Inkjet: The Future of In-plant Printing Services
A dramatic technological transformation is taking place within today’s production print industry accompanied by a revolution in the types of products and services being delivered to end customers.
While there are many trends setting the bar in the in-plant market today—including the continued success of electrophotographic printing and streamlined workflow—one rapidly growing trend is inkjet technology, destined to be a major player in the future transformation of in-plant printing services.
The market can be unforgiving, favoring businesses that transform their business model to remain relevant in their customers’ eyes. These market conditions do not exclude in-plants, which are often forced to compete with the threat of outsourcing and the incorrect notion that they exist merely as cost centers. Outsourcing may work for some businesses, but it often falls short in offering some of the most beneficial advantages that in-plants deliver—specifically their in-depth knowledge of the organization’s communication requirements and processes (print or digital).
Making Valuable Assets More Relevant
One of the common challenges in-plants face is the popular misconception that they exist merely as cost centers. Those who do this fail to see that in-plants offer an annual cost savings to a company and are well-equipped to accommodate their clients’ communication needs.
There are many parts of the puzzle that in-plants need to consider in order to be better positioned to thrive in a competitive market: service, quality, personalization and fast turnaround, to name a few. Workflow improvements can dramatically strengthen the value an in-plant can deliver to its organization and prime an in-plant to take on more critical work that might otherwise be outsourced.
A more streamlined process can lead to lower operational costs, reduced need for human labor, boosted productivity and expanded applications capabilities—in other words additional revenue-generating opportunities that can ultimately keep work in-house; inkjet can further these opportunities.
The Inkjet Evolution
While it’s true that electrophotographic systems hold the greatest market share at the high-end, high-quality digital color market, and will continue to be viable long into the future, advancements in inkjet technology are quickly closing the gap between offset and digital print crossover points. According to InfoTrends’ U.S. and Western European Production Printing & Copying Market Forecasts (2014-2019), by 2016, production color inkjet volume will begin to exceed that produced by color toner devices.
Much like the move to digital printing years ago, the transition to inkjet has raised some important questions for many in-plants: What is the value proposition inkjet provides? What are the challenges that can accompany the switch to inkjet? How do we state the business case for our parent organization?
The Value Proposition
The answers to these questions are becoming clearer. Thanks to inkjet, in-plants are not only increasing their revenue flow by expanding into direct mail, variable data and transactional printing, but they are also eliminating the need for preprinted forms.
For example, think of the time and money a company would save if it could run monochrome and color jobs on one engine. By streamlining the process into a “white paper in, full color out” workflow, in-plants no longer need to use offset-printed shells for the color component of the document and can add the monochrome variable data with an electrophotographic device, avoiding the issue of color drifting and logistical complications of keeping preprinted stock up to date and in sufficient quantities. The ability to produce monochrome, light coverage color, and full-color pages using a single engine is a cost effective and very desirable option for the production market, particularly in-plants.
Preparing for the Transition
With new technology and evolution come various challenges and growing pains to overcome first. One of the biggest challenges inkjet faces is determining the best paper to provide customers in order to achieve a high-quality output appearance at a reasonable cost. Inkjet has been a key factor in driving high levels of productivity and very competitive running costs for continuous-feed color jobs. The reason for these benefits is that in-plants with continuous-feed equipment often print large amounts of the same project, eliminating the need for a wide variety of different papers and making it easier to determine the paper inventory required.
However, we understand the majority of requests received by in-plants often don’t add up to the volume needed to keep continuous-form systems running; rather, they’re often asked to run a variety of projects, most of which require media flexibility.
Sheetfed inkjet technology offers the media flexibility needed to allow for quick media changes between jobs and even for combining media in one print job, helping to reduce post-print processing and handling. However, the inkjet process is not compatible with many of the papers being manufactured for offset and electrophotographic printing today. The advantages outweigh the pain points, and as history has shown from the transition from offset to digital, vendors will aggressively look for ways to address these challenges.
Canon is at the forefront of this market change. The launch of the Océ VarioPrint i300 is designed to bridge the gap between the application flexibility and quality of toner-based sheetfed digital presses and the economy and productivity of web-fed inkjet systems. In-plants that explore the offerings of technology in this new market segment are opening doors to new opportunities and applications that will not only help them to continue to thrive today, but also will begin to build the strong infrastructure required to transform into a successful business model for the future.
Related story: The Inkjet Momentum: Why the Hype is Real
As a key leader at Canon for much of his professional career, Dennis Amorosano has enjoyed the opportunity to work in several departments within the company. Currently, he is the vice president and general manager of marketing for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group (BISG) and is also responsible for the Professional Services group in Canon Information and Imaging Solutions (CIIS). He joined Canon in 1994 and played an instrumental role in leading product marketing for imageRUNNER, imagePRESS, Image Capture and software solutions. In his current capacity, he oversees the marketing activities of products that cross all BISG business units, with primary emphasis on office and production hardware and software solutions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org