[In considering media] maybe you want to do 16-point chrome coat or 14-point chrome coat, maybe the digital doesn’t do that as well. In our case, up to 12- or maybe 14-point, it’ll do fine. But I think you have to look at what sort of substrate the customer is looking for and, obviously, some things are a little better suited to offset than digital anyway. The real thing is you have to know your labor costs. You have to know what is going to be pleasing to the customer. And from there, you have to make the decision.
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: Digital monochrome has been around for quite a while. Going all the way back to the DocuTechs, there was always a pretty good alternative to offset monochrome. So I think there’s probably not a lot of new stuff in that. However, I think that what is happening is some of the volume shifting that’s going on. Monochrome pages overall in production are set to decline—not heavily—but a slow decline over the next few years. And you’re seeing movement. Where you used to have the really high-end product that could do five or eight million impressions per month you now see products that can do about three million impressions per month.
Also, the cost equation of monochrome is changing a bit, and that can broaden the types of things you want to do. But I see monochrome also as being a component if you’re doing kitting work that type of thing. You may have color work and monochrome work going into one job. You do see some of that where printers are offering more marketing services and they want to offer value add around that. Then you might see different types of monochrome pieces interspersed with the color work they do for it. But I don’t see any dramatic change in how monochrome is used.
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: Successful printers are reaching out beyond print just being printing. They may be doing fulfillment. They may be doing inventory management. They may be adding marketing services to it as well. It’s one way of moving up the value chain, and then the volume comes along behind it. That seems to be a trend in the upper end of what we traditionally call the small printer, but even commercial printers are starting to do more of what I call completion and fulfillment type of work. So they are going to capture more total page volume.
The other thing is that you really have to pitch your services in terms of productivity. It’s great that the customer has products that can do all these things, but do they want their employees doing it? Do they want their high value people standing in front of a device? I think the real thing is to pitch the longer run lengths. It’s really better to outsource those because of your people time. They should consult the experts, working through procurement and with whoever they work with on the customer’s side to make them realize that there’s a lot of value to outsourcing some of that stuff, especially if they don’t have an in-plant. It doesn’t make sense for employees to be sitting there by the machines all day.
And the other thing, as far as the printer is concerned, is the printer has to be selling. A lot of owners I talk to may have a guy who sells, but they’re not really selling. They’re selling like they’ve always done. They’re not selling the value equation that they have to offer. If I see one thing across all levels of the print industry, it is the level of salesmanship and sales capabilities out there are not consistently high. You really have to know how to sell the value of your offering and become more of a value added sales proposal to the customer than, “Hey, we can produce these at this price.”
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?
A: There’s nothing good about that. Monochrome is going to cost more on a color device, no doubt. If you have any substantial volume and you look at the cost of leasing monochrome devices, it’s probably not worth it.