Refinement and Directions Empower 2021 Inkjet Summit
All attendees of the annual Inkjet Summit come to the event with a strategy – a direction – in mind, and a desire to turn concept or idea into a profitable reality. “We have no inkjet whatsoever, so it’s all new to me,” says Tyson Harris of Print Xcel, a division of Ennis. His company produces base forms (like paychecks) for the trade, and he is looking for value-add to that. “It could be barcodes, it could be something else,” but Harris is banking on inkjet to power this new initiative forward.
Day three of the event witnessed deeper discussions about technology and its implications, and a focus on generating, building, and maintaining business.
I’m With the Brand
Printing is business. And in many cases, that business is driven by brands. Even for in-plant operations, the presence of brand identities and spot-in brand colors have become increasingly important in the age of digital printing. In her presentation, “Selling to the Brand – Think Supply Chain Optimization,” which kicked off day three of the 2021 Inkjet Summit, Pat McGrew, managing director of McGrewGroup, challenged printers to gain a deeper understanding of their customers. In doing so, she says, printers can assist in providing brands the visibility they seek and in “being there” at numerous steps along the branding and production pathway.
McGrew noted that brands are striving to improve diversity, reach, time to market, inventory, supply chain, quality, and security – all areas where a motivated, brand-focused print producer can give assistance, thus increasing their inherent value. Engaging brands, she says, requires a careful, research-focused effort to gain their attention, and an ability to effectively express what a company can bring to the table. Further, McGrew challenged print providers to investigate their own brands, noting that brand representatives seek companies with their own strong brand identities.
Words of Experience
The Summit’s general sessions continued with “Current Inkjet Users Share Their Triumphs and Tribulations,” a thoughtful panel discussion moderated by Mark Michelson, Editor-in-Chief, Printing Impressions. The panel, which featured Sheree Byrd, VP of technology, L&D Mail Masters; John Gaspari, senior VP of operations, Specialty Print Communications (SPC); Kevin Heslin, president, Seaway Printing; and Jeffrey Matos, senior director, operations engineering, Broadridge Financial Solutions. Each of these panelists shared direct experiences – the victories and challenges – of their companies’ inkjet journeys.
Through what was a fast-moving discussion, among disparate companies centered around a common technology, a few key points emerged. The panelists urged attendees to do their equipment research up front, running test prints in different modes on a variety of substrates, to pay careful attention to process control, to consider the implications of front-end software and finishing, and to understand how increased capacity can affect numerous production calculations. All four panelists expressed that they are facing challenges in both labor force and paper supply. One key lesson, learned by Heslin, came from over-estimating the learning curve needed to get his HP PageWide system up and running. “If I had known we would grow so fast,” he said, “I would have invested in a finishing solution. It’s great problem to have.”
Today and Moving Forward
Asked to moderate – and curate the questions for – a session featuring Conference Chair Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies, and Barb Pellow, manager of Pellow and Partners, Cheryl Kahanec, CEO of the Quantum Group, rose to the occasion. Her questions, which focused on where the commercial printing sector is today and the factors that are influencing its future, brought thoughtful, illuminating responses.
Among the highlights of the discussion was a discussion of what Boer sees as a potential increase in M&A activity, partially driven by the post-COVID, post-PPP business environment. Boer also noted that consolidation will lead to those businesses that come out on top getting bigger, gaining a larger share of the work. Boer added that a rise in available capacity – driven by the speed of inkjet systems – could lead to a lowering of margins. Pellow indicated that industry convergence is driving commercial printers to expand into additional markets beyond their traditional products and services. This concept was echoed by Kahanec, whose company has seen massive growth in the direct mail side of its business.
Bringing the Value
For attendees of the Inkjet Summit, the general sessions can be seen as the top layer of the event, the broad concepts from which the event's vendor-led case studies and robust one-on-one meetings can bloom. These focused engagements truly bring the value at the Inkjet Summit, providing a personalized experience to help companies adopt or expand in production inkjet printing, and increase their possibilities for profitability.
“The one-on-one sessions were excellent,” said Melissa Wallis of Geisinger, whose in-plant operation supports a hospital system. “I had unlimited opportunities to ask questions.” She reports being in the beginning stages of a significant system upgrade and came to the event to learn. “I’m gathering information, talking to others, and finding out what I don’t know,” Wallis said. She indicated it will give her a great idea of what to do when the budget for her future purchase is approved.
The annual Inkjet Summit, now in its ninth year, is an invitation-only, hosted-buyer event designed to bring carefully-vetted printing professionals and inkjet equipment, consumables, and software vendors for meaningful connections, purpose-driven discussions, and top-notch networking. To be considered for an invitation to attend the 2022 Inkjet Summit as a hosted attendee, visit ijsummit.com/attend.