Inkjet Helps In-plant Avoid Outsourcing
It could have gone either way.
Marshfield Clinic Health System was expanding rapidly — so rapidly its leadership wondered if the in-plant could keep up with anticipated print volumes. Marshfield’s Print & Mail Services operation was running a 15-year-old Ryobi DI press, two old Multi duplicators, and some older toner devices — not the perfect equipment to handle the growing demand for variable data printing.
So the Marshfield, Wis.-based nonprofit integrated health system started to consider other options — options that bring dread into the minds of in-plants everywhere.
“The organization itself was considering, ‘Do we outsource or not?’” recounts Dan Jalinski, Print & Mail Services manager.
He proposed an additional idea: upgrading the in-plant to better handle the uptick in work. The clinic agreed to explore this avenue as well.
After studying both strategies, Jalinski was able to show that upgrading would provide the company with better service at a lower cost.
“They saw that the data proved it out, and were willing to make that investment,” he says.
The centerpiece of that investment was a Canon varioPRINT i300 production inkjet press with an inline C.P. Bourg bookletmaker.
“When we really looked at the total volume and the anticipated volume of the organization, it became very clear that something like high-speed inkjet was a good fit for us,” notes Jalinski.
That wasn’t the only upgrade, though. The 19-employee shop also added:
- A Canon imagePRESS C10000VP digital color press
- A Canon imagePRESS C710 digital color press
- Two Canon VarioPrint 6270 TITAN monochrome digital presses
- Two Printware iJet NXT envelope presses
- A Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000S wide-format printer
- A Duplo Ultra 200 Pro UV coater
- A Duplo DC-746 slitter/cutter/creaser
The equipment was installed in July 2019. It was a major overhaul for the in-plant, but by far the biggest change was the inkjet press, which replaced several other devices.
“It was scary and nerve-wracking to think about retiring every single piece of our offset, replacing all of our existing toner devices, implementing new bindery equipment — all at the same time,” Jalinski admits. “But that is exactly what we did.”
It was the right move, he says, and he has no regrets.
“All things considered … the speed of inkjet, the lack of makeready when compared to offset printing — those are all things that really helped us get to the inkjet technology,” he says.
A Busy In-plant
Located almost exactly in the center of Wisconsin, in a rural area two-and-a-half hours north of Madison, Marshfield Print & Mail Services is a busy operation. Open seven days a week, including 24 hours Monday through Friday, the in-plant handles more than 1,000 print orders a day — between 75 and 80 million impressions per year — in its 30,000-sq.-ft. operation. It runs both transactional printing (about 900 jobs per day) and “traditional” work, such as envelopes, brochures, letters, booklets, and marketing materials. The latter types of jobs are submitted through its WebCRD Web-to-print system from Rochester Software Associates, while transactional work comes through a custom-built print management system.
Marshfield’s health insurance plan provides about 40% of the shop’s work, Jalinski says, including handbooks, ID cards, information sheets, and letters. The in-plant has the right of first refusal for all of Marshfield’s printing, and bids out any work it can’t handle internally.
“We’re able to control the entire scope of … the print needs of the organization,” Jalinski says.
Having a great relationship with upper management and communicating with leadership regularly were vital to the in-plant’s success, he stresses. Jalinski was able to convince management that he and his team are the print experts of the organization; they understand the print requirements of Marshfield Clinic’s internal customers and care deeply about the clinic’s success.
“It’s not just about how cheaply you can print and deliver print material,” he notes. “It’s the ease of working with the vendor.”
Jalinski made a strong case that investing in the in-plant would not only save the clinic money but ensure it the best possible service and quality.
“We projected a 30% cost reduction in overall operation of the department with the new technology, and we have surpassed that,” he reveals — and he makes sure management is aware of this fact in his quarterly reports.
The Move From Offset
Though it was difficult to turn away from offset, it was also inevitable, Jalinski notes.
“It was becoming increasingly difficult to find offset press operators,” he says. That and the increasing amount of variable data printing made inkjet a much better option.
To get his offset operators to buy into the idea of inkjet, he let them take the lead in evaluating inkjet presses.
“The move to inkjet certainly changed the skills within the department, but I’m very pleased that every single one of our operators was able to adjust and train and acquire those new inkjet skills,” he says. “By far, the training we received from Canon exceeded our expectations. That really created a comfort level.”
He says Canon even trained his designers so they understood that some designs that print well on offset won’t print as well on inkjet.
“They spent a lot of time training our designers on the limitations of inkjet and how it was different from offset,” he affirms.
Faster Than Offset
He and his team quickly learned that inkjet is much faster than offset.
“We’re turning that paper so much quicker than we did before,” he says.
The shop has to keep the i300 busy with work, since inkjet presses run best when they don’t stop running.
“The inkjet technology is indeed more reliable and more dependable if it’s run more often,” Jalinski reports. “The bigger challenge is the in-line bookletmaker.”
The in-plant elected to fit the C.P. Bourg bookletmaker in-line on the i300, to go from white paper to finished books in one process. But although inkjet, with fewer moving parts, has a phenomenal uptime, the bindery equipment is more likely to need maintenance, which would shut down the process. The bookletmaker also runs slower than the i300.
That said, Jalinski stresses, in-line binding is still much more efficient than moving printed sheets to the shop’s offline bindery equipment.
“It eliminates significant bottlenecks in the bindery,” he points out.
Also eliminated are the preprinted shells the in-plant used to print and store. With inkjet’s white paper factory approach, the process is now faster and less expensive.
“What inkjet really did for us was allow us to print all of that in one pass — still offset print quality,” he says. “We cut the labor rate for those types of letters in half. We eliminated all of that inventory need.”
Another benefit of inkjet technology is its ability to print color at a similar cost to monochrome. Jalinski hopes to take advantage of this by adding highlight color to the important information on explanation of benefits statements, to make them easier to understand.
“That’s definitely something we could not have done before,” he remarks, since those statement were previously printed on monochrome machines.
With a variety of print devices, papers, and coatings to choose from at the in-plant, Jalinski and his team have endeavored to make it easier for designers by printing a sample book. A single piece of artwork was printed on every house stock, using both inkjet and toner, with some samples UV coated.
“It’s extremely helpful,” he says. “It allows your designer, in some cases, to design for the output device.”
Advice for In-plants
Jalinski has some words of advice for other in-plants starting to look at inkjet: media matters.
“The most important factor when evaluating whether inkjet is right for you is to really understand the impact that different media has … on the quality of the output,” he says.
Jalinski feels inkjet is playing a crucial part in keeping Print & Mail Services strong and valuable in the organization’s eyes. It has allowed the in-plant to meet the clinic’s three most important print requirements: higher quality, better service, and lower cost.
“If we can deliver on all three of those, then the organization itself considers us valuable,” he notes.
Jalinski makes sure management understands the value his in-plant is providing by communicating this message regularly. He advises all in-plants to do the same.
“Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out and reach out to leaders within your organization, and let them know what you really do,” he says. This, after all, is how he was able to save his in-plant from being outsourced.
“We’re very, very pleased with where we are now compared to where we were,” Jalinski concludes, “and it’s been a great and fulfilling journey for us.”
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.