On Wednesday, October 28th, the Printing Industries Alliance (PIA) sponsored a full-day Digital Printing Think Tank in NYC to lead a discussion about today’s digital print market. EarthColor’s Cheryl Kahanec, Executive Vice President, Digital, was a panelist along with several other printers. She has been involved with digital printing since its inception 22 years ago, when she was asked to investigate it by her then employer in New England. Kahanec was immediately hooked.
The theme of the think tank was digital printing’s “path to the present and path for years ahead.” NAPCO’s Mark Michelson acted as panel moderator. Approximately 100 people attended this event, the first of its kind by PIA.
A provocative statement set the tone: the prediction that digital printing will comprise 50% of all printing by 2030. Kahanec says that this really depends on how you define digital printing. “If it’s the process of imaging without plates or film, then yes, I believe it’s true. Right now, the commercial print industry doesn’t necessarily include inkjet when talking about traditional or digital printing. However, if you put inkjet into this statement, then the prediction is realistic.”
With digital printing technologies, commercial printers are expanding their product offerings and functionalities. For example, there’s less specialization among printers with some now being able to offer packaging, data, fulfillment, mailing, etc. all under one roof.
With the production and introduction of new digital and inkjet presses, the lines will blur more easily. “If on the same press you can print on 50# lightweight stock, 25pt cover stock and plastics – why have different presses? In Kahanec’s mind, printers’ manufacturing capabilities are coming together, and it’s partly due to inkjet.
Kahanec pointed out that on toner devices, which were the only digital presses we had for 22 years, you could only go so big and so fast. Improvements in speed and sheet size were only incremental. With inkjet, those limitations are removed and the impact is markedly different today.
The Digital Landscape Charges Ahead
The first digital presses were introduced in 1992. Twenty years later, drupa 2012 was deemed the ‘inkjet drupa,’ because of inkjet presses and nanotechnology. All of a sudden the whole world of printing was changed. With the new technologies, digital printing could now compete with traditional high-speed and larger sheet size offset presses. Initially, there were four manufacturers who came out early in the digital printing space. Now, there are several more manufacturers offering digital/inkjet solutions.
Today’s Marketers and Digital Print
So are today’s marketers truly “all aboard the digital printing train?” Interestingly enough, the panelists remarked that marketers are actually less educated about print than they were 10 years ago.
Because CMO’s are coming out of online, mobile, and social media marketing, they don’t truly know what print is or what it can do. Yet statistics show that “we’re better together,” remarked Kahanec. A successful marketing program does not rely on one channel – it’s a multiple touch campaign.
One of the issues printers face in sharing digital print information with marketers is that too often a company or agency keeps its marketing in silos by channel. Email marketers, print marketers, and social marketers are in different divisions. A recent post on Direct Marketing News addresses this very issue, called Non-Integrated Marketing Departments = Non-Integrated Marketing.
EarthColor’s Digital Focus
To make it easier for marketers to leverage digital print in their campaigns, Kahanec pointed out EarthColor’s digital print offerings are mostly customized, versioned or variable. The majority of its digital work includes some variability, and it’s based on three submission models:
- Web to print is an automated process that allows for daily or weekly orders of customized collateral to be placed through a web portal.
- Data to print are variable data jobs. The company receives client materials in a somewhat conventional manner, including artwork, database files and layouts. Plus, the client submits business rules. In this model, hundreds to literally millions of unique printed pieces are processed.
- Cloud to print, which in essence takes your data to print job and automates it.
To learn more about EarthColor’s submission models, visit am4m.com/submission-models
What’s Next in Digital?
The future is very exciting, says Kahanec. “The fact that we have multiple vendors developing products and services means that they all think their products will have a positive impact.” There will be lots of improvements, she predicts, in things like efficiencies, speed, sheet size, quality and the technologies that wrap around the process.
EarthColor has always been committed to staying on top of what’s happening in the industry. The company spends time and money to make sure we stay abreast of technology. In this way, they perfectly reflect Jeffrey Hayzlett’s keynote address at this month’s think tank: “Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless.”
Printers have to be “in it to win it.” EarthColor agrees and remains focused on offering customers the latest in digital advances.