All Digital, All The Time
One of the biggest challenges an in-plant can face is shifting to an all-digital workflow. But most of the time, say these managers, it's worth it.
By Mike Llewellyn
Over the course of his 30 years in printing, Dan Dore, operations supervisor at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), has seen it all. He was there for the rise of offset lithography. He saw the advent of digital printing. And now he's guiding his in-plant into an all-digital workflow.
By the end of this year, all of the federally funded in-plant's offset equipment will be sent off to government surplus, and the shop will focus exclusively on high-speed digital printing and duplicating, print-on-demand and copying. Dore says the benefits for the Laurel, Md., in-plant, and for APL, are clear.
"A good deal of what we were printing on offset were runs of less than 5,000," he says. "That's just not economical, especially since we're now doing print-on-demand."
For example, Dore says the in-plant used to output the 300-page employee handbook to a platesetter, print it two-up on a two-color press, then have it cut off-line and collated.
"But now we're just taking the PDF and printing exactly the number they need, and usually an extra 20 or so," he says.
With run lengths dropping, and customers' speed expectations getting ever more stringent, many managers find that their in-plants' offset presses are becoming specialty items. And for those in-plants that don't require massive print runs, or even those that find they can save more money by outsourcing that work, an all-digital shop has become an attractive goal.
"When we can bill less to the customer and turn jobs around faster, the institution always benefits," says Barbara Lindsay, assistant director of Printing Services at Georgia Perimeter College.
With a brand new HP-Indigo 1000 digital color press in the Clarkston, Ga., facility, Lindsay says the five-employee in-plant decided to sell off a two-color press and reroute all of the color work the shop would have run on that press to the new digital printer.