If short runs are the “new normal” in the offset and digital print worlds, then vast increases in the sheer number of jobs flowing through the average shop has become the standard as well. “There was a time when we would not even quote a job under 5,000 pieces,” recalled Kathy Wise...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with MyPRINTResource. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
GLL still prints a fair share of general commercial work, too. “But if I have 500 static brochures to run, it’s entirely my call as to which press to run it on,” Schultz pointed out. “Whether it’s digital or offset doesn’t really matter to customers. There are no longer questions about quality. Eleven or 12 years ago, people would say. ‘Don’t run it digital.’ But the digital [print] world has really caught up to the offset world.”
Besides, Schultz said, “We just don’t need that [large] footprint any more. We had five 40-inch presses at one time, as well as two-colors. We produce the same offset volumes today with two newer, 40-inch Heidelbergs’ high speeds and fast makereadies.” GLL has two six-color Speedmaster models: a 102 perfector and an XL-105 installed in 2009, both featuring aqueous coaters.
Owners of many 21st century start-up print firms don’t even consider offset press technology. And there are the former sheetfed shops that added digital presses to their arsenals over the past two decades or so. DME, an acronym for Digital Mail Express, is an example of a business that has totally converted over to digital print. “The only offset equipment we have now are envelope presses,” said Wise. Any other offset jobs that come in get outsourced these days, she added.
The Florida firm was “an early adopter of the first iGen3 presses from Xerox eight or nine years ago,” she noted. Since migrating to three iGen4’s, DME also has added two HP Indigo 7500 models, two monochrome Kodak DigiMaster e150’s, and a pair of Xeikon 5000’s. Such device diversity led HP to invite DME to beta test its SmartStream Production Center (see sidebar), which is “due to come out of beta in mid-April,” Wise said. The fleet of nine digital devices outputs everything from personal wrapping paper, short-run postcards, and photo prints to invitations, business cards, collateral, and even books -- quantities from one to more than 500 – in its 120,000-square-foot facility. “It’s communion season now,” said Terry Webber, DME’s director of business and product development. A typical work day in production consists of aggregating anywhere between 25 and 50 jobs. So how does DME handle all that product and volume variety?
“We began taking web-to-print seriously about three years ago,” explained Webber, “starting with an out-of-the box solution at first from OPS [Online Print Solutions], which is now part of EFI. We got our feet wet with direct-to-consumer sites.” For sports memorabilia firm Replay Photos, it created an e-commerce site from where unframed prints can be ordered. “We use DirectSmile [software] for some of their personalized work,” he added. DME developers even created an Online Automated Fulfillment (OLAF) System to aggregate orders sent by OPS, he continued. Over a weekend, DME may fill as many as 3,000 orders for Replay – everything from 3x5 to 9x27-inch prints.
But in the end, OPS “as is” was not flexible enough for what Webber and Wise ultimately envisioned. “So we augmented the framework to fit our needs,” he said. In 2012, DME built out and customized its own platform. “We took two years of learning and got deep into it,” Webber explained. “We made our own code changes and have source code for some of OPS. For personalized assets, we use the XMPie composition engine, plus a variety of other software.”
This added expertise led to Xerox referring DME to its customer, Office Depot, which needed business-to-business portals for its 1,150 retail stores and nine regional printing locations. The project required a complex, back-end routing system, Webber noted. For ACN, a DME-developed portal supports more than 150 sales staffers and 100,000 direct selling agents in North America.
Managing More Print Jobs
Commercially available this month, the HP SmartStream Production Center allows users to efficiently receive, produce, and deliver high volumes of short-run print jobs. With monitoring, system customization, job submission automation, and productivity optimization tools, print professionals can take better control of the production process, said Hewlett-Packard.
“Production Center tracks all jobs on different pieces of equipment in our building, whether folders, UV coaters, or whatever,” explained Kathy Wise, president of direct marketing printer Digital Mail Express (DME), Daytona Beach, FL, which went live with beta testing last November. The DME production floor features nine digital presses, including models from HP, Kodak, Xeikon, and Xerox.