Articles

Better, Quicker Service With The Ability To Complete Jobs In Half The Time

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Novatech Graphics in Little Silver, NJ has been in business for 40 years, producing full-color CMYK envelopes for commercial clients. The company works on tight margins with clients who are primarily print brokers and other printers who outsource to them.

In order to stay profitable and competitive, while faced with increasing operating costs and aging printers, Novatech looked for a way to optimize productivity and efficiency—a faster, modern and cost-effective solution that could do more and was less prone to failure.

The solution they found gave them:
A cost per/print of 3 to 4 times less than the previous equipment,
A reduction in wasted stock,
Increased profits by being able to print on a wider range of materials,
The ability to do full-bleed jobs their previous toner- based printers could not do.

Do You Know Enough to Succeed?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

In this age of rapidly evolving technology knowledge can make the difference between success and mediocrity…or even failure. This goes way beyond knowing your customers and the markets you serve. These days, that stuff just lets you put up a sign and open the front door, and it’s not enough. You also have to be conversant on at least some of the technology that is making your business valuable to your customers.

Some of this is the entry-level stuff like remote job submission, security of cloud servers and being able to cite the wonders of your automated workflow. That may be important to your customers and even your Customer Service Reps (CSRs). But you and your team members need to be knowledgeable about one thing that really matters to customers. And that is color.

Pleasing Color
Color is often thought of as a given with modern digital presses, and the average customer—who does not possess the trained eyeballs of a printing pro—still has a...

Does Color Really Make a Difference?

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by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Henry Ford used to say the Model T came in any color you wanted as long as it was black.

That was pretty much how purveyors (and buyers) of digital presses and copiers thought until the mid-1990s. Toner was all black all the time. Then, along came a couple of presses that delivered color, but they were less than reliable and the toner from one could sometimes be rubbed off a print with a pencil eraser. Not exactly what customers were looking for.

But digital color soon rolled out from several vendors all at once, and those of us with trained eyeballs had to recalibrate our notions of what printed color really meant. Discussions of digital color's future have continued for more than two decades. Those still go on, at least among those who contend that offset printing is all anyone should ever want or need, while ignoring the fact that the universe has changed, bringing more capabilities than anyone ever expected from a digital press.

Color makes a...

Have You Been Corrugated Lately?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

On any given week one news source or another runs a story about Amazon. The stories go on and on about the company’s outsized influence, its enormous market capitalization, the impact its facilities have on real estate values, local infrastructure, and more. They all miss one thing: Amazon’s indelible impact on corrugated packaging.

Corrugated containers are simply the most practical way to ship a much of Amazon’s products, and cardboard—the generic term for corrugated packaging—is cheap, reliable, readily available, and often precut to meet a variety of needs. The majority of Amazon packages are flung around the U.S. in corrugated boxes wearing the two-color Amazon logo.

Beyond “This End Up”

After offloading a bunch of corrugated containers at the town transfer station I figured there might be a story here if I opened a box and looked inside. So maintaining the focus, I looked more closely at the full color boxes in the local Walmart. Those...

PitStop Pro 19 Delivers the Tools Users Asked For

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PitStop Pro 19 Delivers the Tools Users Asked For
The PDF editing platform we know as PitStop Pro has become a ubiquitous industry standard since it was introduced in 1993, embedded in the commercial printing industry like a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As the dominant preflight product, PitStop provides deep quality control and editing for PDF printing workflows. Over the decades, Enfocus has continued to develop new functionality, moving steadily toward more and more automation. Each new version incorporates more features for streamlining common preflight tasks based on pre-established profiles, further minimizing the need for operator interventions.

PitStop 19 Released in April
With mature software products that have been around the graphic arts industry for decades, questions sometimes arise regarding the relative merits of upgrades. For the vendor of course, the benefits are clear: they get a bump in revenue, which in turn allows them to make a...

Follow the Money with an Automated Workflow

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large, PrintPlanet.com

What is time worth?

