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confidence inkjet

Sep 1, 2000 12:00 AM


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There is no reason for the print seller not to approach the president or owner directly - doing so is often just a matter of confidence

E-COMMERCE OPTIONS

With more than 100 dot-com companies currently clamoring for printers' attention, and more announced daily, the e-commerce noise has become almost deafening. Frank Romano, chair of the Rochster Institute of Technology School of Printing, identified 18 categories of dot-com services currently being offered. He presented them at the "Exploring the Connection: Digital Printing and E-Commerce" conference, co-sponsored by the Printing Industries of America's (PIA's) Digital Printing E-Commerce Councils.

Heading the list are online print retailers - send them a file and they will print the job and deliver it where you wish. Examples include iprint.com, planetprint.com, copiesnow.com and Image-X.com.

Then there are those firms that serve as the e-bay for print. "Want to make print a commodity? Get into Web-based auctions where no one really knows what problems the job will cause or what the quality levels are," observes Romano. Auction-based companies include 58K.com, printmarket.com, printbid.com and gpo.gov.

Then there are the printing matchmakers who bring buyers and sellers together. This category includes high-profile players such as Collabria, Impresse, Noosh, printCafe, printchannel.com and Mediaflex.com.

Other categories include paper procurement (PaperExchange.com, fobpaper.com, Paperloop.com, Paperdeals.com and fparsons.com) and supplies procurement (Printnation.com, Pitman.com, xpedx.com, fobchemicals.com, Goprinter.com).

Then there are cyber firms touting workflow management (Sprockets.com, Cirqit.com, pagepath.com), document management (Odyssey.com, Smartworks.com), print management (httprint.com, Timesheet.com), digital asset management (AGT, Vio, WAM!NET, Imation, mediabridge.com) and companies that print forms and other materials, warehousing them for customers who order via Web-based catalogs (eway.com, moore.com, reyrey.com).

Are we done yet? Not quite. There are printers' cooperatives (printeralliance.com), collaborative sites that allow creatives to work together with the client, portals that link to everyone and anyone (gain.net, creativepro.com), publications (american printer.com), trade associations, equipment suppliers and let's not forget printers.

With all these choices, printers must develop a strategy to deal with e-commerce. Why? "The industry is made up of thousands of geographically dispersed buyers and sellers," points out Romano. "With intricate workflows and the need for extensive collaboration, time sensitivity is of the utmost importance. E-commerce will allow printers to deal more efficiently with the rapid change they face everyday."

DIGITAL PRINT'S IMPACT ON LITHO PRESSES

A new research study predicts that variable data and direct-imaging presses will have a minor impact on revenues generated by traditional litho presses in the short term. New digital print options, however, will spread quickly, and the factors driving this growth will have large implications for the industry.

The study was conducted for NPES The Assn. for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies by Arthur S. Goldberg & Associates.

According to the study, revenues diverted from traditional litho presses to variable data presses will total about two percent by 2002. During the same period, revenues taken from traditional litho presses by direct-imaging systems are expected to rise to about five percent. These modest redirections of revenues will take place despite four- and five-fold growth in the installed base of digital and direct-imaging systems.

The new study has been distributed to NPES members and will made available to non-members at a later date. For more information, contact Jim Slakie at (703) 264-7200, or see www.npes.org.

MAJOR ACCOUNT SELLING

Pitching to major accounts - defined here as having at least 100 employees and doing at least $100 million in annual sales - can be overwhelming. Vic Ing, business development coordinator at ProForma (Cleveland), a customized print services franchise organization, presented tips on how to approach the process at ProForma's annual convention in Toronto.

The exec first suggested breaking the company's infrastructure into its departments. For instance, approach the marketing, advertising or sales support divisions as if they were their own companies. He noted, however, that there is no reason for the print seller not to approach the president or owner directly - doing so is often just a matter of confidence.

Ing emphasized the importance of qualifying print prospects before they can disqualify the print seller. He suggested discussing with potential customers what their actual print needs are, and only pursuing those potential clients who need, want and can afford the product; who are ready to buy now; and who are willing to buy from the inquiring seller. He noted that cancelled orders and appointments, or a customer who buys less print than hoped, signify inadequately qualified accounts.

