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 user 2007-03-12 at 10:09:00 am Views: 71
  • #17383

    Digital Color: What a Difference A Decade Makes
    use of digital color can help drive the importance of the in-plant as
    an integral part of key business processes in the organization.DIGITAL
    COLOR was introduced to the marketplace more than a decade ago. Indigo
    and Xeikon unveiled key new products in the mid-1990s, and early
    projections were that these technologies would take off.Initially, as
    with a number of new technologies, there were technical issues. Presses
    were unreliable; ink and toner didn’t stick to the paper; and the cost
    of consumables was too high to generate any substantial application
    transfer from offset technology.Today, Indigo has been taken over by
    Hewlett Packard. Xeikon faced bankruptcy before being acquired by Punch
    Technologies. Kodak bought out Heidelberg’s share of NexPress. Ink and
    toner are now sticking to the paper. The quality of the output is
    substantially better. Consumables costs are down and reliability has
    improved dramatically. Broad arrays of substrates are available to make
    the technology more competitive with offset. In-line finishing options
    abound to enhance operational efficiency. And there are a number of
    application software solutions to support the implementation of
    customized marketing programs.

    The Opportunity
    convergence of more affordable and reliable equipment that can deliver
    high-quality output, ease-of-use application software tools, and
    finishing and substrate alternatives is driving tremendous growth in
    digital color printing. InfoTrends expects the retail value of print in
    the U.S. production color (24+ ppm) print-on-demand environments to
    experience a compound annual growth rate of 23 percent between 2005 and
    2010.Just as the in-plant community played a major role in driving the
    adoption of black-and-white digital printing, they are leading
    purchasers in the 24-59 ppm production segment and are also having a
    significant impact on placements of units that run at 60+ ppm. About
    1/3 of combined color placements across all product segments are in the
    in-plant environment.

    Options and Alternatives
    Given the market growth potential, there has been tremendous buzz and activity in the production digital color market:
    On the high duty cycle side of the digital color production market,
    Canon unveiled its next-generation production color imagePRESS C7000VP.
    - Kodak announced its NexPress 2500 and rolled it out in 2006. Kodak also launched its 250-foot-per-minute Versamark VT3000.
    - Punch Graphix built on the success of the Xeikon 5000 with the launch of its Xeikon 6000.

    Since acquiring Indigo, HP has continued to combine IT and engineering
    strengths with its graphic arts technology. During Graph Expo 2006, the
    company introduced two digital front end solutions for its HP Indigo
    portfolio. Another example of this combination is the improvements to
    the HP Indigo 5000, making it the first true universal production
    device and signaling the beginning of a new era in production color
    printing with its cost of operation and monochrome speed
    improvements.Of specific interest for the in-plant environment is the
    introduction of what some categorize as mid-production or lower duty
    cycle production color engines (100,000 to 999,999 impressions per
    month). The competition is heating up in the mid-production color
    market. The new crop of mid-production devices will be more robust than
    light production solutions, while offering considerably lower capital
    acquisition costs than devices designed for duty cycles of 1,000,000+
    impressions per month.

    Konica Minolta carved out a niche in the
    mid-production monochrome market with its bizhub PRO 1050 and has
    repeated this success in the mid-production color space with the bizhub
    PRO C6500. Xerox has experienced tremendous success with its DocuColor
    6060 and 8000 families and has extended its offering into the
    mid-production range with its new DocuColor 5000. These mid-production
    devices are serving as entry points into the world of digital color for
    the in-plant market. This market is moving toward shorter run lengths,
    giving in-plants the opportunity to deliver myriad full-color
    applications.Some in-plants are leveraging the technology to test
    variable data applications, while others are doing short-run brochures,
    postcards, business cards, invitations and newsletters. These devices
    have been reliable, quality is more than acceptable and they are backed
    by strong service and support infrastructures.

    Software and Online Solutions
    the transformation of the printing industry evolves from one of
    manufacturing to communications, new software applications are emerging
    daily to help in-plants expand digital color volumes. New desktop,
    server and online solutions enable service providers to do everything
    from intercepting jobs over the Web to managing dynamic cross-media
    campaigns consisting of variable text and images and generating
    production-ready output streams.Toolsets like Web CRD from Rochester
    Software Associates, Digital Storefront from EFI, Atlas PrintShop Web,
    and Printable’s FusionPro Suite provide access to the in-plant user
    community via the Web. Variable data offerings cover the gamut from
    entry-level mail merge solutions like Atlas PrintShop Mail to
    integrated marketing campaign management solutions from MindFireInc and
    XMPie. The challenge for today’s in-plant manager is not determining if
    there is a solution available, but identifying the best toolset for the
    specific environment.

