Increasingly, commercial printing businesses are adding digital power to their output capabilities, in the form of production devices that can handle small lots more efficiently – and add the flourish of variable data printing (VDP) as a value proposition to a client.
So if you’ve set up that Indigo, iGen or NexPress in its own special zone in your production space, it may be time to look at how you can integrate your digital capability more effectively into your offset flow.
It may be temptingly easy to create a “digital island”, complete with its own file preparation, and leave your well functioning offset workflow, with file RIPping and plate production, ticking over nicely – after all, why upset the apple cart?
But over the long haul, double handling of files makes no sense, when you consider that a lot of your digital revenue derives from work your sales team has won for your Speedmaster, Komori or Shinohara.
But before you even contemplate the technologies involved in hybrid workflows, let’s rewind. Just what are you and your sales team actually selling your customers?
The sales proposition
Beaver Press, located at Redfern, NSW and Sydney CBD, is making the most of its hybrid offset-digital acumen. Sales and marketing manager David Francis sees reps’ tasks in selling digital as distinct from those required for offset.
“In offset, you can go out and if you only get, say, six $40,000 jobs a month, you’re doing great.
But in selling digital, you’re processing hundreds of thousands of small jobs, so it’s a different way of handling and looking after your customers.”
Michael Schulz, managing director of SOS Printing in Sydney, believes customers don’t think about processes, only outcomes. SOS’s reps point out to their customers that they can save by avoiding stockpiles of print, all of it quickly outdated and gathering dust.
Schulz told ProPrint that a lot of times a digital solution can bolster the printer-customer relationship by offering a cleverer, more productive solution. It’s not that customers will pay a premium for quick turnarounds anymore (that was back in the 1990s!) Nowadays, they will simply go to your competitor, argues Schulz. In fact, short deadlines are now just as much a part of the sheetfed world as the digital.
Jobs over a certain run length are sent to offset, but customers generally cannot be told to be patient because they’ve ordered a big job. “Our offset is often 24 hours turnaround as well, such as overnight financials.”
Ligare Printing, part of the Opus Print Media Group, opened a digital printing facility (pictured) at its headquarters in Sydney late last year, comprising a hybrid printing component. Opus CEO Cliff Brigstocke explained at the time what he sees as the bonuses in integrating digital and offset printing at Ligare.
“Customers can be offered test-runs of say 50-100 copies of a book, we can then do a production run of say 500, and for longer runs — but with longer turnarounds — we can go to offset printing.”
CanPrint Communications, now also part of the Opus Group, handles a sizeable market in government printing. David Daniel believes business owners and estimators “need to become more flexible because jobs are quoted a certain way, and most jobs are quoted sight unseen — you’re quoting on a set of specifications”.
At McPherson’s, with book printing facilities at Maryborough in central Victoria and Mulgrave in Melbourne, CEO Alan Fahy concurs. “Whether a job is offset or digital should be a production decision, and it’s seamless as far as the customer is concerned.”
The technology to back up the sale
When enough of your customers are interested in what you can achieve from digital, how do you “go hybrid”?
With Beaver Press’s Xerox iGen3, linked to an ORIS Colour Server, print quality is almost indiscernible by the producing technology, contends David Francis.
“Ninety-nine per cent of those who look at it, even professional print buyers, struggle to see the difference.”
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