Production Inkjet: Joining the ‘Color Culture’

Elizabeth Gooding, president of Gooding Communications Group.

Marco Boer

In-plants hoping to use production inkjet presses to expand from transactional printing into marketing applications have some hurdles ahead of them, particularly in the color management arena.

The world of color inks can be a daunting one for those printers whose experience in this area is scant, which can be especially true for transactional printers. Much of their experience is traced to continuous-feed, black-and-white toner machines. It can be an education for these printers to capitalize on the operational opportunities offered by inkjet color, notes Elizabeth Gooding, president of Gooding Communications Group.

“They have to become part of a color culture, and that means not only understanding the technical and operational aspects of color—the color management, the color workflow, understanding the impact of paper—but also dealing with people other than those they’ve traditionally dealt with,” Gooding says. “With transactional printing, they’re mostly dealing with IT and data folks.

“You’re going to start working with the creative world when working in a dynamic, full-color environment with marketing statement messaging in full-color. You’ll need to give them parameters; they can’t have real high TAC (total area coverage) on the page. They can’t change paper stock each run. Designers who have been working on marketing brochures, etc., have to be welcomed to the world of transaction printing and educated accordingly.”

Transactional color printing virgins definitely require hand-holding for the color indoctrination, Gooding says. Defining the workflow, testing papers and optimizing the environment are all new areas. While it won’t take long to get operators up to speed once the press is running, setting the standards is critical. Also, Gooding cautions, color management expertise with a Xerox iGen4, for example, is not the same beast as an inkjet device.

“It really is so different that it needs to be handled as its own species,” she adds. “For an ongoing basis, the internal staff can definitely be trained to take it forward.”

Steps for Success

Among the primary tripping points for transactional (and other types of) printers using inkjet:

  • Inexperienced color users need to understand ink/paper interaction.
  • Understand the difference between other types of digital color and inkjet color.
  • Pricing for inkjet: it’s not just about cutting prices. Understand the value-adds that inkjet brings to the client, then price appropriately.

Similar to the transpromo space, the direct mail sector is still embarking upon an ongoing quest to better leverage data and craft content that is more relevant to the recipient of the piece, notes Marco Boer, vice president of I.T. Strategies, and conference chair of the 2014 Inkjet Summit. Much success is being realized in areas including retail-related accounts via customer loyalty cards and the finance industry with credit cards.

After a printer has expended $2 million on an inkjet press, the investments are only just beginning, reveals Boer.

“You probably have to sink another million or two into setting up a good workflow/software system, to be able to harness that nicely relevant data,” he points out. “Then, you have to change the sales process; gain more trust from your customers because you’re handling their most sensitive data. It’s really a journey where all the players in the ecosystem, ranging from the printer vendor to the guy that supplies relevant data, have to become more trusting with each other and experiment on some things.”

Related story: The Possibilities of Production Inkjet

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