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Three of the companies visited were in the United States; two were running multiple HP Indigo digital color presses, and one was running four Xerox iGen3 color production presses and a mix of Kodak Digimasters and Xerox single-color laser printers. One plant has just announced the expansion of its high-volume work with the purchase of two Xeikon digital webs. All are growing and churning out large quantities of long run, full color, variable imaged direct mail and trans-promo type materials.

In addition to these plants, Kodak Versamark has several high-speed, color ink-jet customer sites running multiple machines in the U.S., as well as globally at data processor DSL and other companies producing long run, colorful, trans- promotional documents--one of digital printing's profitable sweet spots. Data center continuous single and spot color leader Océ is moving to process color at high speeds. Screen is also about to commercialize a 500 fpm ink-jet machine.

The most awesome quick-turn, high-volume digital color installation is the Osaka, Japan, facility of JAIS Ltd., a provider of data management services. With 24 Xerox iGen3-110s spread out over a half acre on two floors of an office building, the primary focus of the world's largest full-color digital printing center is to produce personalized, trans-promo Visa card statements for the Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

When this analyst had the opportunity to visit the JAIS center late in June, the iGens had been running for a year, successfully producing 9 million pages (4.5 million two-sided sheets) of trans-promo statements in a little more than three days of 24/7 operation each month. The end product being produced is a colorful, two-sided credit card statement, which incorporates full-color halftones in targeted promotional or direct mail types of advertising.

In addition to varying the credit card text that's required in a transactional statement, the advertising is targeted and varies in accordance with the recipient's profile from statement to statement.

An Army of iGens
The 24 iGens are run with three machine operators and five paper handlers per shift. The central control center, which is responsible for handling the files, submitting them to printers and load balancing, is staffed by a single operator for two shifts a day. Machine service is provided under contract by Fuji Xerox, which maintains seven technicians on the premises for each shift. After a year of successful operation, the facility is achieving 70 percent running productivity.

The creation of this mammoth digital printing center--the brain child of Toshihiro Wakimoto, general manager of the JAIS printing services division--was a cooperative effort between Fuji Xerox, Xerox U.S. and Kanematsu Electronics, the local distributor for Exstream Dialogue software.

The JAIS trans-promo statements are printed on 50-lb. paper from New Zealand. Multiple advertising halftones are in the order of 2 square inch rectangles or squares.

Expansion is also very much on the minds of JAIS management. First, there are plans to increase the depth of personalization used on the Visa card statements.

Additionally, JAIS is expanding its services outside the banking area. Work expansion will, over time, require additional digital presses and more floor space. JAIS has just leased the entire building where it now occupies three floors.

The JAIS installation of iGen3s, and other installations of digital color printing equipment from a range of manufacturers, are proving that digital production printing is capable of high volume, long run, continuous operation, using software that enables complex targeted personalization.

In addition to trans-promo and marketing services produced direct mail, there are an increasing number of high-volume print applications where digital printing can be used to create new 'not-printed-before' products or can innovatively displace offset. PI

About the Author
Bill Lamparter, president of the PrintCom Consulting Group, is a well-known industry analyst with a track record of correctly forecasting industry trends and assisting printers in capitalizing on new technology.

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