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What to Expect From a Wide Format Training Program

by Thomas Franklin

Part 1 of 4

In wide format digital printing, knowledge is not only power, but profits. Digital printing is a complex enterprise and those who know more tend to earn more.

"It’s the difference between just leaving the printer on the same settings and making them sing," says Gil Richardson, manager of VUTEk training and documentation, EFI, Inc.

Wide format vendors offer a variety of training options for new and existing customers, from a six hour set-up and product run-through, to more intensive hands-on courses taught on-site at your facility or at the manufacturer’s classroom. The intensity, scope, duration, location, and cost of training varies widely among manufacturers.

For businesses considering their first wide format printer, it’s especially important to consider how much¾ and what kind¾ of hand holding comes with the price of the printer and what you might need to pay extra for. It’s also important to size up ancillary help¾ particularly online and phone support¾ which you’ll invariably need once your initial instruction is complete. Some vendors, like HP, Océ, and Kodak, invest significant time and effort in maintaining up to the minute support pages with new profiles, tips, tricks, and manuals.

Since a significant chunk of wide format printers are purchased through dealers, and not direct from the manufacturer, your first point of instruction will likely be through your dealer. Manufacturers train their resellers extensively and expect that knowledge to be passed onto the customer, usually when the printer is delivered and installed. At that point, the dealer will typically go through the basics of setting up, running, cleaning, and maintaining the printer and leave instructional materials¾ DVDs, manuals, online resources, and phone numbers¾ for use. How long a dealer stays at your facility depends on how much hand-holding you require, how the dealer chooses to approach installation and setup, and whether you’ve bundled additional training into the cost of your printer. This is frequently a line item in the sale price that can be negotiated.

Agfa uses their own staff of trainers and color management consultants to offer on-site training, the price of which is wrapped into the cost of their devices, says Brian Kirkham, director of educational services, Agfa. For consumers purchasing a wide format proofer, a single day will cost $1,600, with travel and lodging expenses paid by Agfa. For training in color management and device/media profiling, the cost is $2,000, although costs are variable based on the amount of training purchased, Kirkham adds.

Gandinnovations will provide a week of free on-site training for its customers with the company’s own employees, says Shamez Asaria, assistant service manager/technical trainer, Gandinnovations. The course covers printer operation, calibration, RIP training, profiling, color management, and basic technical issues.

Hewlett-Packard, which sells its wide format printers through both resellers and directly, offers training through both channels. For HP direct customers, a hands-on, on-site training and installation service could last up to two days, according to Sandy Gramley, HP Designjet Category business manager. The price of the training is wrapped into the cost of the device and will depend on the length of the session. Users also receive a DVD video.

"When customers really need help, we refer them to third party consultants and specialists, like GretagMacBeth Global Services, who have training and education as their core competence," Sandy adds.

Kodak offers Encad customers support through its resellers and more extensive one-on-one training through its own personnel, says Rod Eslinger, product application engineer/technical trainer, Graphics Communications Group, Kodak. Operator training is available for $500 for two hours at the customers’ location or a full day of training with RIP installation for $1,250.

Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies, Inc. hosts a 40-hour free course in its Sunrise, FL location. Classes are held whenever registration reaches capacity, usually once a month, says Richard Codos, executive director, North American Development for LP Digital Technologies. Classes are broken down into four general areas¾ theory, hands-on operator training, RIP training, and service training. "We like to stress ‘the more the merrier’," Codos says. "It’s important to have several people on a staff attend training, so it’s not just on a single person responsible for remembering everything."

Mutoh America offers two days worth of training, performed by their dealers, mostly on application issues, says Randy Rickert, director of sales and marketing, Mutoh America. For RIP help, Mutoh refers customers to the software vendor. "We’re gearing our efforts for a happier experience for newer users so training is a big part of that," Rickert states.

Océ offers a paid on-site program using Océ employees to train up to four users for $1,450 a day. The company has 20 dedicated training personnel spread through the U.S. with five devoted strictly to color management issues, says Kirk Levis, director of education management, Océ.

Outside of an initial walk-through at installation, Roland hosts several two-day Roland University courses in Irvine, CA on a quarterly basis. Costs vary by course and printer model, though the company is also breaking out courses by application as well, says Tony Miller, product manager, Technical Services, Roland.

Finally, EFI offers three course options for their VUTEk customers, all of which are free of charge and hosted at the company’s Meredith, NH location. One week-long course covers the basic printer and RIP operation, the second is a three-day advanced maintenance course and the third is a three-day advanced RIP and profile creation class. "We like to keep class size small, no more than six or eight people," says Richardson.

Look for a full feature article on Wide Format Training in the December issue of Digital Output.

Oct2006, Digital Output

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