Scanning the Possibilities

They say that “what comes out is only as good as what goes in.” Therefore wide-format scanners play a large role in the production of high-quality graphics. While many think of wide-format scanners as merely a way to make copies of large documents, the uses vary as wide as the scanners themselves. How can print service providers make the best use of their wide-format scanners? How can they bring in new business?

What is the most popular use for wide-format scanners?

Laetitia Destombes, product manager, Large Format Printing Division, HP: Large-format scanners and multifunction printers (MFPs) are used to digitize documents for archiving purposes or to make copies. The most common application is scanning older originals that are only available in a paper format to create a digital copy or a version of the document that is easier to handle. For example, companies often have a store of old drawings and have a need to digitize the originals for security reasons, to create more space and to increase accessibility to the files for other members of the organization. Large-format scanning technologies allow them to do this quickly and easily. Additionally, customers working in the technical industry often want to take a D- or E-size map and create a digital version. With a large-format scanner, they are able to produce a smaller format that is more convenient to work with in the field.

We also see real estate companies and CAD/GIS professionals scanning maps for further processing. In this instance, any change made on a map is scanned and entered into a database that can be easily found in case of emergency. Wide-format scanners can also benefit PSPs when they receive unusual requests from customers, such as the request to reproduce large family trees or a caricature made in Montmartre during a honeymoon.

Dan Bennett, Director of Service Operations, Contex Americas, Inc.: Document archival and short-run copying are the most popular uses for wide-format scanners. However, we see just about every possible use imaginable. The sky is the limit. We see scanning of graphic arts, fine art, engineering and GIS documents, raster to vector conversion, proofing for press runs, apparel, the list goes on and on.

Maree Joyce, product marketing specialist, Wide-Format Printing Systems Division of Océ North America: Storing and preserving drawings—not only to preserve legacy documents and save space, but also to more easily search for drawings from a digital archive and distribute them to wherever needed as quickly as possible.

Jane Hicks, marketing manager, Paradigm Imaging Group, Inc.: Wide-format scanners are used in a wide variety of markets, including to convert paper drawings, maps, renderings, etc. into electronic format for storage. Many federal and local government agencies use large-format scanners in this manner. Large-format scanners also can be used to scan posters, photographs, and other graphic images for storage or reproduction. This has become more popular as scanning technology has improved with new CIS technology.

Emily Rhodes, project manager, GEI Wide Format (North American distributor for Colortrac Ltd.): I would have to say that scanning to archive is the most popular application.

How can print providers make the most out of their scanning equipment?

Destombes: Installing a large-format MFP gives PSPs the opportunity to expand their businesses and build a competitive advantage with the ability to offer new scan and copy services to customers. Large-format MFP technology also provides great potential for profit growth. In addition to providing intuitive scanning and copying features, new MFPs include advanced color adjustment options that enable PSPs to better adapt to customer requests while minimizing the time operators need to spend on each job.

Bennett: Contex strives to maintain a very open architecture providing the ability for individual companies to easily interface with existing networks and their print devices. For example, if you are looking for a low-cost Scan to Print solution and already have an inkjet printer, MFP products will integrate an existing printer into a single-footprint, multi-function copy solution. The power of this solution is its ability to minimize floor space, run on a simple to understand touch-screen interface, provide the color management required to reproduce perfect color and monochrome copies, all while keeping your costs down by using your existing printer equipment.

Joyce: Print providers need to be aware of all the functions the software of the scanner allows them to do. It can provide a viewing window, color and b&w filters for crisp, clean images, backchannel communication, scan to file, scan to print, rotate, deskew, cropping and the creation of a wide range of file output formats. These functions allow the print provider to scan and copy high-resolution drawings quickly and easily.

Rhodes: Adding a wide-format scanner to their current portfolio of services will allow print providers to tie scanning services, such as scanning to archive, to the products they currently offer.

How can print providers add value and promote their scanning services?

Destombes: Large-format scanning services can be easily promoted as an additional service offered to customers to better adapt to their changing needs. With large-format scanning technology, PSPs can also offer services to technical firms that wish to outsource their printing needs, opening an opportunity to capture new business.

