There is plenty of buzz about inkjet. Print service providers and in-plants with a long history of using cut sheet toner-based printers for producing bills, statements, notices, and other transactional documents are showing interest in an alternative approach. It makes sense. Analysts predict the market for color transactional documents will continue to grow, overtaking the demand for monochrome versions.
As current printing equipment reaches end of life or comes off lease, transactional document printing organizations want to replace their existing printing equipment with something that helps them remain competitive in today’s marketplace and beyond. They want to offer quality products to their customers, react quickly to customer demands, distinguish themselves from the competition, and keep costs reasonable.
White paper workflows enabled by inkjet might be the way to achieve those goals.
Quality, Productivity, and Speed
Many years ago, using production color inkjet devices meant sacrificing quality. I still remember one printer vendor claiming their 240 dpi images were “good enough” for printing bills. That might have been true, but corporate identity folks were not thrilled with logos that looked washed out and didn’t match their official colors. Improvements in printing technology and a growing list of papers designed specifically for high speed inkjet have all but eliminated that issue.
Inkjet technology can remove some of the factors causing cut-sheet shops to segment work into smaller portions including loading printers with job-specific pre-printed shells, separating monochrome and color applications, and printing simplex and duplex documents independently. By combining more pieces into a single job, document centers achieve operational savings in printing and finishing steps as well as pocketing postage savings made possible through higher density postal presort.
The beauty of a white paper workflow is the ability to merge many small jobs together. Decreasing stops and starts on printers and inserters can add thousands of documents to the daily output count.
The speed of inkjet production engines can allow a print operation to generate more pages with one device than they did with multiple cut sheet printers. Measuring output in thousands of pages per minute instead of hundreds may allow some operations to re-purpose printer operators, shorten shifts, or add work without investing in more equipment.
The ROI calculation will vary for every establishment, but most cut-sheet toner shops will see reductions in expenses associated with the production of high-volume transactional documents when migrating to inkjet. Money spent on acquiring, inventorying, and moving pre-printed forms will be reduced or disappear entirely, as will the waste connected with over-ordering offset-printed shells and disposing of them due to obsolescence. Lower labor costs, more automation, and fewer errors will also contribute to an organization’s cost-trimming strategy.
New Business, Customer Retention
Furthermore, color inkjet can enable print service providers to enter new markets. Organizations may have passed on portions of customer work requiring high-volume full color due to the slow speed and high cost of cut sheet color laser printing. Handling all a customer’s printing needs cements that relationship and makes it more difficult for customers to take their business to a competitor. With high-speed inkjet, shops can process these applications efficiently, enabling them to meet formerly unachievable customer SLA requirements.
In-plants too may be able to recover work sent to outside vendors. The growing selection of substrates suitable for inkjet and wider print dimensions opens the door for applications that may not have been feasible in the cut sheet toner environment. When not running transactional documents, in-plant print shops might use excess capacity on their inkjet printers for marketing material or other applications traditionally sent to outside print shops.
Following the introduction of presses designed for those with more modest requirements, service providers and in-plants without gigantic print volumes can now start considering the benefits of inkjet migration. Roll-fed machines will be available from the major printer vendors, as well as some cut sheet inkjet devices aimed at the mid-volume market. Equipment choices are sure to broaden over the next few years. Organizations thinking about moving to inkjet should start learning about the workflow differences so they know which questions to ask when they start talking to printer manufacturers.
Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants. He helps his clients get the most from their document print and mail centers and prepare strategies for the future. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com and sign up for his free newsletters written especially for document industry professionals.