Production Inkjet at In-plants: More Productivity, Less Cost
When production inkjet presses first came on the scene, they were large, expensive and out of the league of most in-plants. But as attendees of the recent In-plant Forum learned during a panel discussion with three in-plant managers who use inkjet, much has changed since those early days. (Watch the full session here.) Today, more than three dozen in-plants have installed production inkjet presses, including the participants in the discussion:
- Kristen Hampton, director of Printing Services at the State of Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management & Budget. Her operation has both a Ricoh Pro VC40000 continuous-feed inkjet press and a Xerox Brenva cut-sheet inkjet press.
- Gary Benson, Print Operations Manager for Compassion International. His in-plant uses a Xerox Rialto 900 MP continuous-feed inkjet press.
- David Roberts, General Manager of Graphics at PRIDE Enterprises. His operation has installed a Canon VarioPrint i300 cut-sheet inkjet press.
Hampton noted that her operation installed inkjet to be able to provide color printing at a reasonable price, drive more business to the in-plant, and save its parent agency money. The in-plant was able to replace multiple toner devices with its two inkjet presses.
“We got rid of a lot of equipment,” she noted, “and we were able to replace it with less equipment – and we have more throughput.”
In the past, the in-plant had often used preprinted shells, but now those jobs can be run on inkjet, eliminating the shells.
“We’re able to run it all in one pass now,” she said.
Inkjet has opened up capacity, which Hampton is hoping to fill with new business.
“We’re looking at where work is being sent out that we could potentially utilize inkjet to bring it back in-house,” she says.
Uptime on the two inkjet presses is impressive, she says. The Ricoh boasts a 97% uptime, and uptime on the Xerox is over 90%.
“They just run,” Hampton praised.
Inkjet quality, she insisted, is far above what it was years ago.
“The quality coming off the Brenva as well as the Ricoh are comparable to offset,” she said. “Our customers are very happy with it.”
Benson wholeheartedly agreed. Worrying about the quality of inkjet is no longer something in-plants should concern themselves with, he said.
“It really is a non-issue,” he insisted. “Inkjet really has gotten to the point where the quality and the speed are there together.”
What’s more, he added, after the Xerox technicians set up the press, his staff has not had to adjust the color once.
“We just don’t have to mess with the color,” he said. “[We have] really been happy with the consistency.”
Inkjet is helping Compassion International fight childhood poverty by printing personalized correspondence between donors and the children they support. All of these materials include variable data, which the press handles flawlessly.
“The throughput time is drastically less than what it was with our cutsheet devices,” he remarks.
The Rialto 900 requires far less maintenance than the shop’s toner devices used to, he said.
“The uptime is better and just the maintenance time to keep us there is reduced,” he added.
Inkjet has also allowed the shop to handle additional work.
“We’ve found extra capacity, and we brought in more work that we had not originally intended,” he said.
At PRIDE, which stands for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, the goal is to train inmates in vocational skills and transition them into the job market upon completion of their sentences. Adding a Canon VarioPrint i300, remarked Roberts, allowed his operation to teach relevant skills to inmates. It also drove down costs, reduced waste, and increased throughput, he said.
Thanks to inkjet, the operation was able to go from 16 offset presses to just two.
“There’s a very significant reduction in cost due to plates, ink and all the maintenance associated with that, along with the [reduction in] waste,” Roberts said.
He praised the i300’s ability to match color and stay consistent over long runs, and echoed the benefits mentioned by the other panelists.
The three managers urged their peers to do lots of research when considering inkjet and test different substrates. One thing to be aware of, pointed out Hampton: “They are huge electrical users. That was a hit to our budget.” Make sure you’re prepared for that, she advised.
In the end, though, they all agreed, it has been worth all the work they did to prepare.
“It’s been a huge benefit for us,” said Benson. (Watch the full session here.)
The inkjet panel discussion concluded the In-plant Forum, which was packed with panels, presentations and product demos. Click the links below to read about some of the other sessions.
Related story: How Inkjet and Toner Presses Complement Each Other
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 nearly 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, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.