Another great example is the difference between people using the words cut sheet and sheetfed. I’ve had experience with certain customers that if you use the term “cut sheet” around them, they instantly are turned off because the feel like you don’t know what you are talking about. In their history of running sheetfed presses, they always say “sheetfed.” So it’s a way to talk about things to try to play to the people you’re selling to.
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: If it’s a variable content job, then the digital printer is really the only way to go. So if every sheet of the output is going to be different, then you need to have a digital device to be able to do that. Once you’ve got that foundation, you still could decide to do a non-variable job or a short-run variable job on either an offset press or a digital device.
It is hard to give exact rules because everyone has their own cost structure, but you have to take into account these types of things. The turnaround time—if you have a customer who comes in and needs something in one hour, you may not have time to do your press setup or your proofing or computer-to-plate. You can send it directly to a digital device and you get it done quickly.
There are associated trade outs when it comes to the length of the run. If you have longer setup time, that becomes less important. Or if you have a very short-run job, then setup on a press becomes more important. So length of run is something that should be factored into the decision about where to send it.
The media that’s going to be used is another one. If it’s a static media for the whole job, it may not matter much either way. You probably even have more flexibility on the press than you do on the digital device. But if you have any change in the media inside the job, you really can only choose the digital device. There’s no easy way to change media in the middle of an offset job.
Next would be post processing. If you’re going to be doing the same type of finishing to all these pieces of output, you may have labor concerns that would impact your cost for that job from either device. If you’re going to simply create some saddle stitched booklets, you might have a digital device with an inline finisher that does that for you—no hands on at all until the finished job is done. Whereas, in an offset environment you probably take that to a near line saddle stitch booklet maker and there’s just more labor involved, which drives up the cost.
The last point that’s important is if you have some intermixed color and monochrome pages, you can do that on a monochrome digital device. You can print a mono-only job and easily insert color pages, especially if they are static pages that could have been done on an offset device. But you have to factor all those things together. A lot of people have calculators that they’ve put together in Excel that sum everything up and say, “If this job is over 2,000 images, I’m going to send it to my offset press. Otherwise, I’m going to go digital.” That number can vary wildly from company to company, depending on what their labor costs are or what kind of equipment they have available.
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 want to describe this in two different parts. One is what I would call more of a static digital monochrome type of job. The volume of those types of jobs—like 50 copies of a manual, the same manual for every person—those volumes are really flat to declining, in my opinion. The variable content for those kinds of jobs—like a different manual for every person in a class because they are personalized—is growing. This is in sort of a print on demand world. I don’t think these rules apply to a transaction kind of environment like a databank.
From a variable content perspective, I think it is not only more of the same kind of thing that people might have been doing, but new kinds of applications that are being developed or built at the request of someone who has an idea to drive variable content to the end user. So that could be the example I gave about a manual that is sent to every student in a class with their name repeatedly showing up within the document or specific content for that person, based on the knowledge that they already have. Or it could be the type of thing that was traditionally done from a variable content, such as postcards, but they’re just doing more of it.