    Digital Color: Beyond Technology
    in-plants are using digital color to expand their services and gain
    improved strategic relevance (see CCP story on page 16). Digital color
    technology on its own is not enough to differentiate an in-plant;
    in-plants must use the technology to demonstrate a return on investment
    for their organization. Innovative digital color users are finding that
    effective use of production color lets them reach new users with
    value-added solutions.

    The benefits of today’s technology are clear:
    1/Exceptional turnaround
    convenience, control and complianceUser departments have a common set
    of problems that the digital color enabled in-plant market can address.
    Compression of production time is a driving force in today’s market.
    There is no such thing as a production schedule for print. In-plants
    need to meet customers’ expectations, and this means rush jobs are the
    norm.Quality digital color allows in-plants to put more control for
    critical print jobs in the hands of the user departments and exceed
    turnaround expectations. Catherine M. Ciardi, director of Document
    Services at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, in Rochester, N.Y.,
    installed a NexPress 2500 in December.“When we put the NexPress in, the
    floodgates opened. We did more than 50,000 impressions in the first two
    and a half weeks we had the press,” Ciardi says. “We now can provide
    exceptional turnaround time for color and black-and-white production.
    We aren’t paying for rush services; we’re meeting deadlines. And most
    importantly we are facilitating compliance.”

    The in-plant value proposition of convenience, turnaround and control is pivotal for production digital color.
    2|Obsolescence and shorter run lengths
    Digital Production Color research studies published in 2002 and 2005
    showed a dramatic increase in the amount of short-run printing.
    Regardless of print technology, the number of color printing jobs with
    run length requirements of 500 or less increased from 29.6 percent to
    50.5 percent during that three-year period. Meanwhile, those jobs with
    run lengths of over 5,000 declined from 32.6 percent to 20.1 percent.In
    conducting independent research on the entire printing market, Frank
    Romano reported similar trends. His analysis showed that 30 percent of
    jobs had run lengths under 5,000 in 2000 and that this percentage had
    grown to 58 percent in 2005. By the end of the decade, it is forecasted
    to reach 61 percent.Audrey Marrocco , a print administrator in
    Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, in Harrisburg, Pa., is
    seeing an increase in shorter runs to avoid the warehousing and
    obsolescence.“With our DocuColor 8000, we can shift work from offset to
    reduce run lengths,” she says. “Historically, it was large runs and
    warehousing. There was a lot of obsolescence. We are also publishing
    information on the Web and printing on demand to reduce the
    commonwealth’s overall documentation costs and saving taxpayer dollars.”

    3|Marketing Value-added Services
    color has opened the door to integrate in-plants with the marketing
    function. As opposed to an auxiliary service function, digital color is
    making the in-plant arena part of the business processes that drive
    results. No differently than the commercial printing market, in-plants
    need to deliver strategic value-added services. In-plants like
    Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services are engaging in complex
    data-driven applications.“We are handling variable data and intelligent
    mail,” explains Marrocco. “We are taking on sophisticated applications.
    Pages contain variable information, and each page is bar coded. A
    variable number of pages are inserted into different envelopes with
    complete document integrity.”Adds Ciardi: “We have been in the variable
    data game for a long time with monochrome printing. We are going to
    deploy these same personalization and customization skills to produce
    full-color marketing documents to help drive our business. We
    understand and can work with the marketing function to drive 1:1

    Driving Strategic Relevance
    use of digital color can help drive the importance of the in-plant as
    an integral part of key business processes in the organization. Many
    in-plants struggle with strategic relevance. The management of
    in-plants is generally isolated. The skill set and expertise required
    to manage an in-plant is different from what the overall business often
    requires. Without an advocate in senior management, the in-plant often
    becomes an island of expertise.Maintaining an in-plant requires showing
    demonstrable value in today’s market. The concepts of convenience, cost
    savings and control for user departments are essential, but the best
    in-plants provide much more. With more affordable equipment and
    software, in-plants can leverage technology to move power into the
    hands of users and become an integral part of strategic business
    initiatives.Digital color technology has never been more exciting. As
    you evaluate it, consider not only the implications of introducing the
    technology into your operation, but also how you will leverage it to
    increase revenue and profitability and improve business results.