arifiQ Development is a software supplier from Sweden, serving the printing industry. The idea of the arifiQ technology comes out of the self-experienced struggle with getting quotes out to customers when taking over the family print shop. Why did the manager have to spend most of the time getting quotes out, keeping customers waiting for days?

I'm one of the founders of arifiQ and am managing Business Development, Marketing, and Finance. My brother Stefan (CTO of arifiQ) and I are born and raised at the family print shop, and Carina (CEO of arifiQ) stepped in as the manager, while Stefan and myself had other carriers at the time.

arifiQ solves the main bottleneck in most printing businesses, estimating, quoting, and job onboarding. With arifiQ, the sales team gets to focus on customer relations, not on administrating quotes. In contrast, the print customer can instantly get thousands of quotes and place orders online.

arifiQ is difficult to put in a box as it covers several software categories: Estimating, MIS, Pre-press (imposition, preflight), e-commerce, invoicing, etc. 

By Eva Rosén, arifiQ & Morten B. Reitoft INKISH

Morten B. Reitoft: Why is fast pricing important?

Eva Rosén: Fast pricing is about respecting the print customers' time and effort, making it easy to buy print. That should be all motive needed. But there is also a big internal win when it comes to working more effectively. Instead of spending time on administrative tasks like quoting, the print provider can bring real value to the customers and take on more jobs.

Fast pricing takes a high level of automation in this industry, as there are numerous production decisions to calculate the cost for each print job. Good salespeople are probably not the best skilled in print production, so to get the job in the door quickly, the sales team would need that skill replaced in a software tool.

Remember, the main part of most print providers' revenue comes from not repeatable, custom jobs. The Web To prints can only take care of 10-20% of the print jobs because the print customers always want something else than standard jobs, leaving a big market share on the e-commerce table. The fastest quote often wins. In this fast-paced business environment, nothing but self-serviced order placement should be expected by print customers.

Morten B. Reitoft: Dear child - many names. MIS, ERP, Excel, arifiQ - what is the difference? Do you have to choose either, or do arifiQ add value, regardless?

Eva Rosén: No, you don't have to choose; arifiQ adds value, instant quoting, and order placement to both MIS, W2P, and ERP systems. arifiQ is a stand-alone MIS/e-commerce/job preparation tool but can also be used only as an estimating engine. A Web-to-Print system, for example, can communicate with the arifiQ server to get estimates from job specs.

ERP systems manage ready-to-go orders, accounting, and BI. Most ERP solutions are generic and not specifically targeted to the printing industry. The combination arifiQ + ERP is the most used one so far. As the ERP does not replace arifiQ or a regular MIS.

Excel is... excel, but in fact, arifiQ + Excel can also be true, as arifiQ can instantly bring hundreds of print jobs specified in an Excel sheet into pricing. This Large scale estimator is useful when answering large bids.

The MIS solutions have similar features as arifiQ, like quote and order management, job ticketing, inventory, scheduling, shipping, invoicing, statistics, etc. The most significant difference is the way the estimations are being made and who can use the system.

arifiQ uses a full automized estimating technology that is not depending on predefined templates and production paths made by a skilled estimator or production manager. The number of possible products at a print provider is often quadrillions. That is why arifiQ doesn't use templates but optimizing algorithms that calculate each job from scratch, enabling instant quotes, instant production planning for all possible products, both custom/ad-hoc and standard jobs.

arifiQ can be used by sales teams - who can come home with orders, not RFQ's, by CSR's - when serving customers with pricing information on the phone and by print customers as an e-commerce tool.

Morten B. Reitoft: Your pricing model is a bit different from other software companies - can you explain why you chose this model - and has it served you well, or is it a potential showstopper for some?

Eva Rosén: The free number of user models has served our customers and our ambition very well. Not a showstopper at all. We want arifiQ to be used by print customers as much as possible, internally and externally. 

Morten B. Reitoft: Not so long ago, arifiQ was awarded a patent (US, EU, Globally?) - Can you shortly describe the patent? Why is it necessary to patent arifiQ - and will it limit other software companies from creating fast estimations?

Eva Rosén: arifiQ has been granted a US patent: "A system and a method for optimizing a print production process." The EU patent is still pending.

The patent covers automated estimating and some other implementations, e.g., gang run, online quoting/order placement, including print marketplace (multi-sites), based on this method. The patented method is about replacing human decisions made by skilled estimators to find the best production process instantly. When entering the job specification, arifiQ finds and determines the best: Imposition/signatures, sheet size, printing press, paper, i.e., everything required for the job… in seconds. At the same moment, the runtimes and costs for recourses, media, etc., are also calculated.

