Inkjet Users Make Strong Business Case for Embracing the Technology
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate that investing in an inkjet press makes sense is to install it, turn it on and just let it run. For three panelists at the Inkjet Summit, it wasn’t quite that simple, but all agreed that they didn’t fully appreciate what inkjet was capable of until after they’d gained some practical experience with it.
“The Business Justification Process for Inkjet” was the title of their April 10 discussion, and Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions, was their moderator. He began by asking them to talk about what had moved them in the direction of inkjet in the first place.
Thomas Markman is operations manager of the in-plant printing division of Wolters Kluwer, a provider of professional services to the health, tax and accounting, governance, risk and compliance, and legal and regulatory fields. "Our assets," he said, "are the words our attorneys write." About 10% of this content is still delivered to Wolters Kluwer clients in printed form.
The in-plant went digital after scrapping its entire complement of web and sheetfed offset presses. Markman said that “a lot of non-believers” initially questioned the transition until they saw how the performance of the inkjet press, a continuous-feed Xerox Trivor supported by a Hunkeler finishing line, compared with what they were used to from the litho equipment.
For its initial run, the in-plant tested the inkjet press on a job that normally needed five days to complete in the offset department. Produced on the Trivor and its finishing line, the job took just “14 minutes from PDF to the box,” Markman said.
Trisha Thomas, director of engineering strategy development at Valassis, described the implementation of inkjet for check printing by Harland Clarke, parent company of Valassis. Harland Clarke, she said, viewed inkjet as a way to trim costs in a declining market for printed checks, which it had been producing on more than 70 toner devices.
Harland Clarke's inkjet fleet now consists of Océ JetStream and ColorStream continuous-feed color presses as well as five Canon VarioPrint i300 presses for sheetfed work. Valassis also is looking at inkjet for its portfolio of print advertising products, Thomas said.
One objective of installing an HP T230 inkjet web press and a Hunkeler cut-and-stack finishing line UniGraphic Inc., a Woburn, Mass. commercial printer acquired by Quad/Graphics in 2014, was to end reliance on overprinting offset shells, according to Jim Jackson, a solutions architect for Quad. He said the learning curve included discovering that total cost of ownership (TCO) “was lower than we anticipated” and that the inkjet equipment thrived on heavy-duty use.
“These machines run – they don’t go down,” Jackson observed, adding that the company needed to bring in additional finishing systems to handle the nonstop output.
Thomas said that Harland Clarke calculated inkjet TCO by crunching OEM-supplied numbers with its own estimates of ink coverage and the labor savings to be gained through in-line finishing. The conclusion was that inkjet “totally made sense” for what the company wanted to accomplish. Although the cost of acquiring an inkjet press can be high, Thomas commented, the TCO advantages are what validate the investment.
She noted, however, that an inkjet press can be “very finicky” about the types of paper it runs and that stocks must be selected with care. Something else to be aware of, according to Markman, are the costs associated with the downtime that occurs during roll changes on continuous-feed equipment. He said that the Wolters Kluwer in-plant does everything it can to minimize roll-change stoppages and other preventable interruptions to production.
Jackson declared that what the OEM vendors say is true: inkjet presses don’t stop. What UniGraphic found out, however, was that its existing digital workflow wasn’t up to the task of managing that level of productivity. It took a year, he said, to get the workflow into synch with the high capacity of its inkjet equipment.
Asked by Michelson for their advice to prospective inkjet adopters, all three panelists recommended attending the Inkjet Summit – a by-invitation, expenses-paid, educational event that connects print company decision makers with the industry's leading providers of inkjet printing systems and related equipment and supplies.
“Don't be afraid to talk to other users,” Jackson counseled. Thomas concurred, noting that inkjet technology is moving fast and that much about it has changed.
“Ask those questions,” she urged the audience.