Growth of Inkjet Summit 2015 Rises With the Inkjet Tide
Production inkjet may have been an up-and-coming technology a few years ago, but today it’s a proven, profitable market that’s bringing big success to those printers wise enough to take advantage of it.
That was the message heard repeatedly at the recent Inkjet Summit 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where more than 100 printers met in April for an in-depth education about production inkjet printing. All attendees were hand-picked by the summit’s organizers, NAPCO Media (publisher of Printing Impressions and In-plant Graphics) and nGage Events. They spent three days networking and learning from one another, while enjoying a non-stop program of keynote addresses and educational sessions, inkjet user panel discussions, and case study and boardroom-style meetings.
Printer attendees were split into four market segments based on their business focus: books, direct mail/marketing, general commercial and transactional. Sponsors presented case studies for each segment, experts offered industry research on those markets, and production inkjet users lent their experience to some insightful, very interactive discussions. Attendees voted on the best case studies and the winners were announced at the closing awards banquet. Best sponsor case study awards went to Glatfelter (books), Screen Americas (direct mail), Muller Martini (general commercial) and Xerox (transaction). Canon Solutions America was voted “Company to Watch” and Dave Johannes, senior vice president of operations at IWCO Direct, was selected by the advisory board as the “Overall Contributing Attendee” for his strong participation.
Enthusiasm among attendees and sponsors alike was very high, with many compliments going to organizers for bringing the two groups together in such an intimate setting. The event also included scheduled one-on-one meetings between individual printers and appropriate vendors, an approach that drew praise from all sides.
In his opening keynote, Conference Chair Marco Boer, vice president of IT Strategies, noted how technology advances and substrate improvements in recent years have led to a steady increase in high-speed inkjet press users; 390 billion pages have already been printed on production inkjet presses. “There’s probably no better market to be in than this production inkjet market,” he told the packed auditorium of a combined 245 total attendees. In 2014 alone, Boer said, 164 billion pages were printed on inkjet presses.
Boer noted that R&D investments in non-consumer inkjet have been substantial—more than $10 billion since 2008—resulting in very reliable presses. Print head life now averages 18 months and substrate options have blossomed over the past few years. He did note that ink prices are unlikely to decrease dramatically due to high development costs and a lack of economies of scale, since production inkjet accounts for a mere 0.001 percent of the overall ink market. But, he expects inkjet treated paper to reach price parity with offset paper in four or five years.
Boer mentioned existing and new cut-sheet and continuous-feed inkjet press options. These range from the cut-sheet Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 (formerly Niagara), Fujifilm J Press 720S, Delphax Elan 500 (Memjet powered) and Xerox Rialto 900 (roll-to-sheet) presses; to the high-volume Canon Océ ImageStream 3500, Ricoh Pro VC60000, Xerox Impika Evolution, Screen Truepress Jet520HD, HP T400, Fujifilm J Press 540W, Super Web WEBJet 200D (Memjet powered) and Kodak Prosper 5000XL, among several other devices. He talked about the industry’s “wish list” desire to print on standard coated and uncoated offset stocks with inkjet presses, and said advancements are coming toward that end.
Though inkjet quality has drastically improved, Boer noted, it is not yet offset quality. He pointed out, however, that not every application needs offset quality. “There’s a market for any kind of quality,” he said.
A second priority for current high-speed production inkjet press users is the desire to preserve their initial investments through the ability to upgrade their existing installations at a reasonable cost. Another common desire is for more compact, lower-cost systems, which is being addressed, in part, by manufacturers developing continuous-feed systems that incorporate fewer print heads and with the growing emergence of cut-sheet inkjet printers.
Following his opening keynote, Boer moderated a supplier panel discussion featuring executives who represented the Inkjet Summit’s three Keynote Sponsor organizations. They included Dustin Graupman, vice president/general manager, Inkjet Business, Xerox Corp.; Mike Herold, director of CF Inkjet Technologies, Ricoh; and Francis McMahon, vice president of marketing, Production Print Solutions, Canon Solutions America.
