Who is Really Adopting Production Inkjet Printing Technology?
It may not be new anymore, but production inkjet printing is still the talk of the industry. In the in-plant world, interest is on the rise, with several inkjet press installations scheduled for this year.
Still, many printers have questions about the technology. Who owns an inkjet press? Why did these organizations decide to take a chance with this technology? What was their deployment experience? How did it impact their businesses?
To address these questions, SGIA commissioned NAPCO Research to develop a research study to explore the production inkjet market. In the summer of 2017, more than 700 commercial, direct mail, in-plant, publication and transaction printers were contacted by NAPCO Research via online surveys and phone interviews to identify their first-hand experiences, challenges and rewards regarding production inkjet printing technologies; why they have adopted continuous-feed and cut-sheet production inkjet printing technology; and for those that have not, why not.
Production Inkjet Printing Adoption
About half of the printers surveyed say they own one or more production inkjet printing presses. Printers that own production inkjet printing equipment have been running their device(s) for years. About 80% of printers with inkjet printing equipment have owned it for a year or more, and more than 50% have owned it for more than three years, emphasizing how production inkjet printing has rapidly become an established industry technology.
Overall, printers in all segments are very happy with their investments with 86% being “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied” with their move into this market. In addition to this high level of overall satisfaction, direct mail, in-plant and publication respondents reported no dissatisfaction at all. Commercial and transaction were the only segments reporting any level of dissatisfaction at 3% and 4%, respectively.
One in-plant manager commented, “Inkjet saved our shop. Glad we can say that.”
Bob White, business development manager at Wolverine Solutions Group, said, “Expectations were met — product quality, efficiency, speed. All the things they identified we’ve benefitted from.”
Mike Lincoln with the State of Colorado is so satisfied with his in-plant’s production inkjet press purchase that he is looking to add a second line at some point in the future.
But with all of these happy printers, why doesn’t everyone own a production inkjet press? Quite simply, it has to do with need. “Lack of Need” accounted for 70% of the reasons respondents gave for not considering production inkjet devices — and 40% of the reasons for not owning.
Why Consider Inkjet?
So, we know printers are satisfied with their purchases, but why did they consider it in the first place? Printers were looking for something their current technology wasn’t providing. Reasons varied widely between the segments, but included “faster run speeds,” “more personalization capabilities” and “smaller print runs.”
Printers found deploying production inkjet printing technologies expanded their capabilities, enabling them to generate new business opportunities, reduce their costs per job, and deliver more consistent color job-to-job.
Inkjet utilization, across all segments, came from three primary sources: more than half from digital toner and offset output migration, about a quarter from new business, and the remaining from other digital devices and other sources.
Applications most commonly deployed on production inkjet printing presses closely followed the work each segment is best known for. While the addition of inkjet didn’t significantly change a printers’ product offerings, it did enhance existing capabilities with lower operating costs, higher press speeds, reduced press downtime, workflow efficiencies and other improvements.
Why Adopt Inkjet?
What drove printers to consider and purchase production inkjet varied widely between segments, indicating there was no single or small group of reasons that drove printers to acquire inkjet presses.
Reasons printers gave for considering inkjet varied widely, ranging from faster run speeds, more personalization capabilities and smaller print runs. Reasons cited for making the purchase decision and selecting the supplier partner were more tactical, but no less varied, and included customer support, cost to operate and the quality of the printed output.
The due diligence printers found most beneficial in adopting production inkjet, across all segments, was from attending relevant industry events and by determining the total cost of ownership (TCO). The time printers took from research to the final purchase ranged from less than six months to more than 12 months and was relatively evenly distributed between less than six months, six to 12 months, and more than 12 months. It is a big decision, and printers took the time they needed.
Deploying Production Inkjet
To determine their return on investment (ROI), both pre-purchase — to justify their investment — and post-purchase — to determine if it delivered their expectations — printers across all segments used a Cost per Page and/or Total Cost of Ownership analysis. Respondents’ experiences in deploying inkjet, across all segments, were cited as Expected, Easier or Much Easier Than Expected 80% of the time.
This isn’t to say that the deployment process was effortless. But the challenges of paper compatibility, generating sufficient volume to keep their inkjet press at capacity and addressing inkjet output differences versus offset or toner, were able to be addressed and were reflected in the high overall experience.
Additional challenges printers faced in deploying production inkjet — due to its different workflow requirements — included plant layout changes in prepress and postpress/finishing, material handling and inventory changes, and changes to workflow software.
Inkjet deployment also involves the need for training of both operational personnel and sales staffs. The majority of printers, across segments, planned and implemented training primarily by developing internal training programs and by relying on the OEM for on-site and in-field training assistance.
Clients’ Response to Production Inkjet
About one-third of printers’ customers, across market segments, either embraced production inkjet output immediately, were indifferent, or did not notice a change. Another third embraced it after seeing the cost savings they could achieve, and about 10% viewed inkjet as an opportunity to create new applications or products. In total, there is a high level of acceptance of the technology among print buyers, marketers and brand managers. The remaining quarter of clients were skeptical or needed to lower their expectation from “offset” quality to “acceptable” quality in order to accept the move to inkjet.
Want to know more about how production inkjet printing technologies impacted print businesses? You can read more about these findings, as well as view graphs, percent responses and additional analysis in the complete study. Download a PDF of the report “Production Inkjet Printing: Consideration, Deployment and End Results” at InPlantGraphics.com/Resources.