Growing the top line, it keeps all business owners awake at night. Mixed with age-old questions of cost to benefit and risk reward, could production grade digital printing provide your firm a profit boost? "How do I do it?," is the unanswered question that always stopped you from moving forward. But now, digital printing—a better and cheaper technology—places the answer within reach. The time has never been better for offering your customers a wider variety to satisfy their output needs. Special financing options and innovative marketing plans all provide an opportunity to expand your customer base. Digital printing offers print on demand and personalized printing to support a range of marketing and collateral material solutions. What more could a digital sign shop owner ask for?
There is a range of software and hardware solutions that can fit almost any print operation’s needs. A few players in the industry for your consideration are Kodak, Xeikon, and Xerox. Many other companies like Canon, Konica Minolta, Océ, Ricoh, and RISO also offer excellent solutions.
Kodak NexPress 2100: As Flexible As They Come
Kodak’s NexPress 2100 Plus carries a variety of characteristics that differentiate it from its competitors. For example, the system is designed to run on over 460 approved substrates, which enables printers to use the same substrates they were using on offset machines. Another differentiating factor is its five imaging stations. The first four imaging stations create a full-color print image. The fifth imaging station enables spot color, watermarking, protective coating, and high impact glossing.
According to Chuck Hura, color product line marketing manager, the NexPress was built on the premise that commercial printers need flexibility. "Our operational and service model puts press management and control in the operator’s hands, much like commercial printers’ offset operations. This delivers the control and flexibility that operators need to maintain superior image and color quality and consistency page to page, job to job, and month to month."
Mike Howard, VP of marketing for Digital Printing Solutions strategic product group at Kodak, remarks, "Kodak clearly sees digital printing and the NexPress family of color as a key to driving growth. I’m not sure all customers realize this, but the page per minute (ppm) story isn’t what’s important. It’s about pages per day or pages per month. It’s about turn-around time, reliability, and uptime." Kodak understands this. "At Kodak, our focus is helping our customers grow profits through revenue growth, margin expansion, and cost management," Howard adds.
Lowell, MA-based King Printing is one company that uses Kodak’s NexPress family of presses. The book printer purchased their first NexPress, a 2100 Plus, this past March and hasn’t looked back since. Adi Chinai, managing director of the printing company, explains, "It is a machine that is very user-friendly and benefits the company because being digital, sheet fed, and web offset, we are allowed to mix and match components."
The company states that it chose the NexPress over any other machine based on its dependability, consistency, and its strong construction. And they speak from experience. King Printing made the move to digital in 1989. Chinai explains, "When we installed our first digital printing devices, we were one of the only three companies in the country to do so at the time and the first on the East Coast."
There is great convenience in owning a digital press. Chinai continues, "In focusing on short run book manufacturing thanks to digital print, we are able to offer customers all book binding capabilities under one roof."
Being a pioneer in the digital print space has given King Printing a wide perspective on the print world. Chinai believes that digital printing has given his company, "the ability to serve the trade and educational markets better. Creating efficiencies for us time wise and allowing us to help customers of all sizes combat the global economic pressures which we are all facing." The efficiency will become even greater for the book printer soon enough; they are already discussing the purchase of another NexPress.
Xeikon 5000: Printing Above and Beyond
The Xeikon 5000 digital press’ most defining feature is that as the web passes through the print engine, both sides are imaged, so duplex printing is done in a single pass. According to John Kaufman, VP of marketing and business development at Punch Graphix Americas Inc, the Xeikon 5000 is the, "only digital color press that prints on both sides of the substrate in one pass, using One-Pass-Duplex technology." According to Xeikon, the result is that front to back registration is perfect.
The machine is, "truly a high volume press. It can print up to three million A4 pages per month without breaking a sweat," says Kaufman. When asked where he thought digital was heading in the next few years, Kaufman states that he sees it moving toward, "higher volumes, better quality, and an increasing use of color and personalization." He foresees Xeikon specifically undertaking further improvements in its market penetration and continuing to evolve its digital color technology.
Sudhir Ravi of TVP Color Graphics, Inc. is an avid user of the Xeikon 5000. The commercial digital printer based in Chicago, IL, made the transition to digital printing about three years ago. Ravi explains, "Overall, the effect was positive. However, there was a period of about a year which people in the industry refer to as digital purgatory where you have the technology, lots of customer interest, but no paying customers."
Despite the brief period of digital purgatory that Ravi encountered, there seems to be no doubt in his mind that going digital benefited TVP. "It has allowed us to engage customers in more meaningful discussions and has helped define who we are in the marketplace."
Being a commercial printer with a digital color press has given TVP Color Graphics many opportunities to offer new options to its customers. TVP specializes in printing banners and larger items and using the Xeikon 5000 allows them to print above the standard 14x20-inch image area. Arguably, the Xeikon 5000’s most attractive feature is that it is currently the only machine that can print 20 inches by any length. The machine is also convenient for Ravi and his customers because it can print on a variety of media—ranging from both coated and un-coated paper, label stock, synthetic media, to even 16-point board.
Ravi foresees digital printing as a whole playing a larger role in the future for TVP Color Graphics. "We are moving towards increased utilization of versioning and variable data printing."
Xerox iGen3 110: Offering All the Right Tools
According to Tom Wetjen, VP, Worldwide Graphic Communications Industry, Xerox Corp., technology is not the first thing that a commercial printer should be looking for when venturing into the digital print world. He makes the observation, "The most successful digital printers that we have seen out in the marketplace today are the people who focused on their business model and they made sure they had a business plan. Then took the time to understand their customer base and what applications they wanted to focus on." Essentially, digital printers should be asking what business are we in, how can we make this work, and how will we position ourselves? Wetjen continues, "There is a lot more discussion to be had around the business model and the workflow product, rather than selecting the right print engine." What is then left is the last step of the digital print puzzle, figuring out what technology to use.
Xerox offers a series of components to help a digital printer be successful. Branded as ProfitAccelerator tools, Wetjen explains that the different packages offered literally have tools like a kit to help a printer. Kits include tools on how to write a marketing plan, provide an outline on how to run an open house, and how to utilize public relations. There is even a vertical market kit that specifically helps the customer understand digital applications in the various industry subsets.
Western Graphics, based in St. Paul, MN, is very familiar with Xerox’s ProfitAccelerator tools. Jon Leinen, VP of sales and marketing, admits that commercial printers are not necessarily good marketers for themselves. "The ProfitAccelerator tools help us to get products and concepts out to our clients and the marketplace quicker with more professionalism than we might be able to in the same time frame on our own."
Western Graphics installed their first Xerox iGen3 in March 2005. They were so impressed with the machine they decided to install a second press in December 2005. According to Leinen, the company chose the iGen3 twice because of its, "ability to run more commercial grade stocks along with the increased uptime and reliability." Along with the iGen3’s high image quality and flexibility of stocks, Leinen believes that the iGen3 has allowed Western Graphics to dissolve the myth that, "there has to be a trade off in quality when moving from offset to digital full color."
Leinen continues, "For Western Graphics, digital printing is the answer to challenges like customization and personalization." Such challenges are now ones that they would never have been able to overcome before their iGen3.
Recently, Western Graphics took on the project of creating a portfolio for a high-end advertising agency. "The client wanted to update the inside pages [of the portfolio] on demand and needed limited quantities at a time. The Xerox iGen3 image quality is actually better than what they were getting previously with a four color offset and allows them to get what they need when they need it."
Everything for Anyone
Creating a marketing solution for your customers has never been faster thanks to digital printing. And the future looks just as bright with machinery becoming available to print shops all over.