Where previous Inkjet Summits focused more on the technology, this year sessions emphasized the need to generate enough work to keep presses busy. Speakers repeatedly encouraged the audience to meet with customers, analyze their current applications, show them what inkjet technology can do for them, and help them discover new printed products that will help them improve the value they can offer their clients.
Don’t think of inkjet as merely offset or digital toner replacement; you’ll have to create new types of work and find new places to sell your services. It’s not “build it and they will come,” noted Roger Gimbel, president of Gimbel Associates, in his general session; you need a strategic business marketing plan to ensure you will have enough volume for an inkjet press before you get one.
Also, it’s critical to have someone in your company who will champion the technology and drive the culture of change, because to succeed you will have to reinvent yourself. As InfoTrends’ Barb Pellow pointed out, failing to reinvent is the most common reason companies fail. Leaders, she said, are not afraid to upset the status quo.
One great example of this is the Belgian company Symeta, which completely shut down its offset printing operation in July 2014, losing millions in existing revenue, and went in an entirely new direction by adding HP T400 and T230 inkjet web presses. Two sales and marketing representatives from the company explained their digital vision during another Inkjet Summit keynote. Symeta now focuses on providing personalized communication featuring customized content based on customer data and behavior. Their inkjet products—which are more relevant and effective than static offset pieces—include personalized magazines and direct mailers with coupons tailored to consumer behaviors.
In her general session, Pellow said she talked with 20 production inkjet press users about their decision to get into inkjet early, and all said it was a good investment. Fast press speeds have brought tremendous value, press reliability and inkjet head life have far exceeded expectations, quality is meeting customer expectations and vendor support has been phenomenal, she added.
Pellow pointed out the need to ensure you have the workflow in place to support an inkjet press before adding a machine. This includes variable data software and composition systems.
Throughout the Inkjet Summit, users told their inkjet success stories, which has become a cornerstone of the event. A general session panel discussion featured John DiNozzi and Lori Messina, executive vice presidents at Access Direct; Joe Maloy, president and COO of Polaris Direct; and Brett Birky, senior vice president of operations at Urban Lending.
Market segment user panels also described real-life inkjet environments. Book specialists included John Filsinger, executive vice president and COO, Webcrafters Inc.; and Kevin McVea, senior vice president, SCI. Direct mailers included Dave Johannes, IWCO Direct; Polaris Direct’s Joe Maloy; and Gordon Runnoe, president, The Mail Haus. General commercial printing applications were discussed by Jim Jackson, director, Quad/Graphics; Cheryl Kahanec, executive vice president/digital, EarthColor; and Peter Posk, president of BCT. Transactional printing panelists comprised Henry Perez, COO of FSSI; Dave Smith, director of print operations, DST Output; and Joseph Thomas, CEO, Allison Payment Systems.
Some of the panelist comments:
- IWCO Direct’s Canon Océ ImageStream 3500 was used to combine 14 individual conventional campaigns for a leading insurance company into one monthly inkjet campaign that yielded great results.
- This spring, Polaris Direct successfuly implemented the first Xerox Impika Evolution inkjet press installed in the United States.
- Dayton Mailing Services reported huge sales growth after adding a Screen Truepress Jet 520S last year.
- Access Direct acquired four Canon Océ ColorStream 3900s in a 12-month period to replace several offset and toner digital devices, and now runs 20 million clicks a month through the systems.
- Urban Lending installed two Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 GP inkjet presses and opened a new in-plant, which now prints 1.8 million inkjet pages per day.
Volumes like these, however, could not have been achieved without preparing customers for the changes they will have to make to accommodate inkjet. Modifications to file preparation and design are required, noted Elizabeth Gooding, so customers must be educated long in advance. Dispel their preconceived notions about inkjet quality, the type of work inkjet is good for and environmental concerns, she said. Educate them about substrate availability. Show them samples so they’re prepared for the way their pieces will look on inkjet papers.
Attendees at the Inkjet Summit were extremely satisfied with the event, if overwhelmed by the amount of information they came away with. Those without inkjet presses left with a strong desire to start preparing their operations for this new technology. One printer who signed to buy a four-color offset press just weeks before remarked that, had he come to the Inkjet Summit first, he most likely wouldn’t have bought that press. PI