Printing Profits on White Paper

By | March 17, 2011

I have to admit that I’m becoming a true believer in the benefits of full-color white paper solutions. This is somewhat surprising since I’ve often been the person saying “black and white is good enough” for many of my client’s applications. (I made money designing those nifty paper stocks!) But, I’ve been watching inkjet technology evolve for some time and have been increasingly impressed with the advances in flexibility, control of ink droplet size, paper handling, power consumption and workflow from a variety of manufacturers. The tipping point has been the opportunity to see an increasing number of solutions in production.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Press Go webinar with DST Output on the opportunities and challenges involved with adding full color capabilities to a black and white operation.  DSTO has the distinction of operating the largest digital full color print factory in the world (I’ve been to their El Dorado Hills site and it is impressive). DSTO shared details on several case studies where their clients had achieved significant savings by going to a white paper solution. Key savings areas were:

  • Reduction in postal costs by consolidating jobs into a single run and thereby increasing the number of mail pieces that qualify for the maximum postal discounts.
  • Reduction in storage and management of multiple paper stocks and selective inserts
  • Elimination of separate direct mail pieces to existing customers (replacement with full page, dynamic in statement promotions). In many cases, clients didn’t just save money – they made money.

In addition to the savings that accrue to the customer, DSTO drove down their own costs as well. They reduced costs associated with inventory management, paper changes and improved inserter efficiency. At the same time, they were able to reduce turn times and improve quality metrics. DSTO estimated that by going with a full color, white paper in solution that also supported MICR, they were able to produce two to three times the volume with half the warehouse space and seventy-five percent less staff.

These results are pretty compelling but they didn’t come without some challenges, for example:

  • Getting your customers to give up the preprinted stock (and check stock) for a standardized plain stock. You won’t get the benefits of a white paper solution without the white paper.
  • Training operations staff – you need to have operators that understand the loose-web press environment but think like a transaction printer in terms of factory controls and post-processing.
  • Training customers – document design, file handling and proofing are all different in the color environment and setting expectations early will make your transition – and your customers’ – smoother.
  • Estimating for full color inkjet solutions is tricky business and needs to be continually monitored to make sure that job specs don’t change dramatically. Luckily, tools are available to support this process.
  • If you want to get the full benefits of a “full color with MICR” solution on white paper, you will need to invest in software to add security features and a back end perfing solution. Also make sure that the MICR option is not just MICR mixed in with the black ’cause that gets expensive fast.
  • If you’re not printing color now, you’ll want to make sure you have enough network bandwidth to handle full color files and understand the impact of different levels of graphics on throughput.

Finally, it needs to be said that not everyone has the volumes that DSTO has to make this type of solution efficient. While there are a variety of models available for different volume thresholds, the move to a full color inkjet platform should not be taken on as an “if you build it they will come scenario.” I’ve helped several customers evaluate the business case for moving to full color white paper and the case needs to be made based on a firm’s existing business – not the promise of future deals. The business case and volume threshhold is completely different when looking at toner devices and, of course, cut sheet versus continuous. Quite often, in those cases it is a cost justification that has to be made based on meeting the color requirements of the marketing department (which may not extend to transaction documents).

Very quickly, full color digital inkjet solutions for transaction printing have moved from a “marketing opportunity” to an operational imperative for many companies looking to reduce costs. At the same time, that operational imperative comes with a huge marketing upside for printers and their customers. Anything that gets operations and marketing people to agree gets a big hallelujah from me!

You access a recorded version of the  webinar here. Watch it an you might become a true believer too.

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