This means your time or that of your CSRs, prepress technicians, press and finishing equipment operators, and even the people in shipping. What is their time worth, and how do you translate those hours into payroll, the dollars you keep in your operating account, and profitability?

Mounting competitive pressures and customer expectations for fast turnarounds and competitive prices rising have made productivity business critical for every print services company. The old school approach of getting your team to “work smarter,” is recognized as code for “work harder by doing more in less time.” You may even expect this to happen without increasing head count while meeting the common industry turnaround time of five days. (If you have enough gray hair, you may remember when this was seven or even ten days.)

But suppose you really could work smarter and be able to handle not only the 15–30 jobs you take in on a typical...

What You Missed

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

If you have medium- to large-size Ricoh presses and printers and didn’t go—and you probably did get an invitation—you missed an opportunity to learn how to make your operation more efficient and profitable.

I’m talking about Ricoh Interact 2019, held June 5th and 6th in Denver, the second full-scale version of the company’s customer-oriented event that was all about making one’s business work better and not about prying money out of customers’ checkbooks.

I’ve been to a lot of these events over the years, always go in expecting a sales pitch, and am usually not disappointed. Sales is all many vendors seem interested in talking about. But at Ricoh’s event in Denver, just as at Xeikon’s a month ago in Chicago, the conversations were about how to makes customers’ business work better. Sure, some parts of this had examples of how Ricoh offerings in software, inkjet, toner and wide format could help, but the real topics were about how to grow...

A Duplo Upgrade As A Weapon Against Commoditization

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Few observers of the commercial print industry have missed the fact that the industry now changes at hyper speed, even as it continues to consolidate. These days, most of these technology innovations fall under the aegis of automation, as efficiency becomes ever more critical to competitiveness. For better or worse, the machines keep getting smarter and taking on more of the workload as skilled operators become harder to find.

Change is generally good – especially when it improves productivity and lowers job costs - but the speed at which new technology can be rolled out also means a narrowing time window of competitive advantage. Commoditization follows rapidly on the heels of progress, and staying off the treadmill means adding value to the print printing process, either through more efficient production or the ability to offer capabilities that the competition can’t.

That observation may be even more relevant in the after print space, which currently offers more opportunities...

Learn to do Something That Can Kill You

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by Noel Ward, Editor @ Large

Unlike many industry events there was no sense of déjà vu when coming to the third edition of Xeikon’s Café in North America. Every one of these events has been an improvement from the one before and the level of value keeps increasing. Why anyone who has or is considering a Xeikon digital press or ThermoflexX plate maker would not be at this event is mystifying. It’s one of the poster children for how vendor-sponsored events should be run.

Partner Power
Part of this is because Xeikon is aligned with some 34 companies—its Aura Partners—many of which not only had tables and an abundance of expertise in an area set aside as the Partner Fair, but also played a role in some of the presentations. These, by the way, were not pitches from the podium but engaging panels and open discussions with attendees about common business issues such as sales, marketing, variable data printing, color management, and more. In some, the word Xeikon was never...

Green Light For Green Button Laminators at the 2019 BindRite Conference

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Al Boese, Executive Director and longtime spirit guide of the BindRite Dealers Association, prefers the term “Green Button Technology” to automation.

“It tells a better story,” explains Boese. Al likes stories and he is good at telling them. As a longtime player in the post print segment, Boese has enjoyed a front row seat as digital technology transformed finishing and laminating equipment.

“In my mind, GBT originated in photocopying in the early 1970’s and by the 1980’s we had tabletop fully featured copiers that did everything with control panels allowing the automation of; document feeding, collating, stapling, stacking, paper selection etc. The key element then and now is that the machines had to be smart enough that untrained operators could run them.”

However, there was one technology that appeared to lag behind the ever improving folding, creasing and booklet making machines, and that was lamination. For years, lamination remained stubbornly analog, brutally wasteful and...

