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Digital Install--After the Sale

April 1999
In the rapidly evolving digital prepress and printing markets, technology suppliers are now technology consultants, systems integrators and digital workflow evaluators. Do digital press manufacturers care what happens after the digital press is installed? Do high-tech prepress providers make the commitment to introduce a traditional printer to a digital workflow? Put it this way: They better.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


The migration from conventional prepress and printing technologies to new, digital prepress and on-demand printing processes calls for a concentrated alliance between technology providers and commercial printers. After all, commercial printers, by and large, don't conceptualize the next digital prepress or printing revolution—yet, they are expected to eventually embrace, implement, understand, market and sell an array of digital technologies.

So, who's responsible for what? Quite candidly, it seems logical that it is the technology vendor's responsibility to clearly map out the ROI models, financing options, implementation steps, training requirements and other procedures needed to accomplish a smooth transition from a traditional prepress or printing operation to a digital working environment.

As for the commercial printer, the chief responsibilities are to make the financial and staffing commitments to get the digital technology implemented, running and making a return on investment in as expedient a fashion as possible.

This ain't your grandfather's customer service—the topic at hand is true integration, well-planned training and marketing support. We are not talking a panicked customer calling to request overnight shipment of a thermal imaging head, or a digital press operator phoning in a late night plea for a critical equipment part.

Creo's Michael Rolant, vice president of customer support, has a theory. "Customer support in today's digital prepress and printing environments is all about facilitating the production goals of our customers," he contends. "We develop partnerships with our customers in order to meet their production, support and training requirements; we are all part of the same team."

What if marketing is the greatest corporate challenge? What if implementing the digital technology and training staff on its functionality are less than half the battle—as is often the case in the on-demand digital printing environment, where selling the technology, not installing it, poses the highest level of difficulty.

Case in point: The rise of on-demand digital color printing tools has made for an interesting, competitive class of color copiers and digital duplicators, wide-format printers and digital presses—some armed with variable-data software.

Marc Orchant, market development manager for Agfa's U.S. Digital Printing Systems group, believes that digital color printing allows for the generation of strong profit margins, far in excess of those considered acceptable in the commodity printing business.
 

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