A: Digital production devices are designed for production environments and dedicated professional operators. A printer/copier is designed for multiple users in typically an office environment. Production devices are designed for higher duty cycles, a broader range of applications and typically have better reliability. Production devices may have less functionality than multifunction devices, but the implemented functionality consistently has heavy duty capabilities. Production devices and the workflow software driving them are designed and optimized to mass produce complex applications in an efficient manner. To maximize utilization, these are designed to enable key operator maintenance and round the clock service support.
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: In general, this decision will be driven by the total cost of production and turn around time. Digital devices require less prepress time and cost, and can produce shorter run lengths significantly faster. If jobs require multiple media or mixed color and monochrome, the multiple picking points of a digital device are a huge advantage.
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: Across the board, we see the typical monochrome digital applications decline. But many customers are successfully growing their monochrome jobs by looking at migrating offset applications to digital, and so enabling new print-on-demand or book-of-one business models. Other typical monochrome applications like statement printing get a new boost if the content is enhanced with advertising (transpromo).
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: Jobs with limited volume and requirements and a short turnaround time should be produced in the office locations. This is what we call convenience printing. Service providers can produce larger quantities against significantly lower price and can produce applications with higher added value in terms of media, sizes, and professional finishing.
To be correct, the time needed from office workers to produce jobs should also be taken into the equation. Service providers can further differentiate by offering additional services like distribution. However, more complex jobs with run lengths, specialized finishing, and use of variable data favor centralized production.
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: In most cases, the economies of scale only work in this case if the monochrome volume is very limited. In general, we see that the monochrome volumes are still higher than the color volumes, and the typical monochrome print produced on a color device is still more expensive than on a dedicated monochrome device. The best printing solution will depend on the volumes and the mix of jobs.
Q: What should printers know about the new generation of monochrome digital devices that they may not be aware of?
A: Newly introduced technology innovations have pushed digital monochrome production into new standards. We see new speed benchmarks and duty cycles up to 10 million prints per month. True digital perfecting technology has improved registration to match that of offset and enables applications that weren’t possible before. Print quality and workflow flexibility have also opened doors to new ways of working, as well as integration with color workflows for job splitting and combining.
Eric Staples, Product Manager, Light Production Cutsheet Solutions
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: I think that your comment about marketing semantics is right on the money. It’s based, in my opinion, off of where the product is being marketed. So considering the large transition from offset to digital, a lot of marketers are targeting offset press customers who are used to the word “press,” and this is a way to start to bring “digital” into their vernacular.