I recently returned from the 2018 Inkjet Summit, which provided tremendous insight into new digital inkjet equipment, paper stocks, and ways companies are using inkjet technologies to create greater value for their clients. This is a can’t-miss event for us because of the unique format of keynote presentations, user panels, case studies, and 1:1 meetings, which provide an educational opportunity that is unmatched.
Inkjet is the printing industry’s fastest growing technology. The Summit’s education sessions and workshops focused on key trends shaping the industry, including embracing millennial; managing labor challenges; education opportunities; and new paper, ink and coating options. While many of the attendees are considering their initial inkjet purchase, the Inkjet Summit allows everyone to explore the trends and technologies that are changing the industry and how we do business.
2018 Inkjet Summit Presentations Focused on Challenges and Opportunities We All Face
During the opening keynote address, Marco Boer, Conference Chair, talked about the shift from the difficult decisions ten years ago as we moved into a recession, to today in an environment with a strong economy combined with labor challenges. The industry is facing increasing pressure to automate and improve productivity with continued labor shortages. Technical advancements in inkjet technologies, paper substrates, and data-driven relevancy allows us to adopt a more modern business model—one designed to support 10%+ volume growth (in pages produced), efficient customization of data and graphics, and a value/data-driven price structure.
Marco and Nathan Safran from NAPCO Media also shared results from a recent SGIA inkjet adoption study. In general, production inkjet decisions have been based on increased efficiency and shorter run lengths. Staff reductions and new opportunities for greater personalization are the potential areas of interest to explore.
Another informative presentation was inkjet expert Mary Schilling’s general session on Key Trends Influencing Paper Evaluation for Inkjet. She highlighted the fact that 16% of inkjet paper products were removed from the market in 2017. Mills have stepped up to the challenge of creating new stocks that fill the gap between uncoated inkjet treated and coated inkjet treated. These highly calendared “coated feel” stocks often have better speed performance than the higher priced coated inkjet treated papers and a larger color gamut than standard uncoated inkjet treated papers. One of the challenges that accompanies these papers is that coating options may be limited (or not guaranteed) due to the porosity of the sheet.
And of course, Barb Pellow of Pellow and Partners shared great information as well. She was the moderator of four “inkjet success stories” representing Canon, HP, Ricoh, and Xerox. The consistent message was to focus on workflow and education with a partner that can help you. Barb also shared the direct mail perspective and evolution as follows: Customers still like direct mail; personalized, colorful direct mail gets attention; and direct mail drives action and is interactive.
I also had the opportunity to co-present a case study with Mondi Paper providing insight into the qualification process on inkjet equipment and product performance for some of their grades. If you would like more information on the case study, I would be happy to share more.
New Inkjet Technologies Come with New Considerations
As inkjet technology has matured, equipment capabilities have increased across the board. The opportunities created by this new equipment will continue to expand and grow as the technology advances. For example, equipment and coating manufacturers are working together to offer more coating options (pre, post, aqueous, UV, specialty, etc.). These can create a smoother surface for ink or a glossier finish, but before adopting them companies must consider the higher costs, additional maintenance, and a need for more drying capacity that accompany them.
IWCO Direct was an early adopter of inkjet technology in the direct mail space and we continue to grow our digital print platform. We have seen our clients embrace the enhanced one-to-one marketing opportunities it provides, and events like the 2018 Inkjet Summit help us provide the best solutions possible to our clients. If you have any questions about what I learned at the event, or how our digital inkjet platform can enhance your marketing efforts, please let me know.
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