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Drive revenue with digital color

It's been more than two decades since production digital printing technology made its debut with the introduction of the Xerox® DocuTech printer in October 1990. To some, it was a heady upstart, while others saw digital printing as the way of the future and embraced it wholeheartedly, seeking every opportunity to match customer needs with all the benefits digital could deliver.

The prominence of digital printing today is the ongoing fulfillment of its imaging promise. The technology just keeps getting better at delivering increasing benefits of cost-effectiveness and high print quality.

Print-service providers of all sizes are finding it easier to enter the digital printing arena which, according to InfoTrends Inc.*, is the only remaining growth segment in the graphic communications market. Based on its industry surveys, InfoTrends identified six key reasons why print providers should invest in digital color printing:

Offset is declining as more work moves to digital:
A 2010 survey of more than 300 in-plant and commercial printers, 62 percent of survey respondents reported their digital print volumes grew between 2008 and 2009. During this same period, 61 percent reported declines in four-color offset work.

Black-and-white imaging is moving to color:
While digital black-and-white impressions continue to outnumber color impressions, they are not growing. InfoTrends expects digital process color to experience a compound annual growth rate of 17.8 percent between 2008 and 2013. Digital black-and-white impressions are targeted to decline 3.6 percent during the same timeframe.

Run lengths are getting shorter:
Of 240 print buyers surveyed, 50 percent said their color print jobs had run lengths of less than 1,000; and 70 percent had run lengths of less than 5,000. As digital color quality continues to improve, short-run work will increasingly migrate to digital color technology.

The push toward customized communications:
In a survey of 240 print buyers, digital technology is fueling the value proposition of deploying customized messaging to specific target markets. Marketers increasingly have to show that their marketing programs deliver ROI metrics to justify continued funding. Digital technology makes target messaging cost effective.

Web-enabled services help drive digital printing:
Print-service providers can grow their revenue sources with high-quality digital color capabilities customers can easily access via Web-to-print portals offering cross-media services. More than half of surveyed print-service providers offer Web-to-print services, while more than two-thirds of print buyers said they purchase print through the Internet.

Digital color and the Internet are linked to efficiency and profit:
There is a direct correlation between operational efficiency and improved profit margins. With digital technology, print-service providers have the opportunity to create a higher degree of value with customers by expanding their ability to bring in jobs via the Web. Leveraging digital color and the Internet together enables:

  • Customers to key and proof their orders and documents online. The burden of typographical errors shifts to the end-user. This minimizes rework and reduces the resources associated with customer service and sales.
  • The ability to do group orders based on type, run length, paper stock, finishing requirements and due date. This streamlines the manufacturing process and improves turnaround time.
  • The easy tracking of jobs and provides customers with online status reports, thereby improving overall customer service.
  • Better overall quality control because online jobs flow directly to a digital press or computer-to-plate (CTP) device, with little or no human intervention.
  • Graphic communications service providers to support marketing in "protecting the brand" by storing pre-approved templates with standard layouts, fonts and colors, as well as making them accessible to remote users.
  • Graphic communications providers to become an integral part of the supply chain via catalogs of printed materials (e.g., business cards, stationery, forms) and marketing templates for brochures and sell sheets. They can also become fulfillment agents for non-printed promotional items like mugs and t-shirts. The opportunity to provide additional capabilities and services creates and expands revenue streams.
  • Critical functions—like collating, sorting and numbering—to be completed before the actual job is printed.
  • Payment processing to be incorporated into the online workflow, which helps accelerate billing cycles and improve cash flow.

Digital color printing will continue to grow in significance. In-plant and commercial sheet printers of all sizes must stay abreast of the changing face of the print industry if they want to stay relevant by improving the services they can provide to their customers.

* InfoTrends is the leading worldwide market research and strategic consulting firm for the digital imaging and document solutions industry. It provides research, analysis, forecasts and advice to help the industry understand market trends, identify opportunities and develop strategies for business growth.

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