“Retrofitting new fountains with presetting and closed-loop color adjustment to replace 15- to 20-year-old original components would have a measurable payback—less waste and quicker makeready. Doing that would probably be worth the effort. Installing new drives and controllers and motorizing manual registration controls on a press that is 20 years old may not be worth the investment,” he concludes.
Catalogs and magazines are key areas of focus for William Lamparter, president of PrintCom Consulting Group in Waxhaw, NC. His industry research has found several interesting trends in the web offset sector.
“In the last several years, personalization on the back cover of catalogs has been in decline,” Lamparter reveals. “When we ask catalog merchandisers why they’re not doing it, the real answer is that it’s not proving to be effective in terms of recipients actually making additional purchases as a result of the message.”
Instead of putting a message in that space, most catalogers are finding they get a much greater return by rearranging the back page and adding another product, Lamparter adds.
Catalogers are interested in going the next step up and producing all or parts of their catalogs digitally so they can be personalized for individual recipients, he adds. “As of now, though, they can’t afford doing that because the cost of toner is too high and the speed of production too low.”
Many of the firms with the vision to do this are the ones dropping 500,000 to a couple million catalogs, notes the industry consultant.
“The interviewing we’ve done indicates there could be significant change in the way catalogs are handled if and when digital printing becomes ready to tackle that application,” he continues.
As for the other end of the spectrum—competition between offset and gravure—Lamparter says he is hearing some discussion about this, primarily among catalogers. “There is talk of making the switch, but we haven’t been able to find any catalog merchandiser now using heatset web that actually has a plan and commitment in place to shift to gravure,” he notes.