The Do's and Don'ts When Transitioning to Wide-Format Printing
Are you a commercial printer looking to expand your business into the dynamic wide-format market? Dan Foster, president of DataPrint Initiatives (DPI) based in Fort Wayne, Ind., offers some do’s and don’ts based on his experience of transitioning from a service business that put ink on paper to a service provider that puts images on anything.
Here are the "Do's:"
- Do — Establish estimating and pricing models. “We were able to add a plug-in for wide-format estimating to our existing MIS solution. It was helpful. When pricing pay special attention to how much time it will take to produce that product,” said Foster.
- Do — Prepare for prepress workflow changes. “We made the decision early on to have a dedicated workstation and printer operator. It was a big challenge and it took some time to get it all set up but it worked out ten-fold. Our operator knows the how the machine works with various substrates.” In the case of DPI, Foster moved a seasoned offset pressman (previously working on their DI press) over to prep, print, and finish digital wide-format jobs.
- Do — Identify post-press items needed. “We missed the mark on this part and had to scramble to keep up,” admitted Foster. “When you’re moving that kind of material around there’s a lot going on.” Make sure you have: a vertical board cutter, flexible cutters, work table(s), plotter/cutters, and laminating equipment. “We just installed a CWT table with an integrated roll laminator. In one week it has already made a huge difference.”
- Do — Think Big: Wide-format equipment is big and it takes up a substantial amount of space. And you physically need the space to move around the rolls and sheets. “Remember you’re going to be buying full rolls and full sheets and they need to be stored. A lot of physical place is required,” said Foster. “You might even need to get roll racks and stands to store media in an efficient manner.”
- Do — Partner: “Engage and leverage a silk screen partner if you have that option. “We would share work back and forth with the screen printer,” said Foster. The screen printer had no plans to invest in wide-format, so they sent work to DPI and unique jobs that weren’t good for digital wide-format could be sent from DPI to the screen printer.
- Do — Find a large exhibit company that will sell only to the trade. “As you do more in wide-format you will need to find an economical way to acquire display stands and hardware along with outdoor flags and other dye sub products.”
Here are the "Don'ts:"
- Don’t Forget Ancillary Equipment Needs: “We tried to anticipate it, but being a newbie we simply missed the mark on it,” said Foster. “You need to know what product types you are going to print and what you will need to finish that work. None of our current finishing equipment applied to this side of the business.” Remember to include squeegees and installation tools on your “need to have” list and know where to find them and where to buy them.
- Don’t Spend All Your Monetary Resources on Unnecessary Things: Make sure to reserve financial resources for media. “We did not know how much media we would have to acquire when we got started,” said Foster.
- Don’t Over Sell When Starting Out: Remember your key operator has to learn what the device can and can’t do. “Start with banners and foam core — the easy stuff,” said Foster, “but you also need to be looking for what else we can do with these devices.”
Want to learn how two printers — one commercial printer and one screen printer —made the successful leap into wide-format? Sign up to view the Printing Impressions webinar “Wide-Format Graphics Printing Capabilities Can Propel Your Business” sponsored by EFI. Adding wide-format graphics printing capabilities to your operation is a great way for your business to remain competitive and profitable. This webinar will provide in-depth information on preparing for your new capabilities, getting your internal customers to understand the value, and tips on ways to drive ongoing demand. And, even if you have already entered the wide-format graphics market, this webinar will provide valuable perspectives and best practices.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.