Inkjet Summit Day 2: A Deeper Dive
“Since we invested in cut-sheet inkjet, it’s been a game-changer,” says Rick Baker of Print Tech of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, PA), stocking up on coffee and food, gearing up for the day ahead. It’s attending the Inkjet Summit – its “third or fourth time” – to source its continuous-feed inkjet, which will be a step up from its current sheet-fed devices. For all Inkjet Summit attendees, Baker included, this second day of the event will bring them closer to the solutions they seek – to the business building technologies that will define their next phase.
The benefits of digital
The efficiency-focused morning kick-off panel, “Digital Printing: It’s all about efficiency and effectiveness,” moderated by industry consultant Barb Pellow, director of Pellow and Partners, focused on how digital print can bring an elevated experience for those designing, sourcing and consuming print content, and how easier, more flexible and less labor-intensive production artwork can change the rules of the printing game.
Darrin Wilen, President of Wilen Group (Melville, New York), a commercial printing and direct mail company, explained how inkjet enabled his company to create more relevant pieces through data-driven marketing . Noting his corporate experience in inkjet, which began in 2008 or 2009, he says it has enabled “the ability to harness the power of data. Instead of doing something six weeks in advance, we can do it six days in advance. Wilen said that as the printing industry continues to evolve, leading to a resurgence in direct mail and an increased focus on data management and shorter print runs, the model has also changed. “It’s not about how cheap my item is,” he said, “it’s about ‘what’s my return on investment’ or ‘does it create conversions ? “”
Bringing digital experiences from bookmaker Core Publishing Solutions (Circle Pines, Minn.), a division of Thomson Reuters, Larry Soler, director, says the market dynamics of the book segment are changing. It highlights an increase in younger readers, more backlist sales, and more self-published books. Inkjet quality issues, he added, have also been mitigated, allowing for significant changes in the production model. This, he says, is complemented by technology that helps with small runs, a requirement for less labor, easier training and automation support. While Soler mentioned strong projections for the book segment, it reflects the uncertainty of the current environment. “My crystal ball is cracked,” he said.
This second day included two additional general sessions to help increase business value and open up opportunities for growth and improved profitability.
Increase business value
In a strategy-focused discussion, “Driving Up the Value of Your Business,” Marco Boer, Inkjet Summit Conference Chair and Vice President of IT Strategies, and Peter Schaefer, Partner at New Direction Partners, discussed the conditions that drive today’s robust M&A markets. , and how companies can position themselves to sell or acquire. “We’re seeing M&A activity because the economy is strong,” Schaefer says, “but there’s still too much iron out there, so we’ll see continued consolidation.” Schaefer outlined three key strategies for acquisitions: looking for an add-on to fill available capacity, adding a technology or product that will make you more efficient, or if a mature company is looking to buy a rapidly growing company. He shared that the commercial printing segment has split into “the haves and the have-nots,” noting that the “haves are the ones with the storefronts, the data analytics.” For sellers, says Schaefer, value comes from differentiation.
An end, in a way
In his overview, “It’s not over until it’s over,” Pat McGrew, managing director of industry consultancy McGrewGroup, highlighted the opportunities in the critical last stage of print production, finishing. Giving the finish the props it truly deserves, she shared how it can be a valuable conduit to differentiation and a growth-based business strategy.
“What we know about high-speed inkjet is that it really is high speed,” she said. As devices get faster and capacity increases, finishing needs to be kept at the same level, she explained. In particular, because printers should consider finishing as their differentiator.
“If you don’t see your finishing abilities as your differentiator,” she said, “now is a good time to start. … The finish is both mechanical and artistic.
This is where vendors can help printers understand what they don’t know and how to configure equipment most efficiently, McGrew suggested.
Similar to sessions prior to McGrew’s session, automation was a key focus. She explained that there has been a lot of innovation in automation over the past few years, especially in the world of finishing.
“The more you can automate paper changes on the front-end and the faster the roll changeover, the more you can increase your print shop’s value proposition,” she said.
A solution? Robotics. McGrew described four main groups of robotics that could help with finishing automation: automated guided vehicles (AGVs); autonomous mobile robots (AMR); robots; and collaborative robots (CoBots).
She explained that while some robots may look “weird”, they are a great solution for repetitive tasks “and they don’t need a coffee break”, she joked.
One example McGrew pointed to was Valpak, which uses AGV and AMR technology. Responding to an impressive video that showed how the company had automated the moving and handling of paper without a single operator in sight, McGrew commented “they’ve managed to bring the automation to absolute perfection.”
While implementing a robotic operation as extensive as Valpak is not feasible for every print shop, McGrew assured attendees that there are options in all price ranges.
Case studies Be specific
To highlight solutions for specific production challenges and share how their specific technologies can be used to facilitate those solutions, a series of over 100 sponsor-focused case studies were presented, organized into leads to help respond directly to the needs of the communities present. These case studies allow attendees to learn directly from other printers and build on shared experiences. With an average of 12 participants in each session, the case studies allowed for open discussion and free exchange.
Cory Sawatzki, vice president of purchasing at AlphaGraphics, which is attending the Inkjet Summit for the first time, said the case studies were informative.
“A lot of times you get this sales cycle overload because they call you up and tell you things, but when you hear what end users are saying about it, it hits a lot better,” he said. “That answers the questions we’re going to ask as users.”
In search of a perfect fit
For first-time attendees expecting a lounge experience, their first trip to the event’s 1:1 meeting area quickly changes their expectations. It is deeper, more personal, more adapted to meet specific needs. The space includes tables for each of the Summit’s nearly 60 corporate sponsors, staffed by knowledgeable teams fully prepared to talk the specifics: how their printing, finishing or workflow solution will add value to a business. specific.
During the event, attendees had nearly six hours of time to learn, discuss, reflect, and come back with additional questions — all in support of their goals of building their business toward growth.
It’s not all about work…
After a busy day filled with sessions, case studies, new concepts and important considerations, Inkjet Summit attendees shared drinks, a generous Texas BBQ and their thoughts and impressions of the day as the evening turned to night. Packed with high energy, the evening event included games and giveaways, a laid-back atmosphere and the benefits of camaraderie.
Summarizing the day, attendee Leighton Verderber, Supervisor, Printing and Graphics at Sherwin-Williams, said he found the case studies particularly helpful in charting the course of his operation. “The time has come for us to take that leap [to inkjet] this year.” He envisions the technology, “to produce at comparable quality at lower cost and higher speed.”