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ROI on CTP--To Buy or Not to Buy?

August 1998
That is the (killer) question...


"It's not really a matter of ROI, but RIB—remain in business," contends Maureen Richards, technical director of prepress at United Lithograph, in Somerville, MA. (She attributes the RIB acronym to an article she saw.) "There are a lot of efficiencies that can easily justify the ROI on CTP, but the ability to do a quick fix when customers want to make last-minute changes is what makes CTP so valuable. You're able to make those changes and still be on press within moments of deadline. CTP gives you optimum control of the prepress process."

Customers like to have optimum control (on their end) as well, which is one of the reasons they're so receptive to the technology. "If the process is easy and predictable," says Richards, "customers will come back."

While it's difficult to measure the value of intangible benefits such as ease and predictability, Richards believes they're important factors that must be considered when figuring the ROI for computer-to-plate.

"There are so many intangible benefits—reduced makeready time; digital proofing; no more registration chasing; no more color guessing; the ability to preview before burning metal; the ability to do quality assurance inside the RIPing process; the ability to better predict and control sheet behavior; its ability to send info remotely; and the system's ability to run around the clock, which increases capacity," explains Richards. "All of these add up to significant savings in time, labor and paper."

For example, Richards says United Lithograph cut its makeready time in half, which obviously saves time, but also saves up to 50 percent in paper costs on each job.

Despite the long list of intangible benefits of a direct-to-plate workflow, a printer can never lose sight of the financial tangible: the hefty investment being made. A printer must determine if the platesetter is worth the cost.

Most manufacturers of CTP systems will assist printers with their decisions by providing workflow studies and system comparisons between digital and conventional plates. These studies deliver an invaluable service a printer should consider.

However a printer decides to determine his ROI—using internal expertise, specially designed software programs or with the help of CTP vendors—the bottom-line question will always be: "If a CTP system costs X, and I have to pay X per month, how will I realize my ROI?"

Most printers approach this question very carefully. While the question may seem simple, the workflow studies and formulas for figuring out ROI can frighten any printer contemplating the technology.

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