My Observations of the thINK 2018 Conference and Future of Inkjet Printing
Recently, we wrapped up our 4th annual thINK Conference in beautiful Boca Raton, Fla. Each year since its inception the conference has grown. With this growth has come a broader and more diverse audience, adding new perspectives and opportunities for inkjet applications in the printing industry. Here are some of my observations after this year’s event.
Technology Advancement & Product Reach
As early adopters know, the first push for commercial inkjet printing was an add-on in order to provide some personalization to an otherwise static printed piece, usually on a folder, mail base, inserter or bindery line. About 10 years ago full-color digital inkjet presses came on the scene, but adoption was slow. The transactional space was the first to begin heavy adoption. Even with that adoption the color aspect was minimal, usually focused on logos or simple images, and coverage was light. Early on the dpi, speed, paper options and color gamut were also limited. Many of us bought our first press knowing that it was the technology of the future, but unsure as to how it would become part of our offerings. In other words, we bet on what we believed was still to come and tried to find a “sweet spot” where we could to sell it.
Fast forward to today, newcomers to the inkjet printing market can take advantage of a much different landscape. Today, the technology is robust, with offerings from full-color sheet-cut to 40˝ high-speed webs. Now you can identify your “sweet spot” and choose a machine that fits it, instead of trying to fit your needs to a machine. Color digital has invaded nearly every market, including books, packaging, commercial print and, of course, direct mail. The technology has evolved to the point that it is driving innovation in all of these markets. The improvements in head technology, ink formulation/paper compatibility and color gamut have pushed the latest generation of equipment to quality levels rivaling conventional print. All of these advancements, plus the expansion of paper options, have brought the cost per piece down as well, especially when you factor in the additional value of digital’s fully variable capabilities.
Data Driven Printing
Speaking of variable content, inkjet is driving marketing innovation. A well-designed digitally printed mail piece offers the marketer a unique opportunity to create marketing mail that can engage the recipient through a combination of personalized copy and graphics driven off elements in the recipient’s data record. In addition, this type of personalization can be used to create an ongoing, interactive thread between the marketer and its audience by incorporating elements such as augmented reality or a PURL. Whether you have the data and tools to drive true 1:1 marketing or just enough data to segment your file into targeted offer groupings, color digital printing facilitates these techniques while allowing your mail stream to remain intact, protecting your postal discount opportunities. Software providers have taken notice of this. Today, there are many new choices for workflow, composition, production control, color and content management tools that were crude or even non-existent only a few years ago.
thINK - A Premier User Conference and Networking Event
The reason that I look forward to thINK each year is that it has become one of the industry’s top events for networking and education. The conference features more than 20 educational sessions, 60 speakers, pre-conference Inkjet 101 workshops and equipment demos. There is also a Partner Pavilion where conference sponsors from software suppliers, paper companies and equipment manufacturers show off their latest tools and technology. All of this is scheduled around lots of networking time to ensure plenty of interaction between attendees. To further advance this effort, thINK has partnered with Klik to create an interactive way for attendees and sponsors to trade contact information with each other. Attendees are issued a Bluetooth-enabled wrist bracelet that allows any two people to exchange contact information with the touch of a button. The attendee simply downloads a phone app, creates a profile and they are in business. All interactions can then be easily transferred to your phone's contact list.
Additionally, the team at thINK Forum has extended the conference’s value by providing year-round interaction with their user community. This is done through a variety of channels, such as the quarterly newsletter, online seminars and a wealth of online resources. thINK has also published a series of educational books on subjects such as designing for inkjet, workflow and how to sell inkjet.
In short, the annual thINK Conference has become an active user community sharing best practices, knowledge and education for the advancement of the technology and industry as a whole. At 600-plus attendees and growing, the future of inkjet and this conference looks bright.
The acceleration of inkjet technology is now reaching full speed. This solution is and will continue to disrupt every area of printing. It is no longer just a tool for one aspect of the market. In some markets, such as direct mail, it drives marketing content; in the book market it is the solution for cost effectively managing run lengths; while in packaging it can facilitate private labeling for products. The bottom line is that inkjet printing is changing printing as we once knew it. Think of it as “smart print” - and know that it is here to stay.
Dave Johannes is the Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, at Moore DM Group, Tulsa, Okla. Johannes is a veteran of the industry with a passion for digital technology. He is also a recipient of the Graphic Communications Association Innovator Award. Johannes' personal business philosophy is: "Success depends on a shared understanding of both the opportunity and the risk for all parties, followed by collaboration to achieve the shared goals."