Inkjet Summit: Where Peak Knowledge Awaits Attendees
When will inkjet quality take the next step to compete with offset? How have others successfully converted large volumes of legacy business to inkjet? Where can I get information on all models of production inkjet equipment? Are there any hidden “gotchas” with production inkjet?
These are some of the burning questions that a select group of printers will bring with them to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., next month as attendees at the sixth annual Inkjet Summit — the most comprehensive learning experience for those determined to be in the vanguard of the industry’s shift to production inkjet.
When the three-day (April 9-11) event at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is over, they’ll go home with answers. Educational sessions, interaction with vendors and peer-to-peer networking make the Inkjet Summit an immersive, intensive exercise that covers all the bases of contemporary printing’s most important emerging technology.
The Inkjet Summit isn’t just a think tank; it’s 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. Conference chair Marco Boer, of I.T. Strategies, advises attendees that by the end of the program, “there will be no gray areas” in their understanding of what to do or how to go about doing it.
‘Qualified’ and Committed
The structure of the Inkjet Summit — unique among printing industry conferences — enables it to deliver what it promises. Co-presented by NAPCO Media (the publisher of In-plant Graphics and Printing Impressions) and nGage Events, the Inkjet Summit is an invitation-only, all-expenses-paid proceeding for pre-qualified attendees: senior managers of printing operations that are continuing to install production inkjet equipment and non-adopters with serious plans to do so in the near-term.
In return for underwriting the event’s “hosted buyer” model, the sponsoring vendors get 1:1 meeting opportunities with attendees. This is to the attendees’ advantage as well, because it puts them into direct contact with all of the leading providers of production inkjet systems and related equipment and supplies.
When they aren’t engaging with the vendors, attendees increase their inkjet knowledge in a rich educational program that includes keynote addresses, user panel discussions, breakout and case-study sessions, and expert briefings by leading consultants in the field. Emphasizing practical, profit-making approaches, the agenda covers production inkjet applications in:
- In-plant operations
- Direct mail/Marketing
- Publishing, including books, catalogs and magazines
- General commercial printing
As a result, says Inkjet Summit advisory board member Elizabeth Gooding of Insight Forums/Inkjet Insight, “attendees will gain strategic insight into both macro technology trends and the roadmaps for individual OEMs. They will also take away tactical knowledge for evaluating products and driving down costs in existing inkjet environments.”
New in the program this year, adds Gooding, is advice for optimizing paper evaluation and for tracking trends in the paper market; and a report on software for creating an efficient production workflow, from design through production.
Advisory board member Barb Pellow, of Keypoint Intelligence, notes that because much of the educational content is based on peer experiences, participants will get a tremendous perspective on how existing users are driving the technology in their businesses.
“They will learn about different inkjet press technologies; the technical intricacies associated with color management and workflow; inks and substrates; finishing; and hear about selling strategies for success,” Pellow says.
Who Needs Downtime?
It’s a meticulously organized, briskly paced program. But, as they relax during the off hours at one of the premier resort locations on Florida’s Northeast coast, participants can swap notes at their leisure in what may be the Inkjet Summit’s most valuable activity: learning from each other in an open and non-competitive atmosphere. There is no better reference for fact-based decision making than that, declares Boer.
The cordial networking is one of the things that Bob Arkema, executive VP of Johnson & Quin in Niles, Ill., remembers best from his participation in the 2017 edition of the event. His company, a direct mail house, already had a production inkjet press, but wanted to update its knowledge of inkjet technology in preparation for buying a second inkjet device, which it will install this year.
Hearing from companies with inkjet profiles like Johnson & Quin’s helped considerably, says Arkema, as did interacting with vendors. He notes that, because of the size of the investment that production inkjet requires, a printer can’t afford to make a bad call on the selection of a press. The Inkjet Summit was the place to find experts with reliable advice for avoiding that mistake.
“They’re all here,” Arkema adds.
Networking Gold Mine
The peer-to-peer exchange made the experience worthwhile “more than anything else,” agrees Donny Dunn, general manager of the Colfax Div. at PDF Print Communications, Colfax, Calif. He acknowledges that when he arrived at the Inkjet Summit last year, he wasn’t entirely certain of what actual benefits production inkjet had to offer.
That changed when conversations with other printers convinced him that the technology had come farther along in terms of quality than he realized. Also compelling, says Dunn, were the stories he heard about the new business that came to these companies after they had adopted inkjet. This is exactly what the Inkjet Summit was conceived to do: to help printers clarify their understanding of production inkjet and shape their plans for it accordingly.
‘Everybody’s Answer Is Inkjet’
Fellow 2017 attendee Paul Heffington, president of Allen Printing in Nashville, Tenn., saw the urgency of getting the facts straight.
“Over the past two to three years, whenever I’ve asked what the future of the industry is going to be, everybody’s answer is inkjet,” he says. “I want to be prepared for the future.” He adds that networking helped him to realize that production inkjet wasn’t “only for mail houses” and that the process could also have applications in commercial printing operations like his.
At the Inkjet Summit, representatives of companies that have a history with inkjet mix with counterparts from firms that are just getting started or are still exploring their options. That makes it a forum of special benefit for first-time attendees.
“The event brings together new buyers with experienced inkjet users in a great knowledge-sharing environment,” advisory board member Gooding says. “We’ve also had five consecutive years to learn how to balance the needs of first-time buyers with repeat buyers to keep content relevant.”
First-timer Charles Buchanan, VP of strategic accounts at Dallas-based Summit Direct Mail, is coming to Ponte Vedra Beach to find out what can be done to take his company to the next level of productivity with inkjet (see sidebar). “Inkjet has already allowed us to provide new solutions for our customers, while helping us reduce operational costs,” he says. “But it is important for us to continue the evolution of our manufacturing operations as inkjet technology matures.”
As deputy managing director of plant operations for the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) in Washington, D.C., Greg Estep is looking forward to mingling with veteran production inkjet users and discovering their best practices. The more that managers learn about success with inkjet, he observes, the more knowledge they can impart to their workforces.
It’s Here — Now What?
Katherine Versteegh, senior VP of Milwaukee-based A.B. Data Ltd., is heading to her first Inkjet Summit with a list of pointed questions about volume, pricing, margins and marketing. She says that since her company will probably install its first production inkjet press just prior to the start of the conference, the main thing to find out is, “Once it’s here, what are the challenges?”
Boer says that with everything it has to offer, and with its emphasis on a free flow of unfiltered information, the Inkjet Summit is “truly educational, with no hidden agendas” for all who attend. Proof of the success of its model, he contends, is seen in the fact that the conference has been fully booked in every year since its launch.
If past is prologue, then the 2018 edition of the Inkjet Summit could be its richest yet. The best expression of its promise may be the evaluation made by Russell (Rusty) Coolidge, president and owner of Chromagraphics Inc. in Upper Marlboro, Md., who, when he took part last year, found the Inkjet Summit to be “much more intense than I anticipated, with much more information than I anticipated and time better spent than I ever anticipated.”
Related story: Production Inkjet: 'Truly Unstoppable'
Patrick Henry is the director of Liberty or Death Communications. He is also a former Senior Editor at NAPCO Media and long time industry veteran.