Inkjet, Software, and the White Paper Factory

High-speed inkjet presses are taking center stage as the fastest, most versatile way to produce documents ranging from ordinary bills and statements to direct mail, some catalogs, and free-standing inserts. The ability to print full color at up to 650 feet per minute positions these machines to replace many continuous-feed toner-based systems. The rate of change is increasing because high-speed inkjet makes sense for three reasons.

First, there are significant cost savings for total cost of printing. Second, being able to add color a reasonable cost is a compelling advantage. Finally, inkjet presses that can handle multiple applications fit well with ongoing industry consolidation.


Three steps to efficiency and economy

With inkjet, there are three areas to master in gaining a competitive advantage.

1. File Preparation & Optimization. This can be as simple reducing file sizes to make jobs easier to run, or batching files together to create longer runs that can be printed, one after another. Begin by taking steps out of the process and minimizing resource management. This requires a non-disruptive workflow that doesn’t require extra efforts or exception processing by IT, production staff, customer communications, compliance, legal or marketing.

2. Adopt a white paper strategy. One of the key benefits of inkjet presses is the ability to eliminate pre-printed stock and adopt a white paper strategy. Doing so means mastering several challenges in managing both color and data. These include:

Color space. Map incoming files from RGB to CMYK and test files with critical spot or PMS colors. Even if using ICC profiles, test thoroughly: Inkjet is not the same as toner when it hits the paper.

Is your black really black? This is especially important because the interaction between ink and the substrate may not always result in a dark enough black. For example, a CMYK black that isn’t dark enough can cause readability problems with bar codes.

Adding and modifying content. An agile, efficient workflow lets you modify a file or rectify errors before production begins. However, to reduce downstream problems it is critical to know how a document is constructed. Additionally, software that compares document content and layout helps streamline this process and ensure accuracy.

Co-mingling and householding. By electronically pre-sorting and digitally co-mingling, documents from different production lines can be produced more efficiently and be grouped to achieve maximum postage discounts while commonly saving one to two days over physical co-mingling.

3: Integration: The last mile of efficiency. One way to gain efficiency is by feeding the inkjet printer directly. Make connecting to the printer smart and easy. Find the optimal way to produce each job based on its datastream. For example, if IPDS output is needed you may be able to use a “smart IPDS” connection that can intelligently query the printer for the preferred way to stream the documents. Or open the input options by taking multiple formats in, optimizing and even converting to a printer-native format, then outputting in four colors to drive the heads more efficiently.


Workflow as a competitive advantage

Workflow was once a set of processes that many companies and print service providers developed internally, frequently writing their own customized programs to handle the digital elements and creating manual procedures for the physical steps. But today, with nearly every element of a job being digital, a robust and flexible digital workflow has become a clear differentiator that can provide significant competitive advantages. From optimization, through printing, electronic distribution, and archiving, implementing an end-to-end workflow is critical to a successful, profitable operation. Look for tools that will enable you to get the maximum value from your digital presses in each of the three key areas: file preparation, high-speed production, and the efficiency of integration.