Breaking Down the Barriers to Inkjet Adoption

By on March 28th, 2013

Last week, Canon hosted a cross-section of prominent companies from the graphic arts, book, direct mail and transaction printing segments in Munich Germany. I was pleased to be invited, along with other expert presenters from Canon Poing CECGartner, InfoTrends, InterQuest, IT Strategies, Madison Advisors and NAPL. The  Leadership  Forum was held at Canon’s impressive 14,000 square foot Customer Experience Center where several cutsheet toner presses and a huge array of high-volume, continuous feed inkjet presses were configured as custom application demonstrations. I had ample opportunity to network with attendees and learn what was driving them to update their technology. While not specifically an inkjet event, the majority of attendees at the Leadership Forum were evaluating the transition to inkjet or expanding on an existing inkjet implementation. The top three reasons cited:

  • Speed/Time to market requirements;
  • Full-color, white paper efficiencies;
  • Plans to enter new markets.

My charter was to prepare a wrap-up session on “Preparing Your Business for Inkjet ” along with two customers; Bob Radzis of SG360 (a direct mailer) and Mike McCombs of RevSpring (a transaction printer.) These two gentlemen shared their successes with transitioning to inkjet along with candid feedback on the challenges they faced as early adopters. Dialogue with attendees focused on perceived challenges with inkjet adoption but, there were very few actual barriers cited. Some key take-aways were:

  • Inkjet has clearly reached a tipping point among high-volume printers of variable applications;
  • Quality is no longer perceived as a barrier to adoption;
  • Customers were encouraged by the increasing variety and availability of inkjet papers and seemed confident that the trend would continue;
  • Customer seemed to recognize that the right workflow solution was as critical as selecting the right press but were less aware of the critical tradeoffs between paper selection and ink usage;
  • The major remaining obstacle to inkjet adoption is production volume. Mid-volume companies often can’t generate the business case for inkjet.

While this was a working trip for me, it was also an opportunity to attend great sessions covering the social, economic and technical factors that are changing the print industry in general, as well as, drill-down sessions on key drivers of change in book printing, direct mail and transaction printing specifically. Whether you are a print provider or a consultant there is constantly more to learn in our industry and the Canon Leadership Forum did a great job of blending business, technical and market related content with product demonstrations and networking opportunities. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Canon’s CEC, or attend a future Leadership Forum I highly recommend the trip.

Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes and speaks and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

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2 Responses to “Breaking Down the Barriers to Inkjet Adoption”

  1. Fadel F Iskander Says:

    Nice “Insight” as usual Elizabeth,

    I’m almost certain 1,400 square feet is a misprint. So, is it 14,000 or 140,000?

    I still believe that roll-fed inkjet devices are for a “super” class of providers especially for transactional printers as they may require two (at every site) to accommodate their tight SLAs.

    Another obstacle is that most vendors that I looked at do not have an “all-inclusive” click model. Meaning the user would have to pay for the ink.

    As such, if a customer requires using colored paper, then you would have to either:
    1. Flood the paper with ink
    2. Start with colored paper (as you would in cut-sheet environment).

    Both options are expensive.

    My Credit Card provider (one of the largest in the world) switched to inkjet for both consumer and commercial customers and at the same time switched from a narrow format to an 8.5×11 format. Their statement is clearly printed on inkjet device, and the quality is still an issue.

    It appears that if you want really good quality inkjet you would have to slow the printer drastically which corrupts the “business case”.

    I am still at a loss as to who (other than the largest of the largest transactional printers) can afford those devices.

  2. Elizabeth Gooding Says:

    Hi Fadel – thanks for the catch – the demo center is about 14,000 square feet (corrected in post) which is a small part of a truly massive facility.

    Regarding the “all inclusive click model” there really would be no good way for a vendor to offer that since ink usage varies so much by job. Some people are doing simple forms replacement while others are doing higher coverage transpromo or even direct mail – and then add MICR to the mix…

    Regarding the volumes for business case – if you are not printing at least 10 million pages per month (and ideally more than that) then current inkjet models are not generally cost effective. I will argue on the quality however – your credit card provider may be choosing to print at lower quality to save on ink costs (which are a big component) but on the right paper – current technology is capable of very good quality – in the transaction print world it is 100% suitable. The other plus is that once you get the quality settings “dialed in” they are pretty rock solid.

    The business case process is very complex, there are a lot of variables besides volume that determine whether a transition to inkjet makes sense – and equally important – what’s the best way to get there. There are more variables than I can talk about here – but I’ll try to get another “business case” related post out soon. Thanks, as always, for reading.