Production Inkjet: State of the (Inkjet) Industry
As the 2015 Inkjet Summit approaches April 27-29 in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, we asked these production inkjet experts—Inkjet Summit Advisory Board members who will also be sharing their expertise and knowledge as speakers and facilitators throughout the event—to briefly address select aspects of the production inkjet landscape. One thing is clear: the growing implementation of production inkjet printing is a disruptive technology that is rewriting many former industry paradigms.
Production Color Inkjet: Is It for Real?
By Barbara A. Pellow
The growth in the production color inkjet market has surpassed everyone’s expectations. The technology first became available around 2000, but didn’t really take off until 2008 when high-speed, continuous-feed color printers began having success in applications like transaction, direct mail and books. Today, the technology continues to evolve and is opening up opportunities in other high-volume applications.
According to InfoTrends’ “U.S. Production Printing and Copying Market Forecast,” digital production color volumes totaled about 160 billion impressions in 2013 and will reach 320 billion by 2018. By 2018, production color inkjet volume will exceed that of toner-based devices. Inkjet accounted for 37 percent of the total production digital color volume in 2013, which is impressive when you consider that production color inkjet was almost non-existent prior to 2008. By 2018, InfoTrends believes that inkjet will account for 61 percent of production digital color volume—and this will occur while toner is also growing at a healthy rate.
Inkjet printing is benefitting from the increased availability of high-resolution, high-speed heads, coupled with ink chemistry and pre-coating techniques that help users address a growing range of substrates. In addition, the technology is becoming more affordable with a broader range of products available, including some at price points under $1 million. Taken together, these developments make it possible for higher-quality graphics to be produced on substrates ranging from plain papers to machine-coated offset papers.
This will support continued market growth in existing applications, as well as new opportunities in higher quality commercial print, magazines, books and catalogs. Inkjet is being used for new, more personalized applications, but also has the ability to rival offset printing for higher and higher print volumes.
Of equal importance is the fact that service providers are stepping up to the challenge. Over the past three weeks, I have interviewed more than 15 users of production inkjet technology across all facets of the market—publications, transaction and direct mail printing. The key message is that production inkjet users are pleased with the technology’s impact on their overall businesses.
At this year’s Inkjet Summit, I look forward to sharing their stories and the path they have taken to achieve profitability. This is truly an exciting time in the market as service providers leverage existing technologies to drive growth.
Right Ink and Paper Are Key Components
By Mary K. Schilling
Production inkjet manufacturers have done an amazing job focusing their attention on print quality through modified dither techniques, enhanced ink colorants, reduction of drop sizes and increased resolutions. Manufacturers have modified their ink hues and, in turn, some devices have increased their reproducible color gamut by 22 percent. As a result of these changes and the “right paper,” production inkjet print quality is moving closer to offset.
We continually hear that the ink and paper combination is key to everything production inkjet. Constant ink and paper chemistry modifications will continue to be in a state of change. Finding the perfect balance of water, colorant and other elements is key to jetting performance, print quality, color fidelity and, of course, drying. This continual race to find the perfect ink balance is keeping paper mills in constant development.
When ink chemistry changes, especially when modifying the ink’s carrier (water), adverse effects to the paper can happen. Printer manufacturers are trying diligently to find a chemistry balance that lessens the water content, so “any paper” can properly accept, dry and produce the necessary print quality requirements.
Paper mills have done a great job trying to keep up with these changes, but with every dye and pigment ink being tweaked differently, production inkjet will continue to challenge paper mills to create/modify grades that are truly multi-fluid and cross-device compatible until this holy grail of ink is found.
Marketing Plan: Overlooked Investment
By Roger P. Gimbel, EDP
The model “If I buy it, they will come,” has worked sufficiently well for the first generation of inkjet owners with appropriate volumes of offset or toner pages to migrate to the inkjet devices they installed in the last 10 years.
Now, inkjet is going mainstream. A more sophisticated business model is needed to maximize value and profits from inkjet production investments. The best way to leverage new inkjet technologies is to create a business marketing plan that addresses the internal and external sales and marketing opportunities for inkjet capabilities which are beyond the operational considerations for implementation and installation.
A business marketing plan details the sales and marketing strategies and communications plan for inkjet. A well-executed plan will ensure internal adoption and enable sales and client service teams to talk effectively to customers about new applications and capabilities.
Many commercial printers with large offset presses producing direct mail or book applications are looking for ways to migrate their volume to inkjet technology, as inkjet production quality is improving to allow true offset migration. As commercial printers evaluate the difference in running costs for inkjet compared to offset, their objective is to create efficiencies by replacing several offset or cut-sheet toner devices with one or two inkjet lines.
Despite the large capital investment required for production inkjet, most companies still look at the investment from a financial and implementation perspective without consideration of the impact on sales, marketing, client service and internal adoption.
A business marketing plan will provide the strategy to connect the business and sales goals with the new technology capabilities. Beyond evaluating the cost of running inkjet technologies, many companies will benefit from the strategic exercise of creating and implementing a business marketing plan. This provides clarity for how they will leverage new technology, and create sales and marketing opportunities that generate results for their organizations. Inkjet will impact every department, not just production.
The Value to Transaction Print Customers
By Elizabeth Gooding
Today, most transaction print operations producing upwards of 4 million monthly images have at least considered the operational efficiencies available with full-color inkjet. It’s a pretty straightforward pitch: white paper in, full color out—better, faster, cheaper. What the industry hasn’t fully grasped yet is how to communicate the benefits to the customer. This has resulted in a focus on price and, as Marco Boer says, “the race to the bottom.”
Inkjet can address customer challenges like brand consistency, cross-channel message strategy and marketing budget constraints while offering benefits that your customers (and you) probably haven’t even thought about.
With full-color inkjet, printed documents can be as colorful and as personalized as online channels. Direct marketing and statement/bill messaging can be completely consistent. The ability to add relevant marketing content to transaction documents allows your customers’ marketing budgets to be used more efficiently and effectively. For example, they can:
- Reinforce campaigns delivered via other channels;
- Replace direct mailings to customers with campaign content on the transaction document; and
- Generate improved response rates and develop stronger customer relationships by delivering relevant, “point-of-need” content triggered by customer transaction data.
Beyond the value of color, relevance and personalization on existing documents, which research* shows can boost response rates from 45 percent up to 500 percent over static messaging, inkjet offers opportunities for completely new communications that can help drive down churn in high-turnover verticals like telecom, credit cards and banking, and enable upsell and cross-sell in many other markets.
Transaction printers investing in inkjet should be prepared to help their customers envision the potential of this platform and design effectively for it. That will benefit printers, customers and ultimately the recipients of these enhanced communications. I will be talking about the value of customer education at the 2015 Inkjet Summit, as well as new opportunities for transaction printers with less than the typical volume threshold needed to profit with inkjet.
*Research sources: PODi and Rochester Institute of Technology PI