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MUST SEE ’EMS: The Inside Story

Jun 27, 2013 12:00 AM

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Progam director Hal Hinderliter gave us an insider’s peek at the MUST SEE ’EMS judging process. Although the first call for entries doesn’t go out until April, Hinderliter rings in the new year with some MUST SEE ’EMS preparations.

“First, I contact the previous year’s Selection Committee to confirm their participation for this year,” he explains. “Next, I check in with GASC, which produces the GRAPH EXPO/PRINT shows to learn about new co-located events. Then I seek out additional judges who are experts in those areas.”

This year’s Selection Committee is comprised of 32 judges representing practically every specialty in the printing industry. We can’t actually reveal their names (“They remain anonymous to safeguard their impartiality,” says Hinderliter), but you can safely assume you probably know many of them. The elite panel includes consultants, educators, journalists and printers.

In April, once the judges are on onboard, Hindlerliter launches the balloting process for the Legacy Award. This is also when the online Entry Form goes live on the website and the call for MUST SEE ’EMS entries goes out.

Introduced in 2012, the Legacy Award recognizes one previous MUST SEE ’EMS winner that continues to have an impact the industry.  “The vendors do not elect to enter the judging for the Legacy Award,” Hinderliter says. “They are automatically considered based on their status as previous winners. We’re looking for products that have inspired game-changing innovation in our industry, not just popular.” 

The 2012 Legacy Award nominees first triumphed in the 1999 MUST SEE ’EMS competition.  For 2013, the nominees were drawn from 1999 and 2000 honorees. Looking ahead, consideration will be extended to all past MUST SEE ’EMS winners in a three-year window. In 2014, candidates under consideration will be winners from 1999-2001; the following year will review standouts from 2000-2002 and so on. 

There are two rounds of voting for the Legacy Awards: the first round reduces the field to the top five nominees; the second round determines the winner. The 2013 Legacy Award winner has already been selected and notified—but despite our best efforts, Hinderliter refused to divulge this information. We will all have to wait for the big reveal at the EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK conference on Sept. 7, 2013. ( EFI, Xerox and OutputLinks Communications Group  are sponsoring the half-day conference, hope to see you there!) 

Although participants can start sending in their entries in April, most come flooding in within the last 10 days of the mid-June deadline.  Exhibitors select one of 11 categories that best fits their product; this helps the Selection Committee ensure that all segments of the printing industry are considered for MUST SEE ’EMS recognition.   

When all entries are in hand, Hinderliter downloads an Excel spreadsheet generated from the website’s registration system.  Using this material, he creates a series of online ballots, and email invitations. The judges then evaluate the online ballots, which also may contain links to additional supporting documentation. “The judges have less than three weeks to review all the entries,” reports Hinderliter. “We had more than 130 this year!”  

Four criteria guide the selection process:
1. INNOVATIVE: This entry appears to feature one or more significant innovations that could potentially reshape this category.
2. EASE OF USE: This product should provide enhanced ease-of-use compared to what is considered “typical” for this category.
3. THROUGHPUT: This product should provide significantly improved throughput compared to other competitors in the same class/price range.
4. COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: Print shops that implement this product will likely enjoy a significant business advantage compared to other print providers in their sales region. 

The rating choices for the four criteria are:  “Untrue,” “Likely untrue,” “No impact,” “Likely true” and “True.” These choices are weighted and result in each entry receiving a numerical score.   

Once the judging closes, Hinderliter analyzes the scores. “Typically, I’m looking for the top three scores in each category, but I also consider how those entries rank in comparison to the rest of the field,” he says. “ If there are four or five products clustered together with similar scores, they would all win; conversely, if there are two that score highly followed by a large drop to the third place entry, only those top two are named as winners.” 

The highest-scoring winner from each category receives the “Best of Category” award to be announced at EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK. All judges are instructed to vote on individual entries only when they feel confident enough in their knowledge to properly assess the product. “That’s why there are so many judges from such a wide variety of backgrounds,” Hinderliter says. “I expect most of them will skip over at least a few of the entries. Also, while I, too, am a judge, my vote carries no more weight than anyone else’s.   Because the scores for each entry are based on a percentage of the votes cast, an entry can be a winner even if only a few judges cast votes for it, provided those votes are consistently positive.” 

After the winners are determined and notified, Hinderliter gathers images for the pre-show MUST SEE ’EMS webinar (slated for August 6, 2013).  GASC issues a press release and prepares placards that will be displayed in the winners’ booths at the show.  GASC also prepares the printed brochures available to all show attendees as they enter McCormick Place.  

“Our industry owes much to the dedicated efforts and innovative spirit of our exhibiting suppliers,” says Hinderliter. “The annual MUST SEE ’EMS program is the best opportunity to recognize their valuable contributions.”  

Editor’s Note: PRINT 13 is September 8-12, 2013 in Chicago. You can learn more about the MUST SEE ’EMS here. Touch here to read MUST SEE ’EMS: WHAT’S NEW FOR 2013.