It is important for us not to be limited by other's patents; that's the main reason for applying for a patent. The patent is a differentiator and a statement. Our customers can be safe they are using unique top-class technology. The patent is, of course, also, like any other patent, a company asset.

It will not limit other software suppliers from using the same method for bringing fast estimations. We're also offering our technology as a 3rd party software to the MIS, ERP, W2P, Prepress, Production workflow vendors. We welcome that very much. arifiQ technology can also be spread by OEMs as White Label products.

Morten B. Reitoft: arifiQ delivers a cost price based on full-cost models, variables, labor cost, etc. I have, in some articles, been critical about using a cost base to deliver a sales price. Do you find my concerns entirely wrong? (my mind is that cost prices can't be used to create sales prices as sales prices are based on market price/adaption, which often has nothing to do with production cost!)

No, you're not entirely wrong. Our approach is to have both cost- and sales price in arifiQ, as you would need the cost (production route) for follow-ups, job ticketing, and for deciding on pricing and investment strategies. The print provider needs to know at least on an aggregated level how much profit each product type or customer is bringing in. On the other hand, the sales team does not need the cost and production route, just the sales price, which is a role you set in arifiQ.

If we think online order placement is not a hype that will go away, the printing industry would need to get most of their business online, not only a few products that are available in W2P's. So, we will need to find a way to decide on sales prices on a larger scale than for one job at a time. In arifiQ, we can create rules for the sales prices that reflect the market prices. There will always be a relationship between the production cost and the sales/market price. Not the same for every customer or customer group, every product type, every media, every press, every finishing option, etc., but still a pre-set relationship to enable e-commerce for all printed products.

If we think every print job needs a totally random price, based on the salesperson's mood, this approach will not benefit the industry, as only 15% of the print market share is ordered online. This is because there hasn't been a tool around for online ordering of custom print. Not only do we disqualify online ordering, but we'll also preserve the sickness in this industry of having to negotiate every print job. Making online order placement available for most print jobs will cure that sickness to some extent.

What we are exploring now is how to help print providers with difficult pricing decisions. We have an idea that arifiQ users could get a market price assessment if they join the arifiQ Print Marketplace, where every member can find out the aggregated pricing level for each print job. But exploring this is like walking on a minefield, so we'll see how this will turn out.

Morten B. Reitoft: How is the business for arifiQ? You have implemented a solution for HP PrintOS. You are present in various markets, and whenever I see arifiQ at work, I am always impressed - how are things developing?

Eva Rosén: Thank you! Business is getting better now when we are past the pandemic. So far, we have customers in Europe, North America, and Asia. arifiQ has been focusing on system development together with some big clients for a while. We have, for instance, been developing a white label product - an Ink Estimator tool; we've been setting up a very advanced multi-site solution (17 sites) and an advanced book printing solution. This puts arifiQ in a very good place for having an extensive range of MIS features.

In August, we will release "Fast-Est," a piece of arifiQ that will be a no-brainer, unlike buying an MIS (!). It will have low cost, you buy it and do the set up on our website. "Fast-Est" is just estimating – but the fastest one.

Fast-Est can be upgraded to "Sales Master" for quotes and orders and then to "Production Master" with scheduling, inventory, invoicing, statistics + integrations, and a new version of "B2B Webshop" that will release in 6 months.

Morten B. Reitoft: Do you have any plans of developing more/other types of products/services - or are you focusing 100% on arifiQ?

Eva Rosén: We investigate building a Print Marketplace to bring jobs to our customers and enable cooperation between arifiQ users. This is also the perfect way to serve our customers with a market price tool. We are looking at setting up a test site, "Print Market place Nordic," that later can be copied to other regions or clusters, hosted by a local champion - printer or not.
Our estimating and scheduling technology could possibly serve other industries as well, but for now, we are focusing 100% on the printing industry.

Morten B. Reitoft: Since you got to market - what is, in your opinion, the single biggest challenge?

Eva Rosén: The biggest challenge for us and the industry is that many print providers are stuck in old habits. If arifiQ worked just like the old estimating/order system, it wouldn't make the internal processes more effective.
The industry needs to get online with all possible print products they can produce, including custom print. A good start is to let the sales team have access to instant quotes, and then key customers can have a login to get pricing and place orders. And one day, hopefully, it will be an online order tool on every print provider's website.

The opportunity for those who take the plunge is huge. It's possible to take on more print jobs with less effort; the future of the print industry has never been better.

Morten B. Reitoft: Where do you see arifiQ in 2, 5, or 10 years from now?

In five years, 5000 print providers will be using arifiQ technology in some shape. We will also have 10 Print Market Places up and running around the world. In 10 years, arifiQ will be the first choice when it comes to estimating solutions.
We have only started our mission – making print easy to buy and making the print providers more profitable.

Add/View comments for this article →