On June 26th, Xerox announced the availability of their Baltoro HF inkjet press. The first Baltoro customer is Hume Media, one of Canada’s largest digital print suppliers and also the first customer to purchase the Xerox Brenva back in November 2016 and one of the first to purchase the Xerox iGen years earlier. I had the opportunity to speak with John Hume, President of Hume Media, Inc., about his decision to invest in the Baltoro.
One of the first questions I asked was whether the Baltoro would replace or augment the Brenva, Hume replied, “Replace. The Baltoro will make the Brenva obsolete!” The company currently processes an average of 1.2 million letter images per month on the Brenva. Within 6 months, Hume expects to double the monthly volume on the Baltoro to over 2 million images by transferring volume from offset and iGen platforms. He expects to make one of their iGens obsolete and to purchase a second Baltoro in 2020.
When asked about the major reasons for selecting the Baltoro, Hume said “Printing on coated stocks, quality improvements and speed.” Hume has decided not to pay for the optional speed upgrade right away since he can get the throughput he needs at standard speed. Once they have ramped up the volume then the speed upgrade package may be warranted. At standard speed there is a slight delay between the processing of the front and back of a sheet on the Baltoro. The optional speed upgrade is a software fix that makes the processing seamless, but it comes at a price of 10-15% of the base machine price. On a more positive note, Hume shared that the High Fusion (HF) Baltoro ink pricing is consistent with the Brenva and “in fact it is a little less expensive than we expected.”
Hume did consider several options before selecting the Baltoro, noting that other machines evaluated were very big and required paper to be pre-treated. “The footprint is perfect,” said Hume and noted that “70 percent of our output is on offset coated paper.” Hume Media produces a wide array of quality digital print including books, marketing collateral, direct mail and magazines. The volumes targeted for the Baltoro are specifically coated matte, not gloss, as Xerox has not qualified Baltoro production on offset coated gloss.
While Hume Media does have analog devices, as well as digital, 60 percent of the work they produce is variable. Hume noted that both the Brenva and the Baltoro are “excellent at handling variable data.” Hume discussed an 11×17 500K-piece variable job made up of multiple components with “huge chunks of data to process.” Hume said, “We couldn’t’ split it into enough pieces to make it processes on a Nuvera, but the Brenva handles it fine.”
With regard to the quality improvements that Hume cited, I asked about their quality evaluation process and Hume said that Xerox had run a number of samples for them and continues to do so. I asked if any data was captured on density, gamut, show-through or other objective measures of Baltoro quality and Hume replied, “My quality checking is my eyeballs and my eyeballs say it’s fine, and everyone else I’ve showed it to says it’s fine too.” (My eyeballs also tell me that the Baltoro quality is superior to the Brenva quality, but I sure would like to have some measures to quantify the improvement.)
Hume was very up-front in saying that he is very brand loyal and volunteered that he started his career at Xerox in 1973. Hume Media has had devices from other OEMs from time to time, but they are predominantly a Xerox shop. Despite that, he is fully aware of what it takes to be the first customer with any new press. They signed the Baltoro contract at the end of June and expect to have the Baltoro in full production some time in Q4 2019. “We expect the same ramp up that we had with the Brenva in 2016. We are very patient with Xerox and they are very patient with us.” Hume Media will have the Brenva running side by side with the Baltoro until full acceptance, and then the Baltoro will officially make the Brenva obsolete.