Buying Perspectives of an In-Plant Printing Executive
With so many options available, it can be a challenge narrowing the field to a manageable list to evaluate, whether or not you intend to pursue a full blown RFP or not. There are some questions you can ask yourself early in the process to help cull down your list.
Why do I need a new press?
There are several reasons in-plant printers may need to invest in new equipment:
- Your old toner systems are approaching end of life. You don’t need any additional capabilities or capacity – you just need to keep doing what you’re doing. This may be true for an in-plant who has static and predictable volumes, producing the same output with no new requirements or opportunity to expand.
- You have recently added volume, without adding the necessary capacity, and find yourself struggling to meet Service Level Agreements.
- You need new capabilities, greater capacity or faster output speeds to meet your customers’ requirements.
The answer to that first question will drive the rest. If you don’t need additional capacity or capabilities, narrow your search to the capabilities you have now. Don’t buy a Ferrari to run to the grocery store when you can do it with a Civic. But, if you have additional requirements for speed, capacity, color, reduced run costs or different finishing, or have opportunities to take in additional outside work, you’ll want to broaden your search.
What do I really need?
Do you need inkjet or toner? A thorough understanding of your volumes and analysis of maintenance, consumables and capital outlays will help determine which is the right solution for you. In addition, your timeline should factor into the equation. Since the capital outlay for inkjet is often higher than toner, and the production costs are lower, inkjet will have a lower Total Cost of Operation (TCO) over time, but toner may be lower in the short term. Capital outlay versus ongoing run cost is a decision each company needs to weigh based on their short term and long-term goals and outlook.
Next, dig in and analyze your current volumes and your future needs. This is absolutely critical. Determine your finishing requirements. Is your preferred input roll fed or cut-sheet? Do you need your finishing to be roll-to-roll, roll-to-fold, or roll-to-cut? And is finishing in-line or off-line? Do you have additional finishing requirements such as stitching or binding or die-cut? Upgrading finishing equipment is expensive, but it can be worth the investment if done right.
Is a significant portion of your work simplex? If you print a fair amount of simplex work, you will want to look for configurations that can be run as two separate presses concurrently, as this will double your capacity for simplex printing. In addition, if your maintenance contract has a click charge, you’ll potentially be paying unnecessary click charges when running simplex through two print engines. Also factor in what finishing equipment you would need when running two simplex engines at the same time.
Don’t forget about the exceptions in the workflow. If you have a high speed inkjet press running a roll-to-roll job and you suddenly need to reprint a hand-full of damaged pieces from another job in order to meet an SLA, you probably don’t want to stop the roll-to-roll job you’re running to change over to cut-sheet finishing for a few re-prints and then change it back. You might want to think about adding a low capacity cut-sheet printer to handle those exception situations.
Who has it?
Once you’ve decided what you need, it’s time to do the culling process we mentioned earlier. Your needs exclude certain vendors and models. Once you’ve identified which models the capabilities you need, narrow it down to the top three or four keeping in mind your feelings about the manufacturer.
Who’s the best OEM?
The best OEM may be different for different buyers based not only on their needs, but also on other factors like the long-term relationship (be it great or not-so-hot). Factors to be considered in this phase are:
- Print Quality
- Speed / Capacity
- Cycle duties
- Machine Uptime
- Industry Reputation
- Financial Health of the vendor / future outlook
- Other factors, such as your relationship with the vendor
Who do you trust?
This is the most critical question to ask before making a purchase. I wish I could take credit for it, but it came from Marco Boer. It was the final question that Marco asked at the Inkjet conference in 2016, and it stuck with me.
If you have a good relationship with your incumbent vendor and you trust them, they should be rewarded for building that trust. If they’ve failed you in the past, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. But either way, go with the one you trust.