Despite numerous advances in inkjet print quality, and in the range of substrates that can be successfully printed on, inkjet is not going to replace either web or sheetfed offset anytime soon. The real test of inkjet is, how well does it replace offset in the right applications?
The Finish Line
I've written more than once on the rapid evolution of finishing, which is being driven by the equally rapid adoption of inkjet web printing. Inline web finishing was always something of a "black art" in the offset web world. Since high-speed offset web presses don't print at the push of a button, performing complex finishing operations inline with the web press took a lot of engineering expertise.
This is a story that's no doubt been repeated more than once. You're a company with a long and glorious tradition of manufacturing first-class finishing equipment. You've had a terrific run through the 70's, 80's, 90's and into the 21st century. But in the last four years, things have shifted.
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Japs-Olson of Minneapolis—a printer that can trace its roots all the way back to 1907! Japs-Olson embodies the lean manufacturing approach to today's direct mail. What I saw was a "holistic" integrated process. Japs-Olson is capable of sending more than four million pieces a day into the USPS mail stream. To do this efficiently, you need critical thinking to be applied at every stage of the process.
Contrary to some opinionators, direct mail is going strong. Internet ads can't compete with a well-designed, creative, physical mail piece. You might spend a microsecond on a Web ad, but a mail piece has "got you" for 30 seconds at a minimum. So today's mailers are high-tech and well-equipped to keep this medium going strong for many years to come.
Back in the day, the bindery (and finishing in general) was a fairly distinct environment, with some established processes and workflows that had not changed in many decades, (or longer!). This continued to be the case up until several years ago, when high-speed continuous inkjet presses began to take off.