Choosing Digital Printing

By | October 28, 2009

This week’s Print Tips at Margie Dana’s Boston Print Buyers lists “major reasons” media buyers are choosing digital print when they do decide to use print. There should be no surprises as you read the list. In the comments there is a case study from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts on their switch to Print on-Demand:

I believe that my team cited 11 or 12 of these reasons when trying to influence a cultural shift to our printing habits at BCBSMA earlier this year, so your list really hit home with me. In fact, after we conducted some unofficial research in 2008, we determined that 90% of our 750 separate supply items, were prime candidates for some kind of digital print model, whether shorter run digital, true POD or a hybrid of POD and short-stock replenishment. (By “short-stock replenishment” I mean: keeping 1-2 months supply on the shelf rather than 6-12 months supply, and replenishing inventory levels (Digital Print) to 1-2 month levels, when supplies dropped below pre-set low supply benchmarks.) We also felt that we needed to deviate from the practice of printing high quantities of first run collateral, based on the determination by our Account Managers, in hopes that those supplies would be used, though they had no known indicator for what the actual usage might be. Instead, our plan was to print to the known quantity for ‘immediate use only’ (usually digital), then either include an overprint of a small supply for inventory or roll out the piece as POD only (until a valid usage history dictated otherwise.)We concluded, that by utilizing such a digital printing/POD model, we would dramatically reduce waste, from over 40% waste to under 10%. (Potentially 100’s of thousands of dollars!) We’d also cut our warehouse space to a fraction of what it is today, while still maintaining and managing 750 or more individual collateral items, in fact, increasing the likelihood of being able to version out collateral without drastically impacting overall digital print budgets. Thanks again for this insightful list…it not only is validating for my team, but it will also help serve as a reference tool for future endeavors!

As organizations reduce their print volumes, Margie’s list contains opportunities for printers to provide solutions to address multi channel messaging and efficient use of print media.

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3 thoughts on “Choosing Digital Printing

  1. George Alexander

    Something fundamental has changed in attitudes toward digital printing, and it’s reflected in Margie’s list and in the quote from Massachusetts BCBS. Print quality and and cost per page used to be the major factors that justified choosing offset printing. These factors are no longer important in many (most?) buying decisions. Neither of them is mentioned in the list or the BCBS quote.

  2. Bill Jourdan


    That is a nice piece on BCBS…however it only tells us half the story, and this is where many struggle with helping clients transition tho digital? Where are Jim’s results? He gave a nice expalantion of the WHY they did an ‘unofficial evlauation in 2008’…but then what?

    What were the results of this digital transition @ BCBS? He talks of ‘potentially 100s of thousands of dollars’. Did they get there?

    Clients are always looking for the ROI. That ‘maybes & what ifs” are sexy to talk about…but how about the real world results?

    Would love to hear how the story ends.

  3. Bob Raus

    George’s comment seems a bit extreme to me and I would like to hear from Margie or members of her group on George’s question: “These factors (print quality and cost per page) are no longer important in many (most?) buying decisions.”

    What is the importance of price and (offset-like) print quality to customer’s like BCBS? Certainly there is going to always be the need for excellent print quality – for key marketing materials. The question is – what % of documents REALLY need that level of quality? Do customers like BCBS and others really need (and want to pay for) 150 line screen (digital) work and 1200×1200 dpi image quality for items such as statements, bills, invoices, booklets, letters, notices, etc.?

    The new Mid-Volume Transaction Output (MVTO) web site from RISO ( sheds some light on the use of cost-effective communications-level color and the quality levels really required for transactional and other short-life documents. With the adoption of roll-fed inkjet presses increasing, it is clear that some level of quality is “good enough” for the right price and speed.

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