In-plants Detail Inkjet Success
One of the most information-packed discussions at the Inkjet Summit took place during the in-plant breakout session, which featured a panel of four inkjet users. Conference Chair Marco Boer stepped in as moderator in Bob Neubauer’s absence and led a fascinating discussion.
One common theme among panelists was the aging labor force. As operators near retirement and skilled applicants continue to be rare, the managers have found the automation offered by inkjet to be essential.
This was the primary motivation for the State of Kansas’ recent transition to a four-color Ricoh Pro VC40000 continuous-feed inkjet printer. Cheryl Buxton, director of Printing, Mail Services, and Surplus Property, said 90% of her staff is eligible for retirement, so it was vital her in-plant move to more automated technology with fewer touch points.
“If we don’t do this and do it now,” she reasoned, “we’re not going to be here.”
After lots of research — which included having each press under consideration print the same 10 jobs for comparison — her shop went with the VC40000 that Ricoh had on display in its Customer Experience Center because the in-plant needed a press installed quickly, due to the state’s approaching legislative session. She also intends to install a cut-sheet inkjet press.
J.J. Keller & Associates added a Konica Minolta KM-1e earlier this year to his 59-employee, $70 million operation and runs it two shifts a day.
“It’s taken all the work off our offset presses,” said Jeff Spence, director of manufacturing. He is selling the shop’s two presses and no longer uses toner printers either.
“The press operators that went from offset … absolutely love it,” he added. “The ease of operation, the quality and the consistency is amazing.”
When investigating presses, the availability of service and response times were crucial considerations. Also key was the press’ ability to handle the substrates his company uses. Spence calculated a low 500,000 impression-per-month minimum volume to justify the inkjet press.
For Medical Mutual of Ohio, which prints 40 million transactional impressions per year, a pair of Xerox Baltoro cut-sheet inkjet presses with Tecnau perf units on the end were the answer. Tim Lewandoski, director of Print & Administrative Services, says his shop’s existing relationship with Xerox and satisfaction with its service were key factors in the decision to get the Baltoros in 2019, as was the footprint of the devices. He also noted that, after doing an outsourcing study three years prior, his company made a commitment to retain the in-plant and modernize its technology.
Houston Independent School District installed a Canon VarioPrint i300 cut-sheet inkjet press in 2016, and Chuck Werninger, senior manager of Administrative Services, is adamant about using it to provide more effective educational materials that use color to enhance information retention.
“We’re committed to trying to improve the teaching and learning experience for our kids,” he said.
Inkjet has proven its value many times over.
“During COVID we did five times the volume we did on a normal [basis], and inkjet’s the only way you’re going to do that,” he noted, adding that the i300 can pump out 72,000 impressions in a four-hour period. “Previously, I couldn’t take a 70,000-page job and guarantee a turnaround in less than a week.”
Boer urged all in-plant managers in the audience to begin evaluating presses now, even if they are not ready to purchase. The unexpected can happen, he said; you could lose your operators and be forced to make a quick decision on inkjet, so be prepared.
He also noted that all inkjet press manufacturers are sold out of presses through 2023, due to unavailability of components. But there is a lot of “gently used” and refurbished equipment becoming available as early adopters upgrade. So ask your vendors for options like this.
Related story: Inkjet Summit Wraps Up
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 more than 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.