A: Customers will always push their equipment to its maximum capability including printing monochrome on a color device. Typically, this carries a higher cost per page than a monochrome-only printer and may affect how a printer charges for that work or how much profit they may lose with that type of work. With the understanding that not all customers can afford to have multiple engines—due to economics, space, people to run them, etc.—they should focus on selling/producing print jobs best suited for the solution they have invested in.
Q: What should printers know about the new generation of monochrome digital devices that they may not be aware of?
A: The image quality for the new generation of monochrome digital devices is outstanding. And vendors are offering more advanced in-line finishing options that give customers more application flexibility and productivity.
The new generation of monochrome devices supports a more robust and versatile range of substrates. Heavier weight and coated stocks can be run through these newer monochrome devices, which was previously only possible on offset presses. Applications can now be transitioned to digital and run in a print-on-demand system versus a print-and-warehouse system. Many systems also enable hybrid (color and monochrome) document creation with sheet and/or cover insertion modules.
Konica Minolta Business Solutions
Kevin Kern, Senior Vice President, Marketing
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: Part of it is that “press” is the new thing that everyone likes to say. It’s because of building hybrid workflows with offset. But it’s a reality of the new world that there are jobs moving off of offset onto digital. It’s still going to take a long time to change that completely, so “press” is something that people are more comfortable with.
In our view, it differentiates what is sort of a high speed product that is not specifically designed to be in a production environment. I think in the past seven years, you’ve seen a lot of products come out that say, “Hey, we’re 105, 110, 120 ppm.” But really, it’s sort of the fast plastic speeded up—it’s just high speed stuff. Then you’ve got things that have the metal, have the heavier construction, designed to do the longer run lengths, etc. I think that’s really what part of it is.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with fast machines, but they need to be able to do true production level work—a sheet size being a little over straight 11x17", maybe allowing a little larger sheet size, broader range in paper stocks, efficiently running at speed—things like that. That’s our rough definition, but there might be some marketing-ese in that as well. Everybody’s always looking for the new thing.
Some of it has to do with inline finishing, too. Can you get really high-end inline finishing? That’s sort of a differentiator as well.
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: That’s a wide ranging question. First of all is customer expectation. Second is media. Third would be run length. And the fourth would be if it is an appropriate job for inline finishing. Because if you look at inline finishing and you look at how work flows in the shop, inline finishing is where you get a lot of labor costs taken out. So if you can saddle stitch it or even perfect bind it, or if it leads to the GBC punching, you eliminate that manual step. So, it’s a combination and I think there’s no universal answer for printers because I think a lot of it depends on what they’ve got for bindery, and what their local burden of labor rates are in terms of how you cost a job. I think those are all the things that they get.
Generally speaking, if you’re dealing with 100 pages of a handout for somebody for $20, you’re probably not going to go on press. So there’s some run length consideration. But is the application going to be used for part of a commercial direct mail piece? Is it a heavy halftone? The newer stuff can do pretty nice halftone work on a reasonably broad range of media. So you’ve really got to look at the productivity, the labor costs, and the intended target audience that the customer is buying it for. In my view, there’s no “Everything over 500 goes on press. Everything under 500 doesn’t.”