The industry itself identifies certain categories of equipment and most of those categories are built on speed. InfoTrends characterizes the opportunities for this type of device—high speed, high quality, high volume—in primarily three categories. They use image per minute measurements. The lower category for these devices would be 106-134 images per minute. The next category would be 135-199 images per minute. And the next category would be 200-plus images per minute. We define an image as one side of a sheet of paper, either 8½x11" or A4. We manufacture equipment that fits into all three of those categories.
Our delineation between copier/printers and digital presses follows industry delineation. A lot of it has to do with speed, duty cycle—how many images the unit is capable of producing per month—and those types of descriptors are what categorizes this equipment into that digital press environment.
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: Historically, digital has been more productive and more cost efficient for those shorter runs. The other criteria would be turnaround time—how fast do they need to satisfy their customers’ requests.
Another criteria, although they’re tending to morph from an offset or traditional commercial print to digital, but the image quality is virtually identical. Certainly, you’d get a number of different opinions on that. Image quality is certainly subjective to anyone who looks at it.
The other thing is some of the variability that is allowed with the digital process. For example, if you are doing some kind of direct mail campaign and you want to do that on the run as opposed to doing the shells on offset and then bringing them over to another device. All of the capabilities to do that type of work for that commercial printer’s customers exist in that digital press.
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: I think what you’re seeing is that where digital devices fit better is when you want to have the job complete all inline. For example, you’ve got a number of different substrates that might go into a job. Many manufacturers, including us, offer multiple paper inputs so you can vary the types of paper that you put into the finished product.
Another is that, with digital devices, there is a way to pre-load preprinted media that could have been produced offline on an offset device, and incorporate that into the finished document, and also apply the variable data digitally to that substrate.
And finally, as you’re assembling, for instance, a booklet and you want to include tabs in that booklet. You have the ability in many devices, including our own, to insert tabs, to print on those tabs, as well as to finish the document, whether you choose to make a booklet, to saddle stitch it, to bind it. A growing application is the short-run book market, where perhaps a company gets a call for 150 paperback text books or something along that line. They take those shorter runs and, with the appropriate finishing equipment, you start on one end with the content and you pull a book out at the other end. It’s all inline.
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: That’s kind of a challenge, whether it’s in-house or it’s outsourced. I think that the commercial printers we speak to on a regular basis want to be known for their ability to satisfy a multitude of applications. They want to add their expertise as commercial printers because they understand the components of commercial printing. And they also want to provide a cost effective alternative to those customers.
It’s really a matter of scale. How much work does that customer have on a regular basis? Do they have enough to support the type of device we’re talking about, which is a capital equipment purchase? Do they want to maintain the employees to run those devices? It’s very similar to any type of a buying decision that any business would face. Do I bring my activities internal or do I go to an external source to have those things done. It’s really kind of a make or buy type of decision, and every environment has their own set of parameters in terms of how they want to achieve that output.