The Inkjet Momentum: Why the Hype is Real

Inkjet offers everything: speed, volume, quality and personalization. It’s time to start paying attention.

The rapid growth seen in the high-speed production inkjet market has been truly stunning to watch. Inkjet will become the de facto technology as print providers grow and push profitability. It gives users the best of both worlds, no longer forcing the tradeoff between speed and volume for image quality, color and personalization.

As the industry prepares to flip the calendar to 2016, let’s explore where inkjet is headed, the impact it will have, the challenges it must overcome and the many opportunities it offers.

Why should print providers consider inkjet? Is it worth all the hype?

As previously stated, the continued evolution of inkjet technology is undeniable. According to InfoTrends, production color inkjet page volume is expected to exceed that produced by color toner devices in 2016.

We anticipate rapid advancements in image quality, speed and cost controls, and wider page widths that can further boost productivity. Inkjet will cost effectively address the volume segment that sits between the short runs of digital printing and the longer runs of offset. Over time, inkjet is expected to gain share from each technology.

The most dramatic impact will be in the higher volume band, where inkjet will bring the benefits digital print is best known for—including just-in-time manufacturing and personalization—to run lengths longer than xerography can reach cost effectively.

What key applications most prominently benefit from inkjet?

The majority of inkjet growth is linked with what are considered the fastest growing digital printing applications: transactional documents like bills and statements; promotional pieces, such as brochures, catalogs and direct mail; and publishing applications, such as books, manuals and periodicals.

In publishing, inkjet presses deliver true on-demand printing, where books aren’t produced until orders are received. By following the demand curve more closely, the press is turned into a virtual document warehouse. This results in benefits such as risk reduction for inventory and warehousing, accelerated time to market, new revenue streams through better reprint management and ultimately improved bottom-line business results.

In direct mail and promotional applications, inkjet presses accelerate the use of 1:1 and segmented communications incorporating variable color. Inkjet provides many advantages, such as making the impact and value of personalized color print more affordable, accommodating the growing demand for complex personalization, enabling postal discounts and delivering a strong return on investment.

Inkjet also helps to improve transactional documents, particularly those that incorporate promotions. By including relevant promotional messages, these documents become effective marketing vehicles, encouraging recipients to read and take action. Inkjet provides advantages in enabling the “white-paper facility,” as inkjet presses output full-color documents from white paper to eliminate costly offset pre-prints and warehousing.

How does inkjet differ from other printing technologies?

Each type of printing technology (offset, toner, inkjet) offers its own set of benefits depending on volume, image quality, cost and application needs. But fundamentally, inkjet is a simpler technology because it has fewer moving parts. With inkjet, job setup and turnaround time is reduced as well as work in progress, waste and labor.

The productivity of inkjet devices can be a game changer. That in itself makes the ROI of inkjet attractive.

What considerations factor into computing the ROI of inkjet?

Calculating the return on investment for an acquisition of inkjet technology can appear daunting, but it can be greatly simplified when breaking apart and evaluating its many components.

First off is the initial capital investment. In relative terms, this cost may be lower than some devices or higher than others, but perhaps more importantly—what device or devices is it replacing? Often, a single high-speed production inkjet printer can replace several less capable machines.

Also consider the capabilities inkjet enables that weren’t possible before. For example, increased speed and wider media latitudes open up new opportunities for jobs that used to go elsewhere. This can help you tap into entirely new areas of revenue that either weren’t possible—or profitable—with prior solutions.

And while ROI is a calculation of gains enabled through new opportunities, it’s also a function of minuses by reducing costs throughout your operation. For example, turnaround time, work in progress, waste and labor can all be significantly reduced. A dozen existing machines can be replaced with just a few higher-speed inkjet solutions, reducing staffing and square footage requirements.

Consider that in many environments, the traditional printing process has always called for thousands of preprinted offset shells to be printed and stored until a small amount of personalized information was added digitally. Jobs required multiple passes and multiple people, and because these jobs take longer, they often sit partially complete, paid for by you, but not generating revenue. And to make sure enough of the offset shells are on hand to complete a job, a percentage are often unneeded and thrown away.

All of this goes away with an inkjet solution. One day. One person. Virtually no waste.

Which leads to perhaps the biggest consideration of all: productivity. It’s the game-changer that can flip the ROI discussion on its head. Because of the high speeds of inkjet solutions, you can produce more in a shift, a day, a year. As is the case in every kind of manufacturing, not only print, the more you produce in a finite amount of time, the more your costs come down. It’s true in every business, but nowhere more than ours.

What are the main considerations when buying inkjet?

Since presses can be significant investments, the decision should be evaluated under the lens of having the right volumes and applications, which lead to a cross-over point that justifies the total cost of ownership.

When looking at print requirements, considerations may include printing speeds, page width, substrates and special inks such as MICR.

Service maintenance costs, inks and consumables, papers (including specially treated and premium priced inkjet papers) and overhead costs should all be considered.

What’s next for inkjet?

With the recent launch of the Xerox Rialto 900 roll-to-cut-sheet, narrow web inkjet press, along with Xerox’s full line of Impika inkjet presses, print providers already have multiple models and configurations of aqueous inkjet technology to choose from. This selection complements the Xerox CiPress production inkjet systems, whose waterless solid ink minimizes absorption and allows providers to print on plain papers as light as 50gsm, helping to minimize postal fees.

Future innovations and enhancements of inks, heads and papers will further drive up the rate of inkjet adoption and build volumes. Smaller-footprint devices with lower acquisition costs will also make the technology more accessible to those looking to dip their toes into the inkjet pond. Productivity gains will be achieved through workflow automation, which decreases steps and human intervention by automating routines.

We believe the outlook for inkjet is incredibly bright and are excited to be intimately involved in helping to shape its future and continued growth.

Cristina Fernandez is vice president, general manager of the Continuous Feed Business Unit at Xerox. She was named to this position in October 2015. In this role, Fernandez leads Xerox’s investments in the continuous feed inkjet portfolios and serves as the commercial lead on platform choices related to inkjet technology. She is responsible for the unit’s marketing, business management and go-to-market efforts. Prior to Xerox, Fernandez served as the leader of worldwide business development responsible for global operation and performance for Kodak, where she also held multiple management roles throughout her career there. She has extensive international management experience (Asia and Europe) in systems integration, driving solutions, reducing operating costs and improving operational processes worldwide.  Fernandez holds a master’s degree in International Business and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Florida International University. Contact her at cristina.fernandez@xerox.com

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