Understanding the Magic of Hybrid Print Production

The role of print in the media mix continues to change due, in part, to the increased availability of alternative media, often perceived as less expensive and more effective than print. Print is, by no means, dead and will continue to play a key role in the communications mix.

These shifts mean that printers need to adjust their sales and marketing processes as well as their production platforms to position themselves to address today’s market realities.


Moving upstream in the marketing supply chain

From a sales and marketing perspective, savvy printers are working to gain contacts and build relationships further upstream in the marketing communications supply chain. To the extent they earn a seat at the “marketing table,” they will be able to offer advice and influence projects before they are set in stone.


Configuring an optimum production platform

Many marketers also still think about print with a long-run mindset. They dismiss print as too costly for smaller campaigns. This is why it is important for printers to ensure that their production platform can cost-effectively handle run lengths that run the gamut from one to many thousands. This requires a hybrid production platform with a blend of offset and digital.

While longer runs are easily handled with conventional offset presses and ultra-short-run or personalized printing is ideal for toner-based digital print engines, mid-range run lengths of 500 to 20,000 can be challenging to profitably produce. Research firm InfoTrends pegs this volume band as the highest growth volume band, yet it represents a strategic production gap between offset and digital technologies that many printing firms are struggling to profitably bridge.*

This is where digital offset solutions add value. Presstek’s DI digital offset presses are designed specifically for short-run, fast-turnaround production with a minimum of waste in time and materials, as well as on-press imaging of plates without the requirement to use noxious chemicals. By offloading shorter runs from a conventional offset press to a DI press, conventional offset presses can be made more efficient and profitable and the printing company can feel comfortable soliciting more short-run work.


Operational versus market life

There are also times when a company’s client base and client needs have changed to the extent that the capabilities on the existing shop floor no longer meet those needs. Historically, many printing operations have continued to utilize equipment that still has an operational life, but has outlived its market life.

Perhaps there is not enough automation to enable faster makeready and less waste. Or perhaps the firm is still using two-color presses to produce four-color work. Often, conventional offset presses optimized for long runs are interrupted to produce shorter, fast- turn runs, reducing their overall effectiveness and profitability.


Take a critical look

Now is the time for print businesses to take a critical look at their production platforms. The market is changing, and the production platform must change as well.

The successful printing business of the future will most likely consist of a hybrid production platform—leveraging the individual benefits of conventional offset, digital offset, and digital toner-based presses to meet a growing range of customer needs and to bridge the strategic production gap that exists today between offset and digital toner-based technologies. This will ensure a stronger, more profitable business that is well positioned to retain existing customers and gain new ones, while also offering the right range of services that will gain them a seat at the marketing table.

* Presstek DI Printing Study: “Bridging the Gap Between Digital Toner and Conventional Offset” — InfoTrends