From the Editor: Get Ready for Inkjet
I recently returned from the sixth annual Inkjet Summit, the rainiest of the six, to be sure, though it ended with some beautiful weather. The 24 in-plants that attended this year included several that already have inkjet presses and are looking to add more of them, particularly cut-sheet inkjet, which is now being offered by several manufacturers.
I keep pretty good tabs on inkjet installations at in-plants, but just the same I was surprised to learn of several new ones. One in-plant, at Pinnacol Assurance, has only a couple of employees, yet was still able to justify a Xerox Rialto 900, shattering the assumption that only large in-plants can justify inkjet. I look forward to talking with this in-plant and others like Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance about their inkjet success stories.
One concern that surfaced several times among in-plant attendees this year was that the quality of inkjet printing might not be acceptable to their customers. The quality issue was addressed in detail at the first couple Inkjet Summits, but has more or less faded as a topic at the summit as the spotlight shifted to the many benefits of inkjet: lower costs, higher productivity, personalization, affordable color. The approach to the quality question early on was to acknowledge that, while inkjet quality is not offset quality, customers have come to accept it as a trade-off for inkjet’s other benefits, particularly its lower cost.
“It’s all about having quality that’s sellable,” is how Conference Chair Marco Boer put it in his opening keynote.
In short, not every print job needs offset quality, and many customers have decided that “business color” is good enough, given the personalization, speed and cost benefits of inkjet. Still, this seemed like it was going to be a tough sell for some of the in-plants at this year’s event. One manager told me that, since his shop doesn’t charge back for each job, the cost-saving benefit of inkjet will not be a big selling point for his clients, who will still demand top quality. That’s certainly a tough, uniquely in-plant dilemma.
Some managers were also taken aback by the many ancillary considerations that accompany inkjet press installations: workflow, paper, finishing and just plain selling inkjet to customers. Yet the numerous in-plant case studies presented at the event bolstered the feeling that inkjet is indeed plausible for in-plants.
The reality is, I have yet to hear of a single inkjet user that regrets adding an inkjet press. Surveys show an extremely high satisfaction rate, despite any initial stumbles. So while, as the Inkjet Summit drilled home, there are many moving parts to figure out — workflow, software, paper, data management, adding new work to boost volumes — in the end, the benefits of inkjet make it well worth the effort.
Coincidently I had an opportunity the week after the Inkjet Summit to visit an all-inkjet in-plant: the Riso Communications Center. I was in Massachusetts to give a presentation about in-plants to Riso managers during the company’s internal sales meeting using the data in our “In-plant Trends and Services” report, which Riso sponsored.
After my talk, I stopped by the company’s Woburn, Mass., facility to talk with Nestor Grullon, production print specialist at the RCC. He has a nice selection of Riso ComColor inkjet devices at his disposal, including the not-yet-released Riso T2, a cut-sheet inkjet duplexing device that can print up to 300 duplexed prints per minute.
Most of the material the in-plant prints is marketing related, going out to customers and supporting dealers and the sales force. This includes direct mail, post cards, brochures, perfect bound books, and all of the company’s billing. The shop prints between 250,000 and half a million impressions a month. Customers can also use the in-plant’s printers to run test files and see what their materials will look like printed with inkjet.
Riso is pretty happy with its in-plant, and acknowledges that it has saved the company a lot of money while giving it control over its messaging. It was nice to see Riso practicing what it preaches: that inkjet brings the cost of color printing way down, to below color toner levels. This opens an opportunity for educators and businesses to add color to their documents for very little additional cost. Color can be used to highlight important information and helps keep readers engaged while improving information retention.
Related story: Sixth Inkjet Summit a Big Success
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.