High-Speed Inkjet Printing Adopters Reveal What the Technology Has Done to – and for –Their Businesses
Production inkjet printing is often billed as a transformative technology, but the exact definition of that term is always in the eye of the end-user. In a session held during the PRINTING United Digital Experience, three printers who have successfully adopted inkjet spoke in concrete terms about what the move has meant for their businesses.
The speakers were Adi Chinai, president and CEO, King Printing in Lowell, Mass.; Adam LeFebvre, president, Specialty Print Communications (SPC) in Niles, Ill.; and Gretchen Renaud, VP of operations, PrintMail Solutions in Newtown, Pa. Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions, moderated the panel discussion.
Chinai described King Printing as the first book manufacturer to install a four-color digital inkjet press, a milestone it set in 2008. The company now relies on high-speed, continuous-feed inkjet equipment from a variety of OEMs, including HP, Screen, and Kodak. SPC, said LeFebvre, broke into inkjet three years ago with a Canon ColorStream 3000 and a ProStream 1000 continuous-feed press, as well as a Canon VarioPrint i300 sheetfed model. Renaud noted PrintMail Solutions installed a Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 inkjet press in 2017 and invested in another one this year. One IP 5000 is equipped with Hunkeler finishing equipment, and the other Tecnau.
The speakers agreed that instead of transforming their businesses in the literal sense, production inkjet has helped them to do more of what they already did well.
At King Printing, said Chinai, this has meant helping publishers manage their inventories with on-demand digital book manufacturing, freeing them from having to “put skids of money into warehouses” because of overprinting. Converting analog pages into digital pages on inkjet presses has also enabled King Printing to expand its business in trade books and the educational market.
Farewell to ‘Staggering’ Shells
Thanks to inkjet, PrintMail Solutions is no longer tied to the “somewhat staggering” number of preprinted offset shells that it once needed in order to produce transactional print and mail for its financial industry customers, according to Renaud. Now, able to operate as a white paper factory, the company can offer its customers options for color and variable content that they might not have been aware of formerly.
LeFebvre emphasized that it was never SPC’s intention to use production inkjet technology as a way to enter market spaces where it lacked expertise. “It’s been our focus to stay doing what we do,” he said, adding that “every single ounce” of work produced on SPC’s inkjet presses consists of new volume — not jobs diverted from the other printing processes the company offers.
The speakers’ advice to printing businesses weighing their own opportunities in inkjet adoption was straightforward and practical.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” cautioned Chinai. “It’s very capital-intensive, and it’s very expensive as an ongoing operation.” He explained that the press has to be thought of as just one part of an “ecosystem” of auxiliary systems and equipment that must be there to support the printing. “Be very careful that you don’t bite off more than you can chew,” Chinai advised.
Explore Options with OEMs
“Be open and willing to work with the OEMs for creative solutions that you might not have thought possible,” Renaud urged prospective adopters, citing the valuable assistance that PrintMail Solutions received from Ricoh. “Explore the options that you have with your vendor partners, and don’t discount it just because of the capital investment.”
LeFebvre counseled that although inkjet is no longer the bleeding-edge technology it once was, “remember that when any of the manufacturers’ sales reps are telling you what it’s going to do, it might be just that — what it is going to do, not what it is doing.” Something else to understand is that the workflow surrounding inkjet production is different from what conventional printing businesses are used to, especially sheetfed shops moving into webfed inkjet output.
He also urged adopters to “be ready to work with your customers to design and invent opportunities to use inkjet,” given that the market is still new and that a base of business needs to be built up for it.
To view this PRINTING United Digital Experience printer panel discussion, and more than 100 other educational sessions, for free on-demand, visit digital.printingunited.com