The Path Forward for Inkjet
The 11th annual Inkjet Summit wrapped up on Wednesday April 26 with an awards banquet that capped an exhilarating week of education for the 135 commercial and in-plant attendees. It was the largest Inkjet Summit yet, with more than 300 people on site at the Hyatt Lost Pines, outside of Austin, Texas.
One of the last sessions on Wednesday brought together all of the in-plant attendees for an interactive panel discussion moderated by IPI Editor Bob Neubauer. Participants Jason Almand (Frisco ISD), John Bartik (Western Southern Life), Kristen Hampton (State of Michigan), and Chuck Werninger (Houston ISD) shared their inkjet experiences and addressed questions about the transition to inkjet, monthly impressions, color accuracy, how much to charge, and more.
We're at a Tipping Point
Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies and conference chair, took the stage for the final educational session of the annual event. He guided attendees through a deep dive into the numbers exploring where the industry is moving in terms of offset and digital.
“Our numbers are always right it’s just the years that are off,” he joked.
Boer shared that prior to the pandemic, offset pages were in decline and that trend continues with a compound annual rate of decline at 2-3% per year.
Then you have inkjet pages, which are growing at an incredible rate, he said.
“We’re on safe grounds to say that inkjet is going to become more and more important,” he said.
After looking at segment specific numbers, Boer noted that inkjet has made a lasting impression on the industry.
“None of us really understood the life of these machines,” he said. “Historically, when you look at the digital printing market, we tended to believe that the life of a digital press might be eight years ... we're now going on 15 years. And the majority of the inkjet printers that were sold in 2007 and 2008 are still in operation. They're not dying.”
And that, he noted, is because the printheads on these devices have been upgraded many times over the years making them faster and with better quality.
The bottom line?
“Digital isn’t going to replace offset anytime soon, but we’re at the beginning of a tipping point,” he said.
Following his session, Boer provided some words of closure and three key takeaways from this year's event.
First, the technology is well proven and the issues that the technology had 15 years ago have been solved. Boer explained that inkjet is stable and offers greater value than commoditized print. Second, he advised everyone to go back and look at their total cost of ownership (TCO) assumptions because there are “hidden” costs and measuring a true TCO can be complicated. Finally, “automation is non-negotiable,” he said. Finishing work cost effectively is the biggest challenge.
For every challenge though, there is an opportunity.
“I can't think of any better time than now to be in this industry because there is so much energy, excitement, opportunity, and ways to make money,” he concluded.
Attendees left the Summit energized and with a new appreciation for the value of inkjet.
“This is my first Inkjet Summit,” said Jeff Todd, director of Oregon State University’s in-plant, “and the information has been really, really good. I particularly liked the session presenting statistics. It brought valuable information to help us plan how to move forward and justify our investments.”
He says his Corvallis, Oregon, in-plant hopes to make an inkjet equipment decision in the next month.
“We’re currently an all-toner shop and purchase a lot of offset from external vendors,” he said. “We want to bring that inside. We’re interested in adding variable-data capability.”
Summing up the event, first-time attendee James Llewellen, director of manufacturing and distribution, and cost accounting at Bob Jones University Press, said, “I’ve been pleased by the schedule of topics. It’s been interesting to see what other people are doing, having talks with them, and learning what they’re dealing with.”
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.