Bennett: Providers should offer specialized services to their customers. For example, if monochrome copying has been the main focus of your business in the past, offering color copying is a good starting point. Many color jobs require additional quality controls that should be looked upon as an opportunity. Meeting the customers critical color requirements will bring that customer back in the future and word often spreads quickly. Equipment sales, consumables, consulting services, training, technical and equipment service all add value to a providers ability to effectively service and support their customers.

Joyce: Overall productivity of the scanner’s functionality will enable the print provider to add the most value to their scanning services—that includes maximizing all four tenets of productivity: the ability to improve the quality of each scan as automatically as possible; overall scanning speed; easy-to-use software; and reliability.

Randy Geesman, President of Paradigm Imaging Group: PSPs can bring more value to their customers by utilizing ICC color management workflow to ensure color scan files are color corrected with an ICC scanner input profile, and if the scan file is being printed, to utilize printer linearization and media ICC profiles to insure print output is accurate and true to the original. In applications involving the archiving of legacy information from technical drawings, add more value to your customers by providing a more complete solution that includes image enhancement to clean images from poorer quality drawings, provide drawing index data like tile, description, sheet number, revision, etc. to provide attributes that can be used as the basis retrieval of drawings in a database or Content Management System. PSPs can provide a solution for hosting the archived data that can be accessed via the Internet or intranet. Adding more value to the customer provides more opportunities for increased revenue and higher levels of customer loyalty and satisfaction.

What markets can print providers expand into?

Destombes: With large-format scanning technology, PSPs are able to extend their service offerings to landscape architects, construction companies and real estate companies. On top of scanning services, customers can also offer vectorization of technical plans to architects to save them time in the design of their project. One of the new and growing applications for PSPs is fine arts reproduction and photography printing.

Bennett: AEC, CAD, GIS, scan to print, print for pay, archival, fine art, raster to vector conversion, plan room, EDM solutions, book scanning, photo, apparel, proofing, advertising.

Joyce: Architecture and engineering markets, GIS and mapping applications, markets where infrastructure drawings have a long life, like utilities and government agencies (DOTs, sanitation departments, public transit agencies, water departments, school systems, etc.). Another potential market is graphic arts, where scanned images can be used to produce one-off, inexpensive art and posters in whatever sizes the customer wants. For example, customers can bring in photos or artwork and have it scanned and enlarged to create a wall poster.

Hicks: CAD, architecture, construction, photography, graphic design, just to name a few.

Rhodes: A wide-format scanner will allow print providers to expand into new markets such as legal, educational and fine art.

What’s the best way for a shop to make money with wide-format scanners?

Destombes: Although it depends on the price charged to customer, return on investment (ROI) with an HP MFP solution is quite fast. Taking low ink costs and more efficient ink usage with the latest HP large-format MFP technologies into consideration, the cost of copying and printing is decreasing while the cost of scanning is zero once the original document is printed. Offering scan-to-file service on top of copying and printing services is the most efficient way for PSPs to leverage their large-format scanning technologies to increase profitability and drive revenue streams within the shop.

Bennett: While color-copying services seem to be the most profitable service to offer, do not limit your services to one or two specific services or markets. There may be some very interesting and profitable vertical markets just around the corner yet to be discovered. Contex has the most diverse group of third-party software developers available writing applications that directly interface with our scanners. Many of these applications may provide PSPs with the right tools to obtain cost effective and professional results in many different vertical markets.

Joyce: Accurate accounting for each scan is important. Océ Copy Easy software has an automatic accounting feature that allows users to track their profits and measure their ROI. An efficient energy usage is also of increasing importance to minimize operating costs. Another important consideration is to choose a scanner that can be upgraded in both speed and quality so it can be adapted to changing/growing business needs, thereby protecting the original investment.

Geesman: Provide a more “value-added” service. Instead of raw images on a CD, provide a more turnkey approach by offering color management (ICC Workflow) for color scanning, image touch-up and enhancement, indexing and front-end software applications for content/document management and offer hosting solutions.

Click Here to download the Wide-Format Imaging Scanner Chart

Steven Shaw is the former editor of Industrial Photography and Studio Photography. He writes for numerous trade magazines including Kitchen & Bath Design News.