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Production Inkjet: Time to Invest?

Waiting for the next generation of inkjet technology may not be your in-plant's most strategic option.

March 2014 By Erik Cagle
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Is it time to invest in inkjet? It's a simple question that lacks an easy answer. For a printer that has the volumes to justify laying out $2 million to $3 million for a production inkjet workflow, the process of moving forward can be slow and methodical.

"All inkjet is not the same; there are significant differences in many of the technologies," notes Charlie Pesko, founder of InfoTrends. "Talk to other printers—folks who have had various products installed and have been successful with them—and find out when, where, why and how they've been successful.

"I don't think the decision-making process is an easy one," he continues. "But remember: the sales cycle here is much longer than some of the traditional lower speed, toner-based products, because of the cost and commitment you're making to this new technology. It's a different type of sales process. It's a major, strategic move for many companies."

Tackle the Learning Curve

Marco Boer, vice president of I.T. Strategies, believes the decision to buy now or wait for some of the pending technologies bound for the market is best viewed from the standpoint of tackling the learning curve involved with production inkjet.

"Sure, in two or three years there will be better devices that are less expensive and more productive," he says. "But, unless you buy now and come up to that learning curve—figure out how to sell the output and build the volumes—all your competitors who started earlier will have a huge competitive advantage. If you're interested in this space and you have enough volume, you're better off investing today because of the learning curve than you would be by waiting for the next, cheaper generation product."

Waiting around to see what's behind "door number two" is not the best approach to take, agrees Noel Ward, editor-in-chief of packagePRINTING magazine.

"We've seen over and over how companies that adopted earlier digital printing technologies have found success and positioned themselves to better compete in their markets," he says, "Printing has become very much technology-based, and adopting a new technology, such as high-speed inkjet printing—assuming you have the volume to justify it—can be a strategic decision for business success.


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