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: Yes, we see customers running monochrome jobs on color machines. And the economies of scale are really the important part. Customers will only do this if it is a cost competitive thing to do. If they have a very long, high volume monochrome job, it’s almost never cost competitive to do that compared to a pure monochrome cut sheet printer.
But there are many reasons why someone would do that on a color machine. One way is they only have the money or the space to get one digital device and they know they want to do some color. They need to make sure they work with their printer provider to be sure they have a different cost per image for monochrome pages and color pages. They don’t want to get sucked into the situation where they only have one cost regardless of whether it’s all black-and-white or if it has color on it. And most people do have different pricing for a monochrome-only page. That can drive the cost of a monochrome-only page way down. They can work with their printer provider to get them a cost that may be attractive for a monochrome-only page, but probably not quite as low as on a pure monochrome-only device.
There are a couple of other things they need to be careful of. One is that, when they are printing what they think should be a monochrome only page, that they really only use pure black toner. Oftentimes, people will have rich black in their offset jobs where they are laying down a little bit of cyan, for example, to really make the black pop. And if you print that rich black type of color on a color device, you will get charged for a color page. So it’s really important that either in the print driver, or in the prepress workflow, or in the printer controller—wherever it is—you have to make sure you specify that you want to use pure black and not rich black. That’s what will help you drive down the cost per page for the pages only have black on them.
Another point on that is that people who run mixed jobs, which I mentioned before as a reason to send it to a digital device. If you can avoid some collation later by putting monochrome and color pages together, the labor of having to do that collation may offset the fact that you’re running your monochrome pages on a color device. So again, it’s sort of the total cost per piece that you’re contemplating there; not just the cost per image.
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: I think there are a couple of different ways to look at this one, too. One is that, depending on what type of distributing printer you have in an office environment, it can be really expensive. So if you have—in an extreme example—inkjets out in the distributing environment, the inkjet printing is often the most expensive printing per page of what’s available. And that’s a terrible way to try to distribute print to try to save money. In that particular case, it may be a pure cost comparison.
If the comparison is being done with a distributed MFP device in an office environment, and it’s a cost competitive device with a good cost per page, then there are other things to consider. That doesn’t have so much to do with the actual print because it looks as good and comes out in either place. It’s more about how you handle the content that’s being printed. If you’re simply sending a static PDF document out to all your office locations and having them print it, it may be a wise thing to do if the cost per page in those locations is acceptable and there’s no confusion about what should be printed where—it’s the same PDF that gets printed in all 50 office locations.
If you start to bring in variable content, then it’s really important that you have a good process to manage that variable content. And that’s the kind of value that a print service provider or a marketing service provider—people like to use that term now—can bring to a corporation that they couldn’t easily do in a distributed office environment. It has to be more than just the print.