UP-AND-COMING INKJET

"One of the longer term successes of Drupa was the degree of credibility that inkjet achieved," declares Mark Hanley, president, I.T. Strategies (Hanover, MA). "Finally, inkjet technology is becoming a form of direct print, enhancing the value of print services in the graphic arts community - up to now, it was seen mainly as a low-end, consumer technology."

Hanley cites three reasons for this change:

1. A few serious companies (Barco and Aprion) announced prototype devices claiming to leverage some very specific long-term advantages that inkjet boasts to have, i.e., very high speed, non-contact (meaning substrate flexibility), and the ability to use inks resembling traditional inks of all kinds.

2. Inkjet is beginning to be viewed as a more promising alternative to the electrophotographic systems. Inkjet technology is scalable, both in terms of speed, colors and width. With the next generation of inkjet heads, these advantages and comparable speed to electrophotography have made inkjet technology a serious contender.

3. The industrial print sector, including markets such as packaging and board printing, is under great economic pressure to rationalize print, especially in the graphic arts sector where the digital process has the greatest chance for adoption. Ironically in this sector, electrophotography is seen, right or wrong, as a non-starter. Adding to the momentum, I.T. Strategies estimates that label, packaging and carton printing has the potential to grow from $200 million in 1999 to more than $2 billion by 2004, assuming new-generation devices enter the market successfully.

So where is inkjet headed? It looks as if a second tier of vendors buying other manufacturers' print heads will be successful in developing industry-specific systems. In particular, Aprion/DPS, Scitex Digital Printing, Barco and Xaar showed key products at Drupa. (See "Pressing on: inkjet and DI presses evolve," Aug. 2000, p. 46.)

QUALITY PAPER, QUALITY PRINT JOB

Problems on press may often be related to the paper, says Dr. Bryan J. Ortman, group leader, coating development, for Westvaco, which produces the Tango coated one-side cover stock.

"If printers are not using a quality sheet, they can have production problems, such as jam-ups on press, aesthetic problems such as hickeys and problems with ink consistency," explains Ortman.

Ortman suggests requesting a mill tour and making sure the manufacturer has a thorough quality control system in place, with visual inspection systems and electronic scanners to detect paper defects.

Or, ask about the paper manufacturing process:

- Does the manufacturer use an extended nip when it is pressing water out of the fiber? Most mill press sections have two or three nips through which the paper web is run, according to Ortman. An extended nip allows the smoothing roller to distribute sheet weight more evenly, resulting in greater paper smoothness. And the smoother the sheet, the better runnability it has on press.

- After the sheet runs through the wet stack - a process whereby moisture is added to a sheet and the sheet is ironed - does it go through a dry stack? The dry stack reportedly adds smoothness and allows the mill to target certain "problem" areas to achieve more uniformity in the sheet.

- How is coating accomplished? Ortman says a paper will be smoother if the mill uses blade-knife coating - which applies an even coating no matter how smooth the underlying surface smoothness is - instead of air knife coating.

Ortman adds that the brief time spent choosing the right stock will be worthwhile when the paper is on press.

REAL-TIME CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS

Catalog printer Arandell Corp. (Menomonee Falls, WI) has introduced Customer-Connect.net, a workflow management system for catalog marketers. The Internet-based tool provides interactive, real-time communications, and can be accessed via a desktop computer or through a Palm Pilot. Users can access real-time data on jobs currently in progress, track jobs throughout the system, request and receive proposals, initiate changes instantaneously, and maintain control and accountability throughout the job process.

Real-time data is provided through all stages of production. Additionally, the system provides links to a hotline for emergency access during off-hours or holidays. A variety of tools, including updated postal calculators and paper basis weight selectors are also accessible.

The system is available at no charge to Arandell customers. Jim Treis, executive vice president, sales and marketing, says that the system is "a value-added service to save customers time and money ... Unlike other systems targeted to the entire scope of the printing industry, Customer-Connect.net specifically addresses catalogers. It's easy to learn, easy to use."

For more information, see www.arandell.com or call (262) 255-4400.