By Mary Schilling
To successfully integrate inkjet into your print workflow, focus on 8 key elements to create a clearer path to success. Whether you are in high speed, industrial or packaging, the Great Eight will empower a process, reduce production preparation and down time and pave the way to on-board projects with more profitability.
Inkjet allows a dynamic value-adds called variable data and variable imaging. These benefits are inherent to the inkjet process and are marketers dream. Use data to target marketing and create dynamic personalization for any media printed. Understanding what data a customer has to work with, as well as, how to integrate to their printed products can sometimes be overwhelming. Many times a customer has many different data bases and are not absolutely sure what data they have. Having someone on your team who understands data mining, creative marketing and your variable process is key to helping on-board customers into inkjet.
They say who ever has the data wins, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s a loss.
2. Terminology and Education
Inkjet technology uses different terminology than conventional printers which can create misunderstandings when talking about features of the technology. Getting everyone on the same page is one of the first things to do when training your sales teams. It can be a disaster if it is explained wrong (or not at all) to the sales person and repeated to the customer. There are specific things customers, and particularly designers, should be aware of before starting any static or variable project. Conducting training modules for your customers is a great way for them to see and learn about the process first hand. Make working with your company easy by eliminating technology and language barriers through education.
3. On boarding
When on-boarding a client’s project, take a holistic process view. Many times we take on new customers and projects without looking beyond the project itself. Take a deep dive into the requirements, as well as the impact to the entire production process. Each part of a customer project should be broken into bite sized pieces, analyzed with feed back given to the customer.
- Data requirements
- Incoming file elements and layer configuration
- Graphics color space, resolution, file formats for vector and bitmap images
- Data path size requirements for variable images
- Color and print quality requirements
- Ink coverage
- Print expectations of the customer
- Substrate options align with expectations and ink coverage
- Substrate and ink coverage aligns with machine and drying
- Reproducible color gamut aligns with expectations
- Target color space – if matching other processes or campaigns
- Branding colors are within reproducible color gamut of machine and substrate choice
Do you truly understand your workflow? Has it been mapped to discover bottle necks such as receiving incorrect files. Break your process into smaller pieces to better analyze:
- Incoming file formats
- Job data
- Variable and static data/elements
- Graphic elements
- Time for incoming job handling
- Tasks needed
- Final job size
- RIP and printer processing times
- Processing time per megabyte
If you haven’t done this, then you don’t truly know your workflow. Each time you touch a job it is costing you time and money, and many times we are either having to manually review jobs for accuracy or fixing them in house. It is a good idea to have your entire workflow audited and charted to best understand effort of incoming files to production before and after any inkjet purchase.
5. Color management
In your on-boarding discussions, find out if the customer is trying fit the inkjet project into an existing campaign which includes other print processes. Aligning to one common color space is imperative for inkjet to simulate these other print processes. This discussion with the customer should be at a technical level and may need to involve others deeper in their process such as a production manager or prepress specialist.
Now you know what the customers expectations are. Do you know what color space your inkjet device and media choices are targeting? Different substrates can produce different target limitations. Creating simulation profiles of your complete workflow will help production, sales and customers understand where the limitations are for each substrate type.
Mapping this helps everyone visualize where there are color gaps in the reproduction and color simulation process.
6. Redundancy & Reliability
Inkjet is not magic, there is no easy button. It takes continual maintenance and a clear understanding of the entire print process. First, lets talk about maintenance. Taking the time to do it right will save you from down-time later. Murphy’s law says that when you are the busiest you will have printing issues. Avoid problems by sweeping up dust from paper or other media and cleaning the rollers. Fibrous media creates dust. As air circulates it can cause dust to deposit on the nozzle plate of the heads creating jet outs and affecting your reliability. Printing on coated media creates roller build up when the ink is not completely dry/cured (still tacky) so ink offsets onto the rollers causing down web print defects which affects redundancy.
If you view your entire process from 10,000 feet, you will better understand the impact of fluids on the media, ink application, drying, finishing and the process variables which impact redundancy and reliability. Create standard operating procedures for pressmen (and press women) to follow outlining all settings such as speed, heat, air flow, tension and color profiles needed for each paper grade and weight. Control your process, don’t let your process control you.
7. Inkjet Quarterbacks
Assigning teams to your inkjet process is a good way to keep people up to date on your inkjet as well as emerging technologies. In the past departments would stay separate and send files downstream into the process not realizing the impact it can have on production. Inkjet is fast paced and everyone involved should have a clear understanding of the process. Sharing this knowledge beyond management or the operators creates multiple process quarterbacks for a well tuned process.
8. Inkjet OEM Partnership
Once the inkjet device hits your floor, the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) intimate relationship you had during the sale process should not be over. Your manufacturer has an arsenal of resources which you can use for your sales and marketing efforts. Talk to your OEM about modules to help with your internal and external training. Request inkjet definition listings and resources which they used to sell you that you may integrate into your inkjet messaging.
After the sale, the OEM’s job really just begins by supporting and ramping up your production ensuring your success. If you are successful, they are successful.
As there are many other things which are important to successfully working within the inkjet process, these core 8 areas create a solid foundation to start building a larger, faster and complex inkjet process ensuring your print success for years to come.