Inkjet Summit Off to a Great Start
More than 120 senior managers and print industry executives are meeting in Florida this week for the sixth annual Inkjet Summit. The invitation-only event — which provides insight and advice on successful production inkjet press adoption — has taken over the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club since Monday and will wrap up this evening with an awards banquet.
In his opening keynote Monday evening, Conference chair Marco Boer, of I.T. Strategies, noted that inkjet is coming into its own at a time when the commercial print segment is undergoing a profound structural change because of worsening labor shortages, a “precipitous drop” in revenues and profits, and changes in the way people consume and buy print. The good news, he said, is that inkjet can help to remedy all of these ills with its automated productivity and its broadly acceptable print quality.
Traditionally, said Boer, printers tried to compete by selling the highest quality output at the lowest price: a formula that no longer works well in print markets where fast delivery and ROI-producing results are the paramount requirements. What inkjet makes possible is a model in which price is determined not by quality but by the value that data in the form of personalization adds to the printed piece.
Inkjet’s increasing acceptance is seen in the fact that last year, the process was responsible for producing 300 billion pages. Technical advancements in productivity and substrate compatibility are helping inkjet stay ahead.
Boer wasn’t predicting the abandonment of offset lithography in a mad rush to inkjet: the conventional printing method still accounts for 95% of all pages produced and sits on a base that is simply too large to be replaced by anything else.
"There's no doubt in my mind that offset is not going away," he stated.
But he said that because of all the advantages inkjet can bring, movement toward it will be “unstoppable” in the applications where those advantages are the most obvious.
“Inkjet technology is proven,” he assured them, “and people are making money with it.”
Also Monday evening, Barb Pellow, manager at Pellow & Partners, led a panel discussion featuring four inkjet customers who shared their success stories with the technology. Pellow asked the panel about the benefits of production inkjet technology, the evaluation process and the keys to success when adopting production inkjet.
"For us, inkjet is a game changer," said Brett Coltman, COO of Direct Technologies (DTI).
Yesterday morning, under rainy skies, Pellow kicked off the day by interviewing a different panel of users about how they sell inkjet printing. The panel emphasized that properly educating and motivating the sales force is what primarily drives success in a market where the old norms of selling — particularly selling on price — aren’t meaningful in the value proposition that inkjet presents to customers. They also noted that if a printing company wants its customers to get excited about inkjet, the service provider must communicate its own passion for the process in every pitch it makes.
“We never go to market selling print,” asserted Christine Soward, president and CEO of DMS Ink. Solutions and executions based on a thorough understanding of customer needs are what the company offers, she said.
Another panelist, Patrick Maurer, president of APEX Revenue, noted that print is the main channel his company uses to help hospitals and other health care providers collect money owed to them by people they've treated. Driving payment results is not only a core business for APEX but a financial lifeline for the customers it serves.
"We have to believe that we can help that hospital collect that balance," he said, because the remittances can be the difference between the institution's remaining open and being forced to close its doors.
To stay ahead of this task, Maurer said, acquiring inkjet "was almost a necessity for us." With the help of its variable-data capability, APEX can personalize billing statements with financing options, prompt-pay discounts, and other messaging aimed at persuading recipients to settle their accounts.
Because paper is such a crucial part of any inkjet press decision, Mary Schilling, director of print quality analysis at InkjetInsight.com, gave a presentation analyzing trends in inkjet paper. Paper mills are introducing new inkjet papers, such as highly calendared stock, which provides higher print quality than inkjet-treated paper and better drying performance than inkjet coated. It has a smooth, slick surface, reminiscent of coated stock.
She discussed the benefits of applying pre-coatings on paper (e.g., it expands paper choices, slows ink absorption and increases print quality) as well as the challenges (e.g., higher costs, additional maintenance and the need for more drying capacity).
Schilling also talked about new high-viscosity UV ink chemistry, which can expand media choices and boasts minimum ink migration, no water/paper saturation and an expanded color gamut. However, those UV inks cost 10-15% more than aqueous inks and result in slower jet speeds and a longer cure time. They also yield a raised surface that can crack on the fold, she said.
Schilling encouraged the printers in the room to continue talking with the mills to let them know what they need in an inkjet paper.
"You guys are pushing the industry," she said. "Push harder."
After these general sessions, the in-plant attendees broke into case study groups to hear about successful inkjet implementations at in-plants like World Bank, Indiana Farm Bureau and Huntington Bank. Then all attendees met with sponsors in 1:1 meetings to discuss their inkjet plans. Tomorrow holds another full day of education and, hopefully, sunshine.
Co-presented by NAPCO Media (the publisher of In-plant Graphics and Printing Impressions) and nGage Events, the Inkjet Summit is a hands-on, problem-solving strategic conference where owners and managers get the hard facts they need to make truly informed decisions about investing in production inkjet systems and equipment. Watch for our full coverage of the summit in the June issue of IPG.
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