Killer Apps Percolating At The Free Xeikon Café in May

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Anyone feeling challenged by running a printing business in the digital age may be interested in getting to Chicago mid-May to check out Xeikon Café North America (May 14-16, 2019). This multi-vendor educational & networking event follows on the heels of a record-breaking Xeikon Café Europe in April, which attracted over 1,000 participants to Antwerp. The North American conference includes panels, workshops, demonstrations, presentations and social events, with a focus on automation and flexible packaging. It is free of charge for print providers, converters, brand owners and designers looking for practical inspiration and perspective on gaining a lead in the digital printing race. The two-and-a-half day event will be held at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Itasca, IL, just outside Chicago.

As with past Café events, the program spotlights innovations and strategies that may stimulate new revenue streams, as well as better ways to control production costs. Tracks include graphic...

The Space Between: RISO Nails the “Business InkJet” Niche

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by Sean O’Leary

The transition from electrostatic/toner printers to inkjet printing continues apace, with few observers doubting that inkjet platforms will prevail in the long term. The latest generation of production inkjet presses from Xerox, KM, and Ricoh are faster than toner-based (EP) machines and generally cost less per page for the same job. As for the color accuracy question, once the accountants and customers take a good look at total benefits, it turns out that inkjet color quality is pretty much fine at this point in the game.
The problem, of course, is that high volume production inkjet presses are very expensive investments. Relative merits aside, the current selection of high end machines carry price tags from the upper hundreds of thousands to multiple millions of dollars. That’s a lot of money for any commercial print provider. As Editor@Large Noel Ward discussed in his March article, there are any number of parameters that need to be considered before a jump from...

Print MIS: Can You Follow the Money?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

In the average week (as if there is such a thing!) how many different jobs and projects are on your plate? If yours is like many shops these days, your work in process may span offset, digital, and large format work, along with direct mail, data management, maybe some fulfillment, and even mobile communications. The deadlines are relentless, the pressure builds and the frustration mounts, at least some of the time. And then your lead sales guy comes in with a new job that will add 100,000 pages to your “awake at night” list for each month of the next year.

You have reached the point, you admit, that the time has come to go beyond the minimal automation you have in prepress or production and adopt an overall print MIS (Management Information System) that can tie your entire company together. So you take a deep breath, dig out the brochures from the last big trade show you attended and go online to dive into some details before you pick up the phone...

The Move to Inkjet

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

For the past few years one of the questions I’ve gotten from print providers running toner presses is along the lines of, “How much volume should I have before I move to inkjet?” It’s an excellent query and it shows that people are thinking.

Then there are the ones who call, bemoaning their lack of foresight, saying “I bought this UltraJet C6000 and it’s costing me a fortune. What can I do?”

To be clear, there are many levels to providing complete responses to either question, but the initial answer to the first caller is relatively easy: “Plan on being able to hit about 50 percent of the new machine’s monthly recommended capacity (as stated by the equipment vendor) the day it is up and running.” This can be existing jobs transferred from toner boxes or new jobs coming in, but either way you are more likely to reach the monthly nut for the new machine and at least cover the costs. This is mission critical, because you have to keep your whole business...

A Fast Track for File Prep

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Does any of this sound familiar?

A few times each week a customer shows up or sends in a file that needs a lot of love. It’s usually work they don’t want to do (or can’t do) themselves and involves making sure a stack of pages will be professionally printed. Those pages may be a mix of original files, scans from who knows where, and a cover that needs to be updated, along with the titling on the spine. Then there are colors that need to be changed, titles adjusted, maybe some personalization added, an imposition layout to create, you know how this goes.

So you take the job, because pre-press is one of the things you do, and your team goes to work. A lot of the labor is manual because things like de-skewing and de-speckling take time and getting the color and personalization right will keep your pre-press people busy. “There must be,” your production manager mutters, “a better way to do this.” And there is.

Faster and more Profitable
I began...

How CHILI’S New Illustrator® Feature Plugs Into An Increasingly Automated Future

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By Sean O'Leary

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As 2019 kicks off, CHILI publish will begin rolling out a new Illustrator Plug-in for its Universal Graphics Engine platform. That news is bigger than it sounds at first.

