The Digital Bindery
Finally, whether in-line or off-line is better for a particular printer and print job may well depend on factors that have little to do with the inherent, or perhaps we should say theoretical, advantages of finishing in-line or off-line.
Thus, what digital printer is going to be used? Black-and-white or color? Continuous-web or sheetfed? Is the finished document a composite of materials that need to be printed on separate presses? Does the printer have the appropriate finishing equipment? These are the most important factors in deciding how to finish the job.
Completing the Digital Printing Service Bundle
By Dr. Mark W. Fleming, president of Strategies on Demand L.L.C.
The investment in a digital printing press is one of the more significant business decisions that most commercial printers will make. With prices ranging from $100,000 for entry-level systems to $750,000 for top-of-the-line models, and service contracts costing thousands of dollars per month, digital presses can have a strong imprint—both on the budget and on management attention.
In the digital printing arena, the bright lights are focused on the presses. Unfortunately, the media-handling and finishing technologies for digital printing tend to get relegated to the shadows. Finishing strategies become afterthoughts for many commercial printers. However, from a marketing and operational perspective, finishing is literally the "bind that ties" the digital print service bundle together.
A successful digital printing enterprise involves much more than printing. In our audits of digital printing businesses, we find that the range in the direct costs of digital printing among different clients is much smaller than the range in their total manufacturing costs or in their pricing. In other words, the differentiation in digital printing businesses is driven more strongly by factors other than the printing operation itself!
One key to profitability lies in the ancillary services that are bundled with digital printing to solve the customer's entire production and distribution problem in a seamless manner. Finishing, in particular, is a capability that should not be outsourced. The compelling driver for on-site finishing is time. Our market surveys have shown that as much as 60 percent of the price premium that print customers pay for on-demand production and distribution is directly attributable to cycle-time reduction. Yet, we frequently talk with print providers who have invested in one or more digital color presses, but little in the way of finishing capabilities. Not surprisingly, these printers are more often the ones who struggle with commodity pricing for their limited service.