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Variable Data Printing Prepare For It

January 2006
Full-color variable data printing is not an "if" technology, but a "when." So ask yourself: "What happens if I don't?" And, "If I don't, who will?"

By Vic Barkin

MAYBE YOU'VE heard this one: A customer walks into your office and says, "We need 50,000 full-color variable data brochures by Friday!"

O.K., maybe you haven't.

For the past decade, full-color personalization has been proselytized as the printing technology of the future. The vision of millions and millions of pages being produced digitally, in full color, at rated speed, for an audience of one, has been the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the digital printing technology rainbow.

For most, though, it has not yet come to pass. As a former in-plant manager, I saw the potential and envisioned the path needed to get there. That path was customer education. Unlike the rainbow, I firmly believed, and still do, that there is an obtainable destination—and a pot of gold for those adventurous enough and creative enough to seek it.

As former manager of Northern Arizona University's Printing Services department, I knew if I didn't travel down the road to full-color personalization, I would lose out. I watched the industry leaders and bleeders carefully and made the calculated decision, as many of you have, that the time was right to start building a digital printing empire. The fear of not being ready to take advantage of the full-color variable data opportunity was too great to ignore.

The Secret Is Out

Case in point. In 2003 a new vice president for Enrollment Management was hired at NAU. While taking him on his introductory tour of our facility, I was proudly explaining all the black-and-white variable data we were producing on our Heidelberg (now Kodak) Digimaster. He asked me two very simple questions. "Can you do the same thing in color?" and "Can you also change images like you change text?"

Wow! If an enrollment VP knows about the concept of full-color variable data, then the secret must be out. Indeed it is. In fact, every management, marketing and executive trade magazine on the planet has, at least once, published an article on the wonders of variable data printing.

It's not just a cool little private domain of techno-weenies and wannabe digital printers anymore, it's a...how did Arlo Guthrie put it in his song "Alice's Restaurant?" It's a "Movement." Yessiree, before you know it all of your VPs, department heads, deans, directors, operation managers, CEOs, CFOs and CPAs will come walking through your door and say: "Can y'all print me some that thar variable data?"
 

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