Color Printing Turf Wars
Competition among the major digital color printing vendors is tougher than ever. In-plants, as luck would have it, are caught in the crossfire.
by Mike Llewellyn
FOR ANY large organization, if they're saying 'I need this job now,' they're going to want to send it to an in-plant," declares Abby Abhyankar, vice president for integrated marketing at Xerox. "In-plants represent short runs with fast response times and no compromises on quality."
That's not news to in-plant managers, whose job it is to make sure their shops offer the highest speed at the lowest price. But it is making headlines at companies like Xerox and NexPress Solutions, which are discovering that in-plants are the ideal market space to grow their digital color printing business.
"We consider in-plants to be a vital market segment," says Vahaaj Khan, director of product management for digital printing at Heidelberg USA. Khan contends in-plants already running a sheetfed offset operation are an ideal site for a NexPress 2100.
Why all the fuss over this "in-plant market space?" Well, for the past five years the industry has been fighting a major battle for the lion's share of the digital color printing market. Several companies, like Heidelberg and Kodak, have partnered up; others dropped out of sight entirely. Some, like IBM, chose to mark a specialized territory—forms and data center printing, in IBM's case—and have dug in to protect it for the long haul. And still other companies, like Canon and Xerox, are duking it out in the open for mainstream color business.
But regardless of the niche these companies select, says Abhyankar, in-plants are now perceived as ripe, uncharted territory.
And vendors are trying to get in while the getting's good.
Because digital color printing has become so refined over the past few years, it's tough for companies to make drastic improvements to the products they already have. But to snatch the attention of in-plant managers, there are several key areas where even small advances will help manufacturers score valuable points.