Finding New Efficiencies With Inkjet
Printing for the health care industry sometimes involves producing materials that require heavy ink coverage, such as X-rays for hospital journals, marketing and advertising — at least it does for HM Document Solutions, part of HM Health Solutions (formerly Highmark).
Jason Fonner, director of Business Development, Print Operations at HM Document Solutions, says the in-plant has produced marketing collateral with X-rays, printing solid blocks of color to create a realistic image. Although a cut-sheet toner device would be able to handle that type of job, the in-plant’s Ricoh Pro VC60000 roll-fed inkjet press is able to provide the heavy ink coverage needed without any type of degradation or curling of the substrate, allowing for faster runs.
HM Document Solutions installed its first Ricoh Pro VC60000 at its Pittsburgh facility in January of 2016 to handle corporate and commercial printing, which accounts for about 7% of the in-plant’s work. Now, a little more than two years later, the in-plant has solidified its confidence in the device by adding two more VC60000s at its Jacksonville, Fla., facility. They will be used for direct mail and transactional mail for statement printing, which accounts for nearly 38% of HM Document Solutions’ output, as well as some marketing collateral. Between these two facilities and a third plant in Mechanicsburg, Pa., HM Document Solutions has 180 employees and six inkjet color presses, including three Océ ColorStream 3000 devices from Canon.
“We used the [VC60000] for about a year before we started to say ‘Wow, we’re seeing a lot of efficiency,’” says Fonner.
Since the first installation, Fonner explains that the in-plant has been able to move a large portion of cutsheet applications to the Ricoh Pro VC60000.
“We started to convert a significant amount of our applications,” he says, “about 50-plus million pages per year [were transitioned] to the roll-feed device from cutsheet.”
Higher Volumes Expected
The sheer capabilities of the inkjet device spurred Fonner to consider making additional investments to handle HM Document Solutions’ transactional work. In fact, Fonner expects the new VC60000s installed at the Jacksonville facility to surpass the amount of work produced on the first device.
“We run about seven to 11 million linear feet per month on our machines here in Pittsburgh,” he says. “Jacksonville will be pushing that limit up to 20 to 30 million impressions per month.”
And pushing the limit is what originally drove HM Document Solutions to consider adding the Ricoh Pro VC60000. Fonner says some applications the in-plant would produce had such a high volume that the cut-sheet devices “had a hard time keeping up.”
The VC60000’s capabilities move beyond just being workhorses, however. The technology is particularly invaluable for variable printing applications. Fonner explains that about 95% of HM Document Solutions’ work contains variable content, and when such a significant amount of work is variable, it’s crucial to have a device that can deliver.
“When we go to variable print, the device is priceless,” he says. “So, if we’re doing variable imagery or variable text, when compared to offset, offset can’t do anything with it because it has to make multiple passes or have an inkjet head.”
With the help of the VC60000, Fonner says HM Document Solutions is able to produce variable sales guides for the sales department.
“For our marketing department, we are doing highly variable direct mail pieces trying to reel in new insurance members,” he explains. “These devices allow us to have messaging of a variable nature, and it’s eye-catching and creates a high response rate.”
‘Higher Response Rates’
Furthering the connection between marketing and print, HM Document Solutions has developed several print campaigns to complement digital campaigns, something that can be done more easily with production inkjet technology.
“We find that print gives our customers an [ideal] response rate and drives members to those engines,” Fonner says. “We are seeing higher response rates when we complement any type of digital campaign with a printed piece.”
Although the Ricoh Pro VC60000 has increased efficiency and variable capabilities for HM Document Solutions, one of the things that has changed in terms of production capabilities is that the inkjet device is able to run a wider variety of substrates.
“We’ve been able to expand our range of papers that we can run on the VC60000,” Fonner reports. “Now, we can run extremely lightweight stocks, and we run down to a 39-lb. stock on the device. We’ve run up to a 10-pt. stock of 250 gsm. That is our maximum stock that we run on the machine.”
Not only has the range of substrates that can be used opened up more capabilities, the nature of the substrates has helped HM Document Solutions save money. Fonner explains that switching from cutsheet to roll-fed has resulted in savings because cutsheet requires handling multiple times before reaching its final destination. The Ricoh Pro VC60000 has also cut down on ink consumption, and it has given HM Document Solutions the ability to estimate the amount of ink needed to complete a job.
“From a costing perspective, we have ink estimator tools that are provided with the device,” he says. “The ink estimation tools allow us to cost out the ink consumption on a per-job basis. That’s your big unknown as a consumer of this technology, but the estimation tool allows you to get actual costing once your client submits the artwork.”
Based on the savings that HM Document Solutions is seeing and the efficiency it has gained, Fonner says the Ricoh Pro VC60000 is significantly more cost effective when compared to traditional cutsheet toner printing.
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