Color machines have no limitations on percentage of monochrome versus color. But you’re also using a more expensive maintenance contract, a more expensive cost per page for monochrome, and generally speaking, a slower device. You’re outputting on a 50, 55, or 60 page a minute device when you can get a 95 or a 105 for a fairly reasonable price. And it will probably be much more productive over time because you’re tying up your high value color output for producing monochrome pages.
I could understand if you’re a very small printer with very low volume—all one device. But the threshold of when it makes sense to go to separate monochrome and color is probably pretty low in terms of page volume.
Q: What should printers know about the new generation of monochrome digital devices that they may not be aware of?
A: I think the big thing is to really get to understand the types of inline finishing that can happen. The days of tape binding or stapling being the only major inline finishing are long gone. You have some pretty sophisticated abilities to bind books. For perfect binding, you can build your covers on your color device and, in our case, add up to six different color inserts, where you’re integrating tabs and everything else in a perfect bound or a saddle stitched product. You are providing a much higher value output in the pages, but with no additional labor costs. Set up is very, very small compared to doing it off line or not offering the service at all. So they really offer the capability to give a much broader range of product offerings to your customer set.
Number two, the image quality and volume handling capabilities are as good as ever at a price point that is far better than it was 10 years ago. The range of media you can print on is much wider. You have a lot of sophisticated capabilities. You can do GBC punching, inline perfect binding, inline saddle stitching, and regular finishing. They have very sophisticated front ends that allow really good job management and usually pretty good integration upstream to workflow.
And VDP is a big thing. Entry level VDP is what letter shops do—or did—which is, “We’re going to put an address and an individual name on this letter for a million different customers.” If you’re really doing variable data or going beyond variable data, you really have to become an IT person. All the manufacturers say, “We can do VDP.” Sure, we can do it, but to be successful, you’ve got to put some pretty good IT skills on the front end, or at least a reasonable understanding of IT skills. You’re taking somebody else’s data and doing something with it. So it’s beyond a letter shop thing. Transpromo, or whatever you want to call it, is a completely different deal than letter shop work. It’s incumbent on the printer to understand what their capabilities are or what they need to add to the equation. That’s really the key thing.
Hey, I’m a manufacturer and we know all about that stuff. We do all these great things, but whose going to handle the data? And in this environment today, you have to be seriously concerned about the security of the data as well. You see more of these data breeches going on. That chain of ownership and security is very critical, and understanding the IT side is very critical. But I think the smart printers who are looking down the line will be looking to ask, “How can we add some of those capabilities?” Or find a service provider who can provide that capability and then just provide the output. But that’s one of those services you really want to be able to offer over time. You just need to understand what you’re getting into.
Forrest Leighton, Director of Product Marketing, Production Systems Division
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: Significant differences can be found between a traditional office copier and a digital press with respect to workflow integration, quality, and durability as well as the customer environment where each product will be deployed. In general, a company that is best served by an office copier has different needs and scale requirements than a business requiring a digital press.