Three Ways to Successfully Implement Inkjet
Many times when we talk about production inkjet, we’re discussing how inkjet is stealing pages from digital toner and offset. But the bigger story is about how companies are implementing this new technology to drive growth and net new pages. Just transferring the same pages from one technology to another isn’t a real win. But capturing entirely new programs and print pages because of the technology is a win — a huge win — for the print provider and the industry as a whole.
During the recent Inkjet Summit in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Elizabeth Gooding, president of Insight Forums, moderated a general session to discuss the common challenges and opportunities faced by printers in three diverse market segments: transaction, direct mail and general commercial printing. Out of their discussion, three takeaways rose to the top as more print providers look to invest and implement new production inkjet workflows and devices within their businesses.
- Realize Technology Alone Won’t Solve Your Problems.
“Many times getting the technology ready for the business is the easy part; however getting the business ready for the technology can be the one of the biggest challenges we face,” said Tim Cooper, enterprise architect at Harland Clarke.
Harland Clarke is a transaction printer that is widely known as the “check printing company.” Harland Clarke's clients range in size from major financial institutions and corporate brands to small businesses and individual consumers. Within its payment solutions business, Harland Clarke provides products and services to nearly 12,500 financial and commercial clients.
The company first acquired inkjet devices in 2012 and currently five of its locations have high-speed production inkjet presses. But for Cooper, a technologist and enterprise architect, learning the technology is a very small part of the change that’s required to make inkjet — or any other technology for that matter — in a facility successful.
“During the last several years, I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that technology alone is not going to solve your problems,” he told the Inkjet Summit audience. “Technology is fundamental and, of course, when we think about implementing change we focus on the technology because we all understand the little devices that we carry around, and technology is always changing and we get accustomed to technology being the solution.”
Shops need to address everything up and down the line — from creative to composition to understanding color itself — in addition to the technology pieces, he said.
“The education component required for getting into inkjet is significant,” commented Cooper. “You need to do your homework — not around just owning the technology component, but also all of the other components that are required to make that change successful.”
- Educate Your Sales Staff on How to Have Different Conversations with Clients.
“Management took on a lot of the selling of the inkjet web. The sales force just didn’t gravitate toward it,” recalled Jim Jackson, solutions architect at Quad/Graphics.
Quad/Graphics has been involved with inkjet for the past decade and currently has both rollfed and sheetfed inkjet devices across five of its facilities. Jackson pointed out that Quad/Graphics had been successful with only 10% utilization on the inkjet machines, but the company needed to figure out how it was going to fill up the other time. This posed a challenge to sales staff.
“Printing salespeople that are used to getting specs and spitting out quotes may or may not be ready to handle programmatic selling and talking to customers in different ways,” admitted Jackson. “You need to be able to have a different conversation with your clients.”
Jackson said once the sales staff was able to turn the conversation with their clients into “how can we help you achieve higher ROI?” or “how can we move your information more efficiently?” Quad/Graphics was able to build workflows and programs to fill its hungry inkjet machines.
“We had a couple of salespeople that were successful, but the majority of the standard print salespeople struggled and shied away from it. Just a couple really gravitated to [inkjet] and those same [programs] are still running today,” said Jackson. “You put a program in, and it’s going to run for years and years. That’s the difference between quoting and running programs.”
- Rely on Smart People to Run the Equipment.
“As we get better at inkjet, inkjet gets better,” said Kirk Schlecker, VP of operations at Heeter. In 2015, Heeter invested in its first production inkjet press and is still learning how to transition work from its toner and offset presses.
“Years ago when I first started looking at inkjet I was told I should go visit a shop in Wisconsin that had it all figured out. I wondered why,” admitted Schlecker. “A year and a half later, I figured out why.”
After that visit, and once Heeter’s own inkjet press was installed, Schlecker learned that’s it’s all about the operator.
“It’s up to our operators to really control the level of ink that you put down. The machine is running at 400 feet per minute. We’re responsible for paying for the ink, and the operator has to understand that. So it’s really how we control the cost of the ink — the device is a fixed expense — and the paper. And as we learn, things are getting better.”
Heeter has invested in education for its press operators, making sure they are getting G7 certified and really understanding the ins and outs of color. Schlecker wants to take work that has historically been offset and move it to inkjet, but even he admits “there’s no book on that.”
And while partners in the industry will help on the journey, “we’re the ones running the machine every day. We’re the ones who have to throw away a $2,000 roll of paper if it doesn’t dry or if it creases in the finishing line. So we have to figure it out and rely on smart people to run the [inkjet] equipment,” said Schlecker. “We are fortunate that we’ve got some really strong offset folks who have transitioned over and understand the technology. They’re getting better. We’re all getting better.”