This originally appeared in the September/October, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
The first jobs run on your new inkjet press are likely to be legacy applications previously run on toner-based printers or offset presses. That's not a bad strategy. You’ll be starting with something familiar, and if something goes wrong, you can always return the production job to the older equipment until you work out the bugs or retire the old gear.
Moving legacy work to the inkjet press isn’t exactly a plug and play proposition. It requires preparatory assessments and, frequently, modifications to print jobs before they are suitable for the new platform.
You should avoid large areas of solid color on inkjet-printed documents if possible. Excessive ink use is expensive and can cause operational problems. Maintaining quality on such pages is difficult. Consider changing documents to feature light ink coverage or remove solid backgrounds entirely.
Documents that work perfectly fine on laser printers using pre-printed shells may not process equally well on production inkjet presses. Unlike toner, which sits on top of the paper, inkjet ink is absorbed. Characters (especially elements using a small point size or reverse printing) may not appear as crisp and clear; it may be necessary to alter document designs to improve readability.
One big advantage of full-color inkjet printing is the ability to replace generic pre-printed inserts used in transactional documents with color onserts printed in line with the documents. Eliminating bill stuffers makes the inserting operation more efficient while simultaneously enabling a level of personalization or segmentation unachievable with pre-printed inserts. You will need document composition software capable of creating the desired content according to business rules to add data-driven onserts to your service offerings. Print/mail service providers working with print image files will need document re-engineering software to add the onserts to the print stream.
Another attractive feature of inkjet workflows is merging several small jobs so they print and finish together as one large unit of work. As volumes for printed documents drop, this strategy becomes even more important. Fewer breaks between jobs increases productivity and lowers production expenses, so consolidation is a great idea.
Merging jobs has its challenges, however. When documents are mailed, you must select a single outbound envelope to accommodate all the documents in the combined job. Many organizations switch from single-window to double-window envelopes, allowing the sender’s return addresses and logos to appear in the upper window. You may need to adjust the documents to make sure all the sending and return addresses (and no confidential data) align with the windows in the common outbound envelopes.
Tracking and reporting on documents generated from separate applications is essential when merging jobs to improve efficiency or reduce postage costs. You may have to re-engineer documents to move page elements, leaving space for production control barcodes to appear in the same place on every page so automated systems can track all the work.
In a white paper document environment, you must optimize the data that inkjet presses will process. Improper file formats and organization can turn jobs that should process in minutes into productivity killing marathon jobs that run for hours before a single page is ready to print.
Some companies migrating to inkjet printing will deal with color printing for the first time. If your organization has no in-house color expertise, you might consider adding staff members with color management experience to your team.
Even companies familiar with adjusting color on offset presses will notice a difference. In inkjet environments, technicians must make color settings and calibrations before sending jobs to the press. Operators won’t be able to tweak the colors on the fly as they might have done with other printing technologies.
Paper and Ink
In toner environments, paper qualities have always been an issue. Grain direction, curled edges, and coatings affect how well the paper feeds through the printers, particularly cut-sheet devices. In an inkjet world, paper has an even greater impact on the finished product. As ink is absorbed, paper properties can alter how text and graphics appear on the page. Experts must calibrate colors separately for different papers – something new for operations used to toner printing technology.
For operational efficiency and cost control, printing companies strive to standardize on a common paper stock as much as possible. This move could change the look and feel of some legacy documents. Your organization should talk to customers about how their documents will transform and emphasize the benefits of switching to inkjet, including greater personalization and segmentation, faster production, or lower postage costs.
Besides the operational and design challenges associated with ink coverage, document operations could experience a spike in costs if they fail to optimize page elements for inkjet workflows. Artwork not designed for inkjet printing can require more ink than necessary to reproduce on high-speed inkjet devices. Poorly designed logos, for example, can appear on every page and impact consumable costs over the course of an entire run.
Modern inkjet printing technology has plenty of advantages. To get your operation off to a good start once you’ve installed your equipment, take time to evaluate the first jobs you intend to migrate from the legacy environment and gather all the tools and resources necessary to make the switch.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients implement new technologies and avoid unnecessary costs in their production workflows. Follow on Twitter, send a connection request on , or contact Mike directly at .