Production Inkjet Printing: Consideration, Deployment, End Results
It may not be new anymore, but production inkjet printing is still the talk of the industry. In the commercial printing world, interest - especially for available cut-sheet models - is on the rise, with several press installations scheduled for this year.
Still, many printers have questions. Why did these organizations decide to take a chance with this technology? What was their deployment experience? How did it impact their businesses? Did is open up new product applications?
To address these questions, SGIA commissioned NAPCO Research to develop a research study to explore the production inkjet market. In the summer of 2017, more than 700 commercial, direct mail, in-plant, publication (books, magazines, catalogs and newspapers) and transaction printers were contacted by NAPCO Research via online surveys and phone interviews to identify their first-hand experiences, challenges and rewards regarding production inkjet printing technologies; why they have adopted continuous-feed and cut-sheet production inkjet printing technology; and for those who have not, why not.
About half of the printers who responded to the survey say they own one or more production inkjet printing press. About 80% of these printers with inkjet printing equipment have owned their device(s) for a year or more, and more than 50% have owned them for more than three years - emphasizing how production inkjet printing has rapidly become an established industry technology.
No Buyer’s Remorse With Inkjet Presses
Overall, printers in all segments are very happy with their investment, with 86% being “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied” with their move into this market. In addition to this high level of overall satisfaction, direct mail, publication and in-plant printing respondents reported no dissatisfaction at all. Commercial and transactional were the only market segments reporting any level of dissatisfaction at 3% and 4%, respectively.
But with all of these happy printers, why doesn’t everyone own a production inkjet press? Quite simply, it has to do with need. “Lack of Need” accounted for 70% of the reasons survey respondents gave for not considering production inkjet devices - and 40% of the reasons for not owning.
Why Consider Inkjet in the First Place?
So, we know printers are satisfied with their purchases, but why did they consider it in the first place? Printers were looking for something their current technology wasn’t providing. Reasons varied widely between the segments, but included “faster run speeds,” “more personalization capabilities” and “smaller print runs.”
Printers found deploying production inkjet printing technologies expanded their capabilities, enabling them to generate new business opportunities, reduce their costs per job and deliver more consistent color job-to-job.
Inkjet utilization, across all segments, came from three primary sources: more than half from digital toner and offset output migration, about a quarter from new business, and the remaining from other digital devices and other sources.
Finding a more efficient way of producing short runs faster was a key inkjet adoption driver for survey respondent Rick Lindemann of Total Printing Systems. “With inkjet, it is night-and-day compared to offset,” he said.
Applications most commonly deployed on production inkjet printing presses closely followed the work each segment is best known for. While the addition of inkjet didn’t significantly change a printer’s product offerings, it did enhance existing capabilities with lower operating costs, higher press speeds, reduced press downtime, workflow efficiencies and other improvements.
What drove printers to consider and purchase production inkjet varied widely between segments, indicating there was no single or small group of reasons that drove printers to acquire inkjet presses.
Criteria cited for making the purchase decision and selecting the supplier partner were more tactical, but no less varied, and included customer support, cost to operate and the quality of the printed output.
The due diligence printers found most beneficial in adopting production inkjet, across all segments, was from attending relevant industry events and by determining the total cost of ownership (TCO). The time printers took from research to the final purchase ranged from less than six months to more than 12 months, and was relatively evenly distributed between less than six months, six to 12 months and more than 12 months. It is a big decision, and printers took the time they needed.
Deployment Went as Planned for Most
To determine their Return on Investment (ROI), both pre-purchase - to justify their investment - and post-purchase - to determine if it delivered their expectations - printers across all segments used a cost per page and/or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis. Respondents’ experiences in deploying inkjet, across all segments, were cited as “Expected,” “Easier or Much Easier Than Expected” 80% of the time.
Paper Issues, Volume and Quality Concerns
This isn’t to say that the deployment process was effortless. But the challenges of paper compatibility, generating sufficient volume to keep their inkjet press at capacity and addressing inkjet output differences versus offset or toner, were able to be addressed and were reflected in the high overall experience.
“It came down to ROI, period,” noted survey respondent Art Kunder, of Tidewater Direct. “They looked at the cost of the machine, the ink, production capability, and the factor that drove the decision was the ink kit which lets them use commodity stocks in inventory.
Additional challenges printers faced in deploying production inkjet - due to its different workflow requirements - included plant layout changes in prepress and postpress/finishing, material handling and inventory changes, and changes to workflow software.
“It was a little harder, but new press installations generally are harder,” Kunder added. “If anything, they were surprised it went according to plan as much as it did because it was so different than anything they did before.”
Don Kirkland, of ArborOakland Group, was also satisfied with his inkjet installation. “It gives a lot more flexibility and speed to respond to opportunities they would have turned down before,” he noted.
Inkjet deployment also involves the need for training of both operational personnel and sales staffs. The majority of printers, across all segments, planned and implemented training primarily by developing internal training programs and by relying on their OEM for on-site and in-field training assistance.
Clients’ Response to Production Inkjet
About a third of printers’ customers, across market segments, either embraced production inkjet output immediately, were indifferent or did not notice a change. Another third embraced it after seeing the cost savings they could achieve, and about 10% viewed inkjet as an opportunity to create new applications or products.
In total, it reflects a high level of acceptance of the technology among print buyers, marketers and brand managers. The remaining quarter of clients were skeptical or needed to lower their expectation from “offset” quality to “acceptable” quality in order to accept the move to inkjet.
“Inkjet technology is light years ahead of other technology,” survey respondent Bob Arkema, of Johnson & Quin, pointed out. “Clients will use it for versioning. [Inkjet] equipment is outpacing what marketing has in terms of data capability.”
How to Access the Complete Report
Want to know more about how production inkjet printing technologies impacted print businesses? You can read more about these findings, as well as view graphs, percent responses and additional analysis in the complete study.
Download a PDF of the free report “Production Inkjet Printing: Consideration, Deployment and End Results” by clicking here.