How do in-plants and print service providers make the right investment decisions in volatile times? In the last year, most companies experienced significant changes in response to the pandemic. While print was deemed an essential service, many in-plants experienced dramatic fluctuations in print volumes, challenges with staffing, new safety protocols, and impacts on supply chains.
The year of adapting
2020 saw many companies put inkjet investment decisions on hold while they adapted to unforeseen changes. State run in-plant managers shared the impact of changes on their organizations. With significant growth in print volumes and wide format signage, some in-plants in healthcare expanded their capabilities with inkjet. Home-schooling and online learning drove dramatic changes in print volumes at K-12 and higher education in-plants.
2021 will bring a second look at postponed investment decisions. The good news is there were nine major production inkjet announcements made in 2020. (Elizabeth Gooding provided a detailed summary of the announcements as well as the feature and capability changes for the document and publishing sector.)
The announcements included five roll-fed and four sheet-fed devices aimed at further disruption and replacement of both offset and toner devices. For the OEMs, many of these announcements are second generation enhancements or upgrades that improve and expand speed, quality and substrates. These new devices and added features can now provide output and manufacturing process improvements that will replace more toner and offset presses.
The major technical enhancements across the new inkjet devices include:
- Enhanced ink formulation
- Higher resolution print arrays
- Improvements in drop formation and placement
- In-line quality control
- Nozzle compensation
- Innovative drying options
The devil is in the details
Does your RFP for a new production inkjet device ask questions about nozzle compensation?
Yes, the devil is still in the details. These features and enhancements mean faster throughput, better quality, and more flexible paper and substrates. They also mean decision makers must fully understand all aspects of cost and workflow for the entire production process to demonstrate the full impact of an inkjet decision. The newer devices will also enable clearer ROI decisions to migrate to inkjet from offset or toner. Software enhancements and workflow automation can drive significant cost reduction in labor.
Now is the time to assess your needs. Evaluate your total cost of manufacturing and make the right investment decisions for your organization. Volumes and SLAs may change, and staffing may continue to be difficult. Inkjet provides the reliability and predictability that is essential for in-plant production print departments.
Some in-plant managers shared how they have adjusted to significant staffing changes while implementing operational changes and growing their volumes. They are now well positioned to justify inkjet investments.
Without in-person events, more online research, webinars and calls will be needed to obtain relevant information and context for your company and your requirements. Last year, I wrote about how best to stay informed in a remote world. The best investment decisions are informed by:
- a combination of qualitative and quantitative data
- input and analysis from several sources
- context of defined decision criteria
- clarity of financial impact for the entire manufacturing process
Today, there are even more choices for inkjet, both roll-fed and cut-sheet, to transform your production environment. Whether this is your first inkjet decision or your tenth – doing the research, leveraging industry information and getting qualitative input from peers will guide you to the best-informed decision.
See also In-Plant Considerations in Choosing and Inkjet Press by Pete Gjerness
Premium members, check out RFP Checklist: Production Inkjet Requirements