In-plants Find Transition to Inkjet ‘Very Easy’
Perhaps the biggest revelation to come from a panel discussion of in-plant managers during last week’s virtual Inkjet Summit was how straightforward the decision to add an inkjet press was for each of them.
“It really was very easy,” remarked Steve Priesman, manager of Omaha Public Schools Printing & Publications Services.
Four managers participated in the online discussion to talk about their inkjet experiences, and each referred to inkjet as an almost obvious solution. This is a marked difference from the attitude toward inkjet at the first Inkjet Summit, seven years ago, when the cutting-edge technology was viewed skeptically by many print industry veterans.
In Priesman’s case, it made perfect sense to replace aging offset presses with inkjet because of his concerns about finding skilled press operators down the road. His in-plant added a Xerox Brenva in 2018, and it worked out so well that he replaced the rest of his toner equipment in March with a Xerox Baltoro.
“My customers are delighted,” he said. They can now get color for almost the same price as black-and-white, he added. This is important in a school district, he said, because using color on educational materials helps improve students’ comprehension of the information.
Another panelist, John Bartik, director of operations at Western & Southern Financial Group’s Print, Mail and Fulfillment department, noted that ever-shortening run lengths made it obvious that the in-plant’s four-color offset press needed to be replaced, and inkjet seemed the perfect solution. When his in-plant finalized plans to move into a new facility in 2019, the timing was perfect.
“We took the opportunity to add a [Konica Minolta AccurioJet] KM-1 UV inkjet press prior to the move,” he said. The press was waiting when his staff relocated. “The offset press, we haven’t missed it much,” Bartik says. The shop also added a Xerox Brenva inkjet press.
For the State of Tennessee’s in-plant, adding a Ricoh InfoPrint 5000GP continuous-feed color inkjet press allowed the shop to replace the 15-year-old digital printers that were producing transactional printing for the state. Not only does the 5000GP handle this work (between five and seven million impressions a month) effortlessly, says Tammy Golden, assistant commissioner of Document Solutions, it is enabling the shop to stop printing inserts and instead print that information on the transactional pieces themselves.
The move to inkjet, Golden said, “is easier than you think. You need to plan well, of course, but don’t be afraid of it.”
The Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in-plant also uses inkjet to print transactional materials, such as life insurance policies and invoices. The shop replaced six toner devices with a Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 in 2018 and never looked back. The i300 can print so much material that it freed up the in-plant’s Canon imagePRESS C10000VP color toner press to handle additional marketing materials. The i300, said Michele Woodrum, Print and Mail Services team leader, has exceeded expectations.
One factor that inhibited the transition to production inkjet years ago was the quality of inkjet compared with toner or offset. For the in-plants on this panel, that is no longer a concern.
“The KM-1 quality is phenomenal,” praised Bartik. “The backgrounds were much smoother than the offset. There’s no roller streaks. Sheet one versus sheet 5,000, pretty much identical in color and registration, so we think we made an improvement to color just because of the consistency and the repeatability.”
Bartik says he was surprised by how much work the inkjet press could handle. His shop has moved additional toner work over to the KM-1 as a result.
“It’s a pleasant surprise,” he said.
At Omaha Public Schools, the in-plant printed millions of pages of curriculum materials in the spring after the district switched to at-home education. When the in-plant was closed for 10 days and some of that work was outsourced, Priesman had a chance to compare the cost of that work with what his in-plant produced. The in-plant’s costs, using inkjet technology, were about three times lower than the production done commercially on toner devices, he discovered.
“That proved why we exist,” he said.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.