The “native AI document conversion utility” is particularly targeted to the packaging and label industries, which, due to the greater complexity of their graphics (and the incorporation of large numbers of vector components), have historically favored the Adobe Illustrator® desktop application to create content.

The development of this plug-in will not only open up online interactive graphics editing and management for the fastest growing segment of the greater commercial printing industry, it will also enable access to a growing collection of ancillary benefits. The Brussels-Chicago-based developer believes the new feature represents another step toward an integrated, automated data driven...

Why Ever Would You Want to Automate?

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by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Why ever would you want to automate your operation? After all, it seems far too complex, costs money, involves a lot of your people, will absorb significant time, and you figure you probably don’t need it. And then you run out of excuses.

I used to work with a guy who had some 20-odd years in printing and packaging behind him. He insisted that every shop he went into had a superbly lean and extremely efficient workflow and spectacular MIS. He said each one had automated as much as they possibly could. Yet when I went into the same shops I found that the shop floor team was basically good at moving pallets and rolls around. Jobs were usually going out on time, but it was difficult to know where each job was in production and when it would be ready to ship. Prepress was dependent on paper job jackets and a 15-foot-long white board. The business owners only knew the status of a job if they talked to the production manager or pressroom supervisor who...

Can Reality be Printed?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The title above is not intended as an existential question, but as the relevance of print continues to evolve it is worth consideration. Of interest here is a technology called Augmented Reality and its relationship to print. Is there one?

Definitely. At PRINT 18 I gave a presentation entitled “Is AR the Resurrection of Print?” which much to my surprise drew a standing-room-only crowd and has since generated numerous phone calls about this emerging technology. So, you may be asking, what is Augmented Reality?

Good question, so we’ll start with what it is and what it is not.

In one of its basic forms AR uses a printed image and a smartphone or tablet app to create a direct link to graphic, video, animation or other content residing on a remote server or in the “cloud.” It is not a substitute or replacement for QR codes, those remarkably ugly old-school squares of inscrutable markings that can be viewed on a static web page. AR is also not a substitute...

Ultimate’s Red Hot Technology Breakthrough Award: New Dimensions in AI

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Sean O'Leary

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Little Mermaid swam into our hearts and desktop publishing was a fresh new thing. Platforms like PageMaker, QuarkXpress and Photoshop were still novel and the PDF protocol was a future gleam in Adobe’s eye. But as I was writing this post, I discovered that another event took place in 1989 that surprised me: Ultimate Technographics launched the original version of its signature Ultimate Impostrip® digital imposition software. Although I know that Ultimate TechnoGraphics is generally regarded as the inventor of computer desktop imposition technology, I was nevertheless surprised at how early that first release date was.

Thirty years ago, just before the full impact of digital technology began shaking up the graphics world, the probability of shorter print runs and the general democratization of print production were easy enough to anticipate. But it’s also fair to say that the future need for comprehensive workflow...

Canon USA’s Gamut Destinations Exhibit Is A Mini Vacation With A Message

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by Sean O'Leary

I have been to more trade shows than I can (or want to) count at this point, so I think it’s accurate to say it takes something special to get my attention. At Print 18, there was no shortage of exhibitors willing to deploy loads of money and creative resources in an effort to somehow translate their corporate mission via the unwieldy medium known as the trade show booth (an esoteric and challenging art form indeed). But as has always been the case, funds expended don’t necessarily assure that a trade exhibit can deliver that elusive combo platter: enticing passersby while also conveying an instantly comprehensible message.

[ Flashback: Particularly during the infamous dot.com era when startup money was funding visually fabulous trade show booths, trade reporters often found themselves wondering what exactly digital startup companies did. After circumnavigating a fascinating booth at Seybold (remember Seybold?), I asked a booth...

e-Book: Steps to a More Profitable Workflow

smartsoft cover
Key Steps To Making Your Workflow Profitable
The most profitable print shops remain agile and respond to their customers’ demands while keeping inventory levels at a minimum, decreasing the amount of time from order to delivery and making it easy to do business with. Read the Post

   
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