In-plants Offer Digital Press Buying Tips
John Sarantakos: Our move to the new [Kodak] Nex-finity technology was a logical progression from the NexPress. While we looked at other devices, our experience and success with Kodak equipment was a major factor. The pricing, speed increase, and increases to already superior quality made the decision easy.
Michael Zavory: After deciding on what we wanted and needed out of our presses, the research took various avenues: online research, physical visits to view the machines, in-person talks with company representatives, and reviewing actual printed pieces of our work from each device.
Rod Squier: Luckily there was a lot of interest from various companies to bid on our print shop copiers. I was able to get demo copiers in from each of the major players for a two-to-three week period. That really made it easy to see what worked and what didn’t. I also used [a listserv] to reach out to other schools for info.
Tami Reese: We spent about a year and a half determining whether we could justify the expense of another digital press or if we could accomplish the same goal by moving staff to different shifts to keep existing equipment running. At the point we were running at full capacity of existing equipment, and sending a considerable volume to external suppliers, we were able to justify purchasing another digital press. We knew we wanted to stay with Ricoh because of compatibility with existing equipment, contracts, and support.
What would you do differently if you were buying a digital press today?
Sarantakos: For us, having the technology for over 10 years, the issue was more productivity and quality improvements. For those just starting, my advice would be to ask your colleagues how they are using the devices, what are their customers asking for, and what do they like and dislike about their particular units. In-plants across the country are utilizing these types of devices, so there should be plenty of feedback about all the different manufacturers. The other advice would be to run test samples of your work, not the canned files the manufacturers provide.
Zavory: Not very much. We were very diligent and organized in what we were looking for. One [idea] might be to have a better breakdown and understanding of the billing procedures. That seemed to take a few months to get settled.
Squier: Not sure I could do anything differently. So far so good; nothing has come up that I didn’t address ahead of time. The unknown was, the 3080 we got was a new machine in 2018 so there wasn’t a history to research, but others had mostly good experiences with similar Konica machines. It was a bit of a leap of faith since we had been a Xerox shop for 12-plus years.
Reese: We feel confident in our process and wouldn’t do anything different.
How important were embellishments (clear ink, gold, etc.) in your decision and why?
Sarantakos: The addition of functionality is important. I would caution buyers to not be fooled by the bells and whistles. Each of these options can expand your offerings, but you must ask yourself, do you or can you develop a market? If you are betting on that to come, you might want to pass and do further research. We have always used clear ink, dimensional and the glossing feature. We added gold, silver, and laser safe (beta) to our mix and they have paid off nicely.
Zavory: Not as important as overall reliability and production capabilities, but they were definitely a key factor in our decision to choose the Iridesse over similar machines that did not offer those benefits. The main factor was that the extra toner capabilities would allow us to step up both our production and design capabilities in producing bolder, more unique print pieces.
Squier: I checked with different departments and nobody expressed an interest in those features. It would have significantly raised the machine cost. It would be fun to experiment with and then possibly market to the campus, but others [I consulted] didn’t seem to be utilizing it as they thought they would.
Reese: We chose not to get embellishments, such as extra inks, etc., on the new equipment because we have them on our existing machines and honestly don’t use the features very often. We bought the new equipment because we need the capacity to print more volume.
What lessons have you learned after using your digital press for a while now?
Sarantakos: When we installed our first NexPress I was unsure about variable data and being able to sell the service. That was over 10 years ago, and I kick myself for not jumping in earlier. The short turnaround time, quality, and the ability to upsell are significant advantages for your operations. Make sure you have qualified service technicians (plural) in your area. Get advanced training for your operators; it will save you in the long run. Understand that there is wrench time, and you must make time in your schedules to perform the maintenance and have an operator that is not afraid to work on the device.
Zavory: For the Iridesse specifically I would say it runs quite smoothly, and getting to know the new interface and features was only a slight learning curve since we had previously run the Color 1000. The machine insides are nearly identical. Climate control is key especially in winter. A dry, forced hot air heat system can have an influence on mottling and coverage if the air becomes too dry in the room. Being able to run heavier weight papers and different textured finishes is also a plus.
Squier: No surprises yet. The techs have laughed at what I told them the salesman said in terms of running materials and overall quality of prints, but we’re happy so far.
Reese: We are very happy with the quality and speed.
Have you gotten the results you expected from your digital color press?
Sarantakos: When you have been through three machines and spent the big bucks, you had better be profitable. So yes, digital offset is a very viable technology. It is profitable, and frankly our customers and the changing workflow require it. The days of two-week turns is long gone. The days of print and store have past. Being able to revise routinely is the norm. Digital offset solves all those things.
Zavory: We are very happy with the results we have gotten. It has handled high-volume times very well, and the finishing add-ons have worked well also.
Squier: Yes, and more so. We don’t have to worry about the color issues as we did previously. We did seem to have a lot of jams over the first few month, but each has been rectified and everything seems good now.
Reese: We have been able to meet our goals with the new equipment.
Did you encounter any unexpected issues that you can caution other managers about?
Sarantakos: You need to make sure you have regulated environments and reliable electrical service. Make sure you have sufficient space for technicians and for daily service needs. Don’t skimp on training. If there are schools to send operators to, utilize them. We have found that more often than not, we can fix or diagnose issues before the service technicians are dispatched. So, if there is a larger issue, parts can be preordered.
Zavory: Installation was smooth. Having a good analyst on site prior to install is key to making sure no unexpected issues pop up, and we had one. All electrical components needed were ordered prior to install so everything was here and ready to go when the machine arrived.
Squier: Other than the number of jams over the first few months of operation, nothing unexpected has cropped up. As they have addressed the issues, they haven’t returned.
Reese: We thought we had prepared ahead of time for all issues that would come up, but we did have to relocate a network and power line after the equipment arrived.