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BRIDGING DIGITAL AND OFFSET — SERVING TWO MASTERS

April 2006 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
THERE ARE those who believe that offset printing is well aware of its mortality, in light of advances and inroads made by its younger and better connected cousin, digital printing. But even if offset technology is on the clock (and not everyone can agree), the lead time to its possible demise is fairly substantial.

So before you convert that stacked web press into a glorified set of monkey bars, consider the major benefits that many printers have reaped by having hybrid technologies under one roof. In some cases, both offset and digital are being leveraged for the same job, as they each offer advantages that can round out a project nicely.

While the print buyer or the salesperson may feel he/she is best qualified to determine what type of job necessitates which output device, ultimately the job itself knows. Just ask it some simple questions, says Roy Grossman, president and CEO of Sandy Alexander in Clifton, NJ:

* What is the turn time? If a rush job of short length comes in, then it’s best to run it digital. If it’s needed a month from now, book the big horse.

* How long is the run? An extremely short run likely means digital; a marathon job is certainly best suited for offset.

* How vital is print quality? A high-end cosmetic company like Clinique might want that Raspberry Ice shade down cold, so to speak. Dead-on color matching, many will argue, is not a strong suit for digital printing output.

* Is there a high level of personalization involved? If the answer is yes, then the solution is variable data digital printing. Mass amounts of data manipulation plays right into the hands of the digital realm.

Not Always Competing

Not everyone views the two technologies as competing services as much as complementary spokes in the hub of the machine of complete multimedia solutions. Commercial Communications (CCI), of Hartland, WI, generates 66 percent of its revenues through the support of supply chain management needs for national manufacturers, including Rockwell, John Deere and Kohler. Print, notes Brent Hegwood, CCI president and COO, is only one aspect in an information distribution process.

“We bundle all services related to this into value packages that provide complete solutions, dramatically lowering our clients’ total cost of ownership,” Hegwood remarks. “We do this by wrapping print-on-demand, traditional offset and powerful, Web-based applications around their workflow processes.

“The method of output is driven by many factors, but the underlying goal is to help make intelligent decisions about their information distribution needs,” he continues. “This is accomplished through Web-based applications that feed back a detailed analysis of who is ordering, how much they are ordering and the preferred method of distribution—hard copy or electronic. This ensures that all stakeholders receive the most current information when, where and how they need it, and in the most cost-effective manner.”
 

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