When a technology is gaining traction in the industry as fast as production inkjet printing, it can be tough to imagine its future. Technical innovations and market applications are coming at a fast pace, leaving printers uncertain about their next moves, but also realizing that not investing can be a perilous move in itself.
The 140 printers who attended the sixth annual Inkjet Summit, held April 9-11, left Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with the bearings and insights they needed to gain a competitive advantage when they invest in production inkjet printing equipment. Most of the owners and senior managers at the invitation-only event have yet to take the plunge, but it’s safe to say that they returned to their businesses with fewer reasons for delaying the decision.
Built Around a Hosted Buyer Model
Organized by NAPCO Media (which publishes Printing Impressions and its sister title, In-plant Graphics), and nGage Events, the Inkjet Summit follows a very different business model from traditional industry trade shows and conferences. With its hosted buyer concept, top-level executives were flown to the five-star Ponte Vedra Inn & Club resort outside of Jacksonville, Fla., by Printing Impressions to learn about the business opportunities that high-speed inkjet can offer them and the steps needed for a successful implementation.
Although entirely sponsored by vendors, the conference, which was attended by 305 people in total, is not a series of sales pitches from a podium; instead it provides a chance to hear from industry analysts and experts about the size and scope of the market, where the opportunities lie, what to watch out for, as well as steps to take when integrating this rapidly growing technology into an existing operation.
Sessions included industry expert and keynote presentations, boardroom-style case study discussions and, most importantly, user panels featuring print providers who shared their candid assessments about their investments in high-speed inkjet printing, finishing and workflow software solutions.
The 48 participating sponsors - a sell-out - comprised manufacturers of cut-sheet and continuous-feed production inkjet presses; feeding, finishing and postpress equipment; inkjet paper/substrate suppliers; and providers of workflow and personalization software. Among them, Keynote-level sponsors again this year included Canon Solutions America, HP, Ricoh and Xerox.
Speed Dating Format Makes Connections
Three hours were also set aside each afternoon for attendees to meet with sponsors individually, for 25 minutes at a time, to talk about the challenges they face and how they think inkjet might help them address those challenges. Rotating from one vendor to another every 25 minutes in such a “speed dating format” provided attendees focused exposure to a variety of technologies in a compact time frame and paved the way to future, more detailed discussions, if suitable. For vendors, it not only generated solid leads, but helped them better understand the issues being experienced by many print providers to help guide their R&D efforts and future product offerings.
The overarching content during the Inkjet Summit was divided into several general presentations that all print providers attended, but the group was also divided into smaller, special interest breakout sessions. The breakout sessions - where much of the more specialized value lies - focused on five key areas of opportunity for production inkjet: publishing (including books, catalogs and magazines); direct mail/marketing; transactional work, such as bills and statements; general commercial; and in-plant printing.
These breakout sessions comprised presentations on the state of the market within each segment, as well as relevant panels of current and prospective inkjet user panels.
Breakout session panels featured Todd Roth, VP, Core Publishing Solutions, at Thomson Reuters; Gary O’Toole, GM, Walsworth Publishing; and Jim Jackson, solutions architect, Quad/Graphics, for the publishing market segment; Brett Cottman, COO, Direct Technologies; and Adam LeFebvre, president, SPC-Specialty Print Communications, for direct mail; and Hassan Igram, CEO, Cedar Graphics; Larry Kuhlman, president, Graphic Village; and Steve Johnson, president, Copresco, for the general commercial printing breakout session segment.
Amy Bellows, Mutual of Omaha Corporate Support Services; Mike Lincoln, State of Colorado Integrated Document Solutions; and Tom Markman, Wolters Kluwer, participated as panelists for the in-plant segment.
These were not lightweight sessions, and some of the questions and answers were quite detailed and fostered additional one-on-one discussions elsewhere during the conference. The learning and peer-to-peer networking, during the program each day and at the social receptions and dinners held each night, were non-stop throughout the event.
Value of Peer-to-Peer Networking
As a result, much of what the printer attendees learned about production inkjet came from their peers: printers who have reinvented not just their production routines, but their entire business models by installing high-volume, continuous-feed and cut-sheet production inkjet presses.
These success stories, delivered in case-study workshops, user panel discussions, networking conversations among printer attendees, and one-on-one meetings with systems vendors during two-and-a-half days of intensive learning, confirmed production inkjet’s status as a transformative and disruptive technology - in the most encouraging sense of those words.
Check out our coverage about the overall state of the production inkjet market, session highlights and key conference takeaways in the post-Inkjet Summit 2018 special section in the June issue of Printing Impressions.