Every vendor I have spoken to in the past 3-4 years has said that Inkjet isn't about replacing toner-based digital printing. It's about seriously replacing the offset presses. I am quite sure that ten years ago, many offset printers would have smiled indulgently to this statement. Today, however, the printing industry has changed dramatically - not only because of the COVID-19 - but despite, I would say. Demand for print has changed, quality and speed have increased on the inkjet devices, and even the long-time promise of mass-customization finally seems to be more than a wish.
The presses have, for sure, evolved, and quality on most of them is not really an issue for many types of jobs. The printing companies have changed, but one thing that few talk about is also the fact that the vendors have matured. The dirty-rotten tricks of the Xerox's, Ricoh's, and some of the creative leasing models are long gone (I hope), and today the vendors are members of the big-boys-club where the number of zero's on the price tags have turned them into serious companies (I hope).
The first time you - and yes, I am talking to you, Mr. Printer invested in your first digital toner device, you never thought of this as something that easily could replace your beloved offset machine. You didn't take you expensive offset operators and asked them to manage your digital print devices. You took the opportunity to employ people with another skillset, and some gained a saving on that. Time has changed, and yes, some offset printers have even acquired larger digital toner-devices and substituted offset print. Some may yet have acquired more machines, and some may even admit that the quality is sometimes even better than the old offset machine still on the shop floor, but with less work!
Maybe you still ask your clients whether the jobs should be printed in offset or digital? Perhaps you still have people that sell digital volume and others responsible for offset - and they may live find side by side.
INKJET will change that!
Before you even sign the contract, you will have serious considerations. How is quality, productivity, and is it on level what your customers would expect? The really big question is, obviously, how you can justify this investment. For the first time in your life, you invest in technology where the price is on level with the offset machines you have invested in before. For the first time, you invest in technology that essentially takes away volume from your offset machine.
For sure, your vendor will argue that your consolidated volume from your digital toner and your offset - the inkjet machine will give you a much higher margin. They might be right. They might be wrong. The fact is that you are changing your entire printing company.
The employees you have may fight your decision. Most humans are essentially conservative, and they will protect their work. The offset people may focus on the assumed superior quality of offset over Inkjet. The digital people may focus on the flexibility and higher quality of the toner print. They fight to survive. They fight over their jobs.
You must understand the metrics of people. If you are the boss of a printing company, you must enable a team-spirit. You have to consider the incentives, budgets, and compensation plans of the people affected by your new investment.
Inkjet devices are fast, and they will, for sure, be faster and even better in the future. In a conversation with Inkjet Specialist Jean Lloyd
currently stuck in South Africa, she explains that way too many printing companies investing in Inkjet rarely consider the effect that Inkjet has on the organization!
The reason why not many talks about this are obviously because vendors want to sell equipment. The conversation is mostly about all the good things the machine can do for a printing company, and yes, with the right mix of applications, Inkjet can be amazing. Inkjet is among the technologies that will give printers the quality and speed of offset with the digital press's flexibility. The printing companies who invest in Inkjet will be considered first-movers and may even gain market shares because they also show their customers and prospects that they have the guts to invest.
Let's start this discussion. It's important!