In the first week of August 2020, Heidelberg launched Zaikio, a new consortium platform for bringing software, hardware, and consumable suppliers and printers into a common and efficient business-operation workflow process. During the recent Heidelberg Innovation week, we took the opportunity to try and understand this industry collaborative concept at the end of October. We had a web meeting with Ashokan Krishnamoorthy, general manager of Heidelberg India, and Juergen Grimm, the 25-year veteran at Heidelberg, the head of its software solutions who also monitors its Zaikio platform.
In June 2019, Heidelberg acquired the cloud software company Crispy Mountain and began work on the Zaikio cloud-based platform. Just a little more than a year later, in August 2020, Heidelberg launched Zaikio, a new open and independent cloud-based collaboration platform for the printing industry – for this very purpose. “With the open industry platform Zaikio, Heidelberg is actively meeting the challenges faced by the printing sector in the digital era. This marks the next milestone in the industry’s digitization,” said Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer, at the time.
We wrote about it because most automation production and workflow software does not work except for massive companies, as Grimm pointed out in our talk with him. He gave the example of paper ordering and shipping. “A printer may list paper stocks and prices in his MIS or estimation system, but ultimately he orders the paper by phone. There is no real efficient linkage between the suppliers of the raw material item that is anywhere from 30 to 50% of the printer’s cost and the printer’s systems, and this means that this business process, including the logistics, is generally inefficient or at least sub-optimal,” said Grimm.
“This (paper procurement) is the first use case that we are building, and what we are launching next week,” he said. The procurement platform of Zaikio is now available in Q3 of 2020 as a closed beta, and Zaikio members can try it out. Anyone, including printers, material, software, and machinery suppliers can become can have a Zaikio account. Even Heidelberg’s competitors are welcome to join and become investors in the platform that has so far been funded by it.
Zaikio’s universal platform links industry players
The Zaikio platform brings together all industry players using three key elements. The free Zaikio account enables each user to log into all connected software systems with a single log-in. The Zaikio Hub is used to administer personal and organization-based accounts, linking the various providers’ services and software – from existing software to apps developed specifically for Zaikio. Last but not least, Mission Control is the print shop’s digital control center. All data is received here in a standardized form and can be read, edited, and restored by other apps. The result is straightforward, standardized data exchange between software, hardware, and the partners involved, which creates the basis for end-to-end automated process chains.
We discussed with Grimm why most workflow systems work only inside a company. He explained that the idea of Zaikio is to make collaborative processes easy using a cloud-based universal platform. All it takes is three steps – the first is that all actors must have a user ID or a log-in and an organization. The second step is to have web-based and open APIs (application program interfaces), made possible by Zaikio publishing and making available all the documentation. The platform provides a web-based open API to test your system, which you need to go to the cloud. The third step is the data itself. For this we there is a data model that is comprehensive enough like CIP but easier to read. “Then it’s about doing what we’re doing today – bringing people together all over the world and opening new possibilities,” said Grimm.
He explained that the new platform is not a cloud-based way of becoming an IoT for connecting machines. “We are starting with software integration – the printers first, second and third software have to talk to each other. Also, keep in mind that the technology of how we develop software has completely changed, and the time for installing software on a local server in a print business is over. Why would a printer want to install software at his end for which he has to duplicate the infrastructure?”
Successful platforms and their users thrive on participation, so anyone who wants to get involved can now create a free Zaikio Account at www.zaikio.com to help shape, expand, and establish the platform. Zaikio interfaces and tools enable potential partners and investors to link their products with the platform and make them available to all users via the Zaikio Hub. Zaikio’s team of developers will provide the necessary support.