We set out to ask industry representatives six questions about digital monochrome output devices. The answers we got back were so broad ranging and insightful that we felt you deserved a chance to read them in their entirety (with very minor editing for clarity and to remove the occasional sales pitch). So sit back and reap the benefits from the advice and observations of the industry insiders.
Derrick Doi, Vice President, Worldwide Quick and Franchise Print Global Business Group
Q: There is a lot of confusing terminology describing digital monochrome output devices in the current marketplace. How do you differentiate between a printer or copier/printer and a digital press? (For example, is the determining factor the duty cycle, speed, resolution, service reliability, or something else entirely?) Or is it all just marketing semantics?
A: Unfortunately, the terminology can be confusing as it is not always consistently applied. The term “digital press” is usually associated with higher end, more robust engines. Certainly duty cycle and average monthly print volume are part of the definition as well as the robustness of the overall solution. Speed can be misleading as there are many “faster” offerings that may not hold up over time in especially high volume locations.
Q: Most quick and small commercial printers are running hybrid digital/offset workflows. What criteria should they consider when deciding whether a monochrome job should be sent to a press or a digital output device?
A: The primary criteria for differentiating whether to run a job on an offset press or digital device is run length, turnaround time, and the inclusion of variable data on the page. Short-run jobs with quick turnarounds lend themselves to digital devices as do jobs that have variable data on each page.
Cost is always a consideration, but the need for quick turnaround and variable data on each page would make those jobs very difficult to do on an offset press. Another differentiator of a digital device is the ability to offer in-line finishing, from simple stapling to complex booklet making with face trim and fold capabilities.
Q: Are your customers seeing growth in the demand for digital monochrome jobs or are they doing different kinds of jobs than they’ve done in the past?
A: The economic conditions in 2009 and into 2010 may have helped the number of monochrome printing jobs. For instance, customers might have evaluated whether to do a print run or not, and considered printing in monochrome as opposed to color versus not printing at all.
The increased adoption of electronic bill presentment will also affect the total volume of mono print, as will the move to transpromo to an almost exclusively color application. Finally the improved print quality of both cut-sheet and continuous feed printing systems is opening up more book printing opportunities that many publishers are finding attractive for shorter run lengths or audience-of-one titles.
Q: With so many MFPs and digital devices placed in offices, how can print service providers differentiate their services to continue receiving monochrome jobs?
A: Print providers can differentiate themselves by the sophisticated finishing options they offer such as a GBC binder, coil bind, or SquareFold booklet maker. Print providers also offer the ability to handle variable data jobs that require complex merging of data and documents, which could be beyond the capabilities of the average office worker. The overall cost to do the job (printing, finishing, and worker productivity) should be taken into account when determining where and how a job is being printed.
Q: Do you see any of your customers running monochrome jobs on color machines? If so, what are the economies of scale involved in this practice?