Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inkjet is building steam; will it ever do anything other than transactional…

Inkjet is building steam and this time in a new report!

"In its "North American Transactional Printing Market Update & Forecast 2009-2014" study, Interquest reports that inkjet presses are gaining volume and installations. Interquest is a leading market and technology research and consulting firm serving the digital printing and publishing industry.

The 2009 study notes that although inkjet equipment accounts for only four percent of the transactional printing systems (monochrome, spot and full color) used by respondents to the survey, inkjet presses produce 35 percent of the total transactional print volume reported – up from 31 percent the year before. The number of print operations using inkjet equipment took a big jump. The survey found that about one-third of the respondents now use inkjet equipment for transactional printing, up from 16 percent in the first half of 2008."

What will be interesting to watch is how well this technology is received as the quality gets better. All I have heard from printers lately have been thoughts that the volumes will not be there if they take the risk and invest in the technology. But transactional and trans promotional volumes are relatively untapped as not many printers have attempted to sell this business. As the economy strengthens companies will have to return to the drawing board and look at their capabilities and ensure that they are investing in areas they can make money in and that has growth potential.

Printers are struggling to reinvent themselves this time as technology is pushing them away from their traditional business. I have had many comments from printers that were a bit on the negative side on the high volume inkjet, I am worried that they will pass this opportunity up and allow the commercial sector to invest which will shut them out of the business completely. In house marketing departments already have the ability to add 3 or 4 small machines to take over much of their companies printing needs. As in-plant facilities grow in capabilities and skill sets traditional printers will lose their foothold.

It is interesting how much cross media advertising that I receive but printers are saying "no one is doing it." Traditional advertising agencies have stayed away from cross media as it requires them to add additional skill sets beyond just the creative. I think it is time to rethink business plans and put away the ideas of "this is how we have always done it." Every day another printer goes out of business or gets acquired by one of the conglomerates. As employment comes back and companies start thinking about capital reinvestment printers need to be the first ones in their ear talking about where they can spend their money.

The print salesman of the last decade will not be the print salesman of the next. Marketing services and solution selling will take over and the idea of asking for "cost center" business will be over with, as most companies can produce that work themselves. If printers keep shying away from the work the commercial sector will use their IT and marketing departments to develop their own cross media programs and printers will lose out on that business as well. The work is getting printed but will it get into the hands of a printer is the only question.

With the advent of Inkjet this ability to produce high volumes of print inexpensively will be just one more tool in the data center that could easily erode volumes that go out to the local print shop. With the resurgence of direct mail it is only time that Inkjet will get its hold on the industry. Now with everyone demanding quality 1 to 1 marketing in their direct mail programs and as those programs get adopted by larger institutions the run sizes will grow. This business lends itself to inkjet as long as the quality is there, otherwise it will go to the electrophotography devices that we are used to.

As digital presses advance (electrophotography) Inkjet will have new quality levels and substrate standards to meet. Maybe the technology will never get to that point but I doubt it. "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay and the Inkjet companies are working hard to rival the "dry ink" technologies quality and substrate handling it will only be a matter of time before we see the technology mainstream. With Canon's latest purchase of Oce they are making sure that they do not have all their eggs in one basket. This acquisition could prove to be a very valuable one in the future.

Fortunately for those of us that sell the "dry ink" technologies, inkjet is new, expensive and the quality is not quite there. But many companies are joining in the race to develop a new level of inkjet so this will be a no holds barred battle. 

Pirate Mike

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