Seventh Annual Inkjet Summit Conference Kicks Off On Monday
Does anything live up to the description of “transformative technology” better than production inkjet? Nothing else in the history of digital printing has moved as rapidly from the experimental to the essential. Its technical advances, moreover, show no signs of slowing down.
All that progress makes investing in production inkjet technology exciting to think about — and easy to miscalculate.
Success with the process absolutely depends on understanding that when a high-volume inkjet press comes into a printing business, it doesn’t adapt to its environment: the environment adapts to it. Everything surrounding the new device — digital infrastructure, MIS, workflow, logistics and finishing — has to rise to the same level of efficiency as the press if the benefits of production inkjet are to be fully realized.
This year’s Inkjet Summit, taking place April 8-10, 2019, at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., remains the only event focused exclusively on helping printers make the most of what production inkjet has to offer them. Now in its seventh year, the conference — which is hosted by NAPCO Media, the parent of sister brands Printing Impressions and In-plant Impressions — has evolved along with the technology it spotlights in terms of what its agenda covers and how it guides attendees toward making fully informed decisions about inkjet investments.
Truth from Those in the Trenches
Just ask repeat participants. “Every year, the Inkjet Summit gets better,” Gretchen Renaud, VP of operations at PrintMail Solutions, says. “The education, networking and vendor contacts are more focused and intentional than any other industry event I attend.”
Jim Jackson, solutions architect for direct mail at Quad, concurs. “I learn more in three days at the Inkjet Summit than I do at all other trade events,” He says this is because the program presents “the major aspects of running high-speed, digital inkjet all in one place.
“Interacting with other users is a very important part of this,” he adds, alluding to one of the Inkjet Summit’s most appreciated features: the opportunity it gives printer attendees to learn from and network with each other, as well as from expert conference speakers and sponsoring vendors.
The Inkjet Summit is unique in being an invitational, all-expenses-paid event for a select group of print company executives and managers who have been pre-qualified to attend. During two and a half days, these VIPs take part in an intensive learning experience aimed at exposing them to everything they need to know about running a profitable and workflow optimized operation with production inkjet.
The conference’s interwoven educational structure — general-session presentations and printer user panel discussions, peer-to-peer networking, and briefings and 1:1 meetings with leading vendors of inkjet solutions — is designed to be both immersive and actionable.
As Rob Nawfel, president of marketing services provider Prisma, reports, “the Inkjet Summit has given me significant information from suppliers and current users to help our organization get closer to making a decision on which device we will go with. It is very beneficial to be able to sit with current users and listen to all of the pros and cons of the different devices. I value the time spent with each supplier and all of the current user opinions.”
Endorsements like this tell conference chair Marco Boer (VP of I.T. Strategies) that the Inkjet Summit is achieving what it has been trying to do since it convened for the first time in 2013. The event’s threefold purpose, he says, is to:
- identify all the variables print providers need to consider when making an investment decision analysis;
- enable them to ask the difficult questions to both the OEM sponsors in attendance, as well as their peers; and
- allow them to build the confidence to take a step forward or, as critically, postpone until it is the right time.
“There is no other venue where you can test your questions, ask the same one from more than different providers, and walk away with enough data points to make a well-educated decision on how to proceed next,” observes Boer.
Nothing less than a well-educated decision will do, because investing in production inkjet is a complex commitment that involves more than just installing another piece of machinery (see sidebar). A 360º view of the opportunity is precisely what Inkjet Summit attendees expect the event to provide, according to conference advisory board member Elizabeth Gooding, president, Insight Forums, and co-founder of Inkjet Insight.
Evaluating Inkjet Requirements
“Smaller companies in established inkjet markets can learn how to develop requirements for evaluating equipment, define workflow changes and resulting software requirements and speak with peers about how investments have been justified,” Gooding says. “All attendees have the opportunity to streamline their evaluation process by meeting one-on-one with experts from all of the major inkjet OEMs under one roof.”
Attendees typically are looking for insight on both the market opportunity as well as interaction with peers, adds Barb Pellow, manager of Pellow and Partners, who also serves as a fellow advisory board member and the moderator of many panel discussions at the Inkjet Summit events.
“They will get market data from leading industry analysts and have the ability to hear from peers in keynote sessions as well as during case study breakouts,” she says. “The peer-to-peer interaction is one of the key things that attendees value the most. The hope is that they can avoid mistakes made by others on the journey to inkjet success.”
“The interaction among the other users is fantastic,” affirms Quad’s Jackson, who also appreciates the opportunity the conference gives him to “fact check” information with the sponsoring vendors.
A Win-Win for Sponsors and Attendees
In return for underwriting the event’s “hosted buyer” model, the OEMs get a schedule of group briefings and 1:1 meetings that bring them into contact with everyone who attends — a feat that would be impossible for them to achieve at standard trade shows. Attendees benefit as well because the arrangement gives them direct access to the industry’s top vendors of production inkjet systems and related equipment, software and supplies.
That puts attendees “in front of the right people” when they need advice or assistance, says Renaud, who remembers buttonholing an OEM representative whose technology wasn’t performing up to par. The representative turned out to be the vendor’s CEO, and the issue was soon resolved. Inkjet Summit encounters like these, she adds, can be valuable “contacts for the future” as well as on-the-spot problem-solvers.
The Inkjet Summit audience represents a cross-section of inkjet experience: companies that haven’t yet committed to the technology, alongside those that have already made substantial investments in it and are looking to expand further. Attendees come from the general commercial, publication (books, magazines and catalogs), direct mail, transactional print and in-plant segments. (Inkjet applications for packaging are part of a related, but separate, NAPCO Media event, the Digital Packaging Summit.)
The learning experience unfolds as attendees move steadily through a series of keynote addresses, user panel discussions, breakout meetings and case-study sessions. Social activities and a pre-conference golf tournament keep the mood cordial, encouraging peer-to-peer interactions and equally productive conversations with the sponsoring vendors.
Great Opportunity for Inkjet Newcomers
The format is especially valuable for newcomers to production inkjet, according to Pellow. “It gives first-time buyers the ability to understand all facets of what it requires to be successful — technology, processes and people,” she says. “They’ll hear from their peers about critical success factors as well as the mistakes they made.”
Like its signature technology, the Inkjet Summit strives to keep getting better at what it does. “We conduct extensive surveys after the event to ensure the program remains as relevant as possible, and for the last six years satisfaction levels have exceeded 95% or higher,” Boer says.
That’s what makes believers of attendees like Tom Markman, operations manager at Wolters Kluwer, who declares, “If you don’t attend the Inkjet Summit as part of your inkjet research process, then you’re not really that serious about inkjet technology.”