have a design file of their own and know what they want, such as booklets, and interfacing with RGBs system is again as easy as using a smartphone app.

The ability to quote online is unheard of in this industry and the options my clients have via the Web interface are sophisticated, said Hawkins. After selecting the specific criteria for their job and accepting the quote, customers simply upload the file and it gets queued. That system alone in several businesses in the UK and the US has seen them grow enormously in the past 18 months where theyre processing in the order of 4 000 jobs per month just via that one process.

This service has been developed from scratch and, although based on the best examples from abroad, is fully suited to local conditions.

A third component of RGBs new online strategy is aimed at small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). Smaller businesses typically dont have the design work required to print material they need to help run and grow their businesses; marketing materials can be difficult to produce but can considerably benefit them. RGB has a Web-based interface that offers those companies more than 60 000 options to choose from of pre-designed materials, specific to industries and markets, with full layout and copy-writing included. It is also all fully customisable so that individual logos can be included and existing graphics can be replaced or changed, text can be replaced or changed, and then, upon accepting the quote, can be automatically queued and delivered once complete. The system offers the apparent capabilities of Adobe PhotoShop without the complexity of trying to master complex image authoring software.

The service sits on an Adobe InDesign back-end so once the changes are complete the production file required to run the job is ready to be sent to the machine, in these cases one of two Ricoh Pro C901s. First though, all jobs pass through colour management software by Oris. It is an industry-standard system that matches colours almost perfectly between ink-jet proofing, on-screen, offset presses, and digital presses. It ensures that clients get consistent colours, extremely important for brand consistency unlike that delivered by corner copy and print shops.

This system is really exciting because it is unparalleled in South Africa, said John de Beer, production printing consultant at Ricoh SA. Companies in this industry, globally, that get a product like this to market are growing exponentially.

Its all about service, said Hawkins. My customers can get any printed material, anything that opens and shuts, anywhere in the country within 48 hours from seeking a quote to delivered product.

Hawkins is promoting his services only via search engine optimisation (SEO) and has already garnered several orders and successfully run the jobs. He uses Google Analytics to ascertain the extent of his online campaigns success but has yet to spend a single cent via online advertising mediums such as Google Ads or banners. He will also leverage his existing customer database of more than 3 500 and he expects to generate a lot of interest, particularly from clients who will be exposed to his full range of services of which they may have been unaware in the past. However, he expects business from the new Web-based services to pick up slowly initially then improve exponentially as companies sample the services.

He predicts enough business in the next five years to ramp up his production capabilities by 100% through the acquisition of two additional Ricoh Pro C901 systems.

Visit www.rgb.co.za to experience Hawkins new services first-hand.