For High-speed Digital, Put Finishing First!

In my daily dealings with digital print vendors, I do manage to get some exposure to the print technology itself. So I’ve become sufficiently “dangerous” as I like to put it, on some of the subtleties of inkjet and toner technology.

The major portion of the sales process for these large continuous web systems involves the printer features and abilities. Nothing wrong with that. But often not so much planning is done for the finishing side. My inclination is to look at the finished product first, then design the workflow backwards to the printer. So I’m looking at it “holistically,” trying to find the most efficient print-and-finishing combination for the product range.

This approach is going to be more and more important for future continuous digital printer sales. Why? Because as digital continues to displace the offset process, the complexity of the finishing products will increase. The high-speed offset bindery produces publications and catalogs—with all sorts of add-ins, blow-in cards, scent strips, and other advertising gimmicks—that have proved popular with those who buy them as pages. Likewise, retail mail pieces are still big (Costco, Walmart, etc.) and filled with geo-centric coupons and special offers.

Digital print greatly expands the possible targeted combinations of the finished piece. I recently visited a customer who had run a high-volume campaign for a major retailer using digital print and finishing. The number of “versions” of the piece? SIXTEEN THOUSAND! This would simply not be possible with offset.

Digital capabilities allow almost endless data combinations. To maximize this potential, finished advertising pieces will need to be snazzier. Unique folds, perforated coupons, fugitive-glued pages, tipped-on cards, all enhance the pulling power of the piece.

So we will be going beyond the vanilla booklet and perfect-bind finishing processes of today, into new and uncharted territory. The more the printer professional “schools” himself, or herself, on finishing technology, methods and workflow, the more complete and efficient solution they can present to the prospect, and the more orders they will win. So find someone who knows finishing, and make them your asset!

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.
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