Over the past few years, we’ve published dozens of articles about in-plants installing production inkjet presses, providing clear evidence that inkjet’s popularity is rising. At the same time, though, a number of in-plants have added (mostly pre-owned) sheetfed offset presses in recent years, an older technology that many managers equate with the “good old days.” In fact, we have stories about both offset and inkjet installations in this very issue.
Some of the in-plants putting in new offset presses have even attended the Inkjet Summit and learned all about how far inkjet technology has advanced — yet they still chose to go the offset route.
So what gives? Are they just stubborn Luddites, who don’t understand that technology has moved on? Or do they have a point?
On the one hand, before adding a five-color RMGT 940 press with LED-UV coating and curing in October, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) Print & Mail Services explored all the options for printing the school’s booklets, direct mail, post cards, and newsletters. Offset, they determined, was a better fit.
“We evaluated inkjet and digital, and found offset offered the best solution to produce high-quality printing the University of Missouri departments demand,” explains Director Jeff McNeeley. “Seventy percent of our revenue is printed offset.”
That would be a lot of revenue to give up, since an inkjet press, he concluded, couldn’t handle the huge volumes the shop is cranking out on its new offset press.
On the other hand, replacing old offset presses was one of the main reasons Omaha Public Schools’ in-plant installed a Xerox Brenva HD inkjet press in 2018. Manager Steve Priesman was concerned about the long-term viability of offset. It was getting hard to obtain replacement parts for his Ryobi presses, he told IPI, and he worried he would have trouble finding skilled offset press operators over time.
So his in-plant shut down two offset presses along with four digital toner devices when it added the Brenva. And just this month, the in-plant installed a second inkjet press, a Xerox Baltoro, to replace its remaining toner devices, becoming a 100% inkjet shop.
Part of the reason Priesman and other inkjet users find inkjet to be a better option than offset is the savings it brings. Eliminating offset also eliminates the cost of plates, chemicals, makeready, and more. Inkjet’s operating costs are much lower. Waste alone declines tremendously with inkjet.
In deciding which technology is a better fit, in-plants obviously have to consider the mix of work they print. Offset adherents all have large volumes of static printing to produce. They don’t feel inkjet is as well suited to those volumes.
In the case of MU Print & Mail Services, there’s also the need to produce eye-catching pieces, a feat the shop accomplished by adding a press with LED-UV coating and curing technology.
“Uncoated sheets printed with the LED-UV look amazing,” enthuses McNeeley.
There’s certainly a difference between the “everyday color” Omaha Schools’ in-plant produces on its inkjet press for student worksheets and the high-quality color MU and other offset users are laying down on their organizations’ marketing materials.
So as we continue monitoring the in-plant industry, we’ll no doubt see more of each type of installation, as managers evaluate their parent organizations’ print needs and decide which technology is best suited to giving them the results they want.
Related story: Offset Endures and Thrives In Missouri
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.