By Lois Ritarossi, High Rock Strategies
There has been widespread adoption of inkjet platforms replacing digital toner and offset printers in the last five years. Many in-plants justified investment in inkjet platforms based on three criteria: reduced cost of running inkjet over older print devices, increased speed, throughput, and the elimination of pre-printed shells. However, newer inkjet technologies from several manufacturers have improved image quality and substrate flexibility opening up a range of new opportunities and continuing to drive efficiency improvements.
Opportunities Beyond Operating Costs
Beyond the lower processing cost and improvements to throughput, inkjet also provides many manufacturing advantages. One large school district was able to install full color, cut-sheet inkjet to replace multiple black and white toner devices. While most of their output was monochrome, they leveraged the lower cost of inkjet to change applications to full color and impact learning outcomes. School districts have long believed they can’t afford color printing and structured their in-plants for black and white printing. Inkjet has enabled full color printing at the cost of black and white. By printing in color, teachers and students are finding documents are more visually interesting, compelling more reading, increasing retention, and supporting better learning in a multi-channel world.
Adopting inkjet also delivered dramatic improvements in workflow by allowing personalization and variable data. Jobs that were previously collated, boxed and shipped by hand, are now run with inline finishing by school or class along with shipping instructions. This workflow change eliminates manual labor, reduces errors and provides faster turnaround to teachers and students.
Many in-plants have improved the appearance and use of printed materials by adding color and streamlining the manufacturing process, while providing flexibility to the content and document owners. Inkjet enables full color, variable data and personalization thereby eliminating pre-printed forms, separate streams for mono and color components and reducing inventory management.
Postal Optimization – Whole Pennies
In-plant print mail operations in financial, insurance and health care sectors have leveraged inkjet platforms to commingle multiple documents across different lines of business to qualify for higher presort postal discounts. Merging data streams across lines of business to electronically commingle more documents into one larger mailing enables significant postal savings. When we compare the cost of toner or offset printing to inkjet, the savings is often in fractions of pennies per page. With postal presort rates ranging from $.412 to $.459, electronically commingling multiple documents could mean a savings of two to four cents per piece of mail. Smart in-plants have been able to save up to $.031 per envelope. Whole pennies per envelope add up quickly with large volume mailers, providing postal savings that have a significant positive impact on budgets.
In-plants in verticals like higher education and retail leverage inkjet technologies to create new applications that wow their customers every day with creative solutions. Larger sheets sizes and ever-expanding options for media and textures with specialty finishing deliver print applications that are engaging and increase the value of print. Applications like short run posters, or personalized booklets that were cost prohibitive from an offset perspective or challenging to produce with in-house devices, can be run and finished effectively with inkjet and a well thought out workflow.
Smart print applications now include augmented reality and rich media to drive interactions to the web and mobile devices. The previous complexity of managing different covers and match mailings in a labor-intensive finishing process is eliminated. Effective data management and versioning in the source data files create custom inkjet print applications for each recipient.
In-plants have shared success stories about leveraging inkjet to create posters, booklets and direct mail solutions that they previously could not create cost effectively. By reimagining and improving each step in the manufacturing process, while also leveraging data to produce print that drives engagement, in-plants are providing relevant inkjet driven solutions to their organizations.