Out With Offset, In With Indigo
Edward Sala says on the day University Communications at Washington State University installed its new HP Indigo 10000, it was as if “one switch went on and one switch went off.”
Prior to the Indigo, the 34-employee in-plant ran three Heidelberg offset presses and an HP Indigo 3500. But the same day the 10000 was fired up for the first time, the offset presses were taken offline for good.
“We didn’t have the luxury of overlapping our B2 sheet offset with our B2 sheet 10000,” says Sala, assistant executive director of University Communications. “The day the 10000 went online was the day the Speedmaster went offline.”
While making such an abrupt change is already a major challenge, University Communications also had to juggle an entire pressroom remodel. Steve Rigby, director of Printing Services, says HP had informed the in-plant it would be the first university to house a 10000. To make the transition, the in-plant required additional sheetrock, new paint on the walls and floors, some rewiring and plumbing work, and dust removal from its ceilings and light fixtures.
With all of these challenges and moving parts, University Communications met weekly with the school’s IT group and other players in the pressroom remodeling project to ensure everyone was up to speed.
“There was a time when we brought HP into that conversation as well,” Rigby explains. “They could meet with us on the phone so they could hear our plans and what our deadlines and timelines were so they could be totally in step with our timelines. They were fantastic partners in that.”
Though there were a variety of factors that led the in-plant to make the leap from offset to the Indigo 10000, Rigby says the two major issues at play were the need for faster turnaround times and increased variable data capabilities.
Sala explains that when recruiting potential students, sending out personalized printed pieces is an effective way to generate interest in the university. One of the more complex jobs the in-plant produces is called a search piece, and has about eight separate areas of variable data. The pieces are highly personalized recruiting materials that are sent out to prospective students. In addition to the many variable data elements, they are further broken up by geographic destination.
“It was totally customized and personalized in a lot of different ways,” Rigby says. “It had about seven or eight different touch points that were personalized based on their name, who their high school counselor would be, their program, their subprogram and then some other interesting tidbits based on their focus at the university.”
This year’s mailings occurred before the 10000 was fully online in December, so the in-plant used its HP Indigo 3500, but Rigby says the Admissions Department has expressed interest in doing this type of job again, and he feels the 10000 will make a substantial difference. In addition to being a faster press, the 10000 will allow the job to be run two-up. Sala explains that with so much variable data, the 3500 can take hours to RIP files, whereas with the 10000, that will be reduced to minutes.
“One of the real bottlenecks in running the search pieces on the Indigo 3500 was because there was so much data...it took a long time just to RIP the file to get ready to print,” Sala explains. “With the 10000, the time to RIP the file is almost negligible. The processor is so much more powerful and so much faster that there’s really no waiting.”
While the new press will improve University Communications’ ability to provide faster turnaround on short-run jobs and more easily handle variable data, Sala says he hopes to see students experience the technology as well. He says WSU’s Digital Technology and Culture Program may be able to visit the in-plant for a class on digital variable design.
“We don’t want to just keep this technology secreted away in this building,” Sala says. “We want to share it with the entire university.”
Related story: Thinking Bigger at WSU