Advancements in Digital Print and Finishing

Transactional statements provide vital data to consumers. Advancements in digital print and finishing technologies affect transactional production for both in plants and data centers. In the high and ultra-high volume space, users look for a complete, end-to-end mailing solution. Continuous feed inkjet technologies and sophisticated digital finishing systems provide core services to this segment.

While there is a push to electronic mail delivery in certain areas, numerous studies support growth in print. Interquest: Transactional Printing in North America: Market Analysis & Forecast, 2014-2019, cites that today more than 34 percent of transactional impressions are produced on inkjet and projected to rise to 51 percent by 2019.

According to InfoTrends’ U.S. Digital Production Printing Application Forecast: 2012-2018, by 2018, transactional pages are projected to represent 20 percent of U.S. digital impressions. In the future, print will remain an integral part of the high and ultra-high volume transactional space.

Complete Package
A major trend in transactional print is the ability of continuous feed inkjet technologies and sophisticated digital finishing systems to work together in offering a complete mailing solution, taking a blank piece of paper to a ready-to-mail piece in an end-to-end workflow. This is prevalent today more than ever as users demand efficiency and productivity.

“In today’s competitive business environment, the goal is to produce more with less manpower, while maintaining quality control over the finished product. The concept of ‘white paper in, finished product out’ is now a reality due to the integration of finishing systems communicating directly with a press,” explains Susan Corwin, marketing manager, Rollem International.

Speed drives the inkjet trend. “As continuous feed inkjet technology continues to increase in speed, it is forcing printers and suppliers to find more efficient ways to handle large volumes of mail in an ever decreasing amount of time,” says Nick Gerovac, director of sales and marketing, VITS International, Inc.

“Streamlining white paper into a finished color output model creates efficiencies that did not exist for print volumes in excess of one million plus pages per month. In some cases, it also enables the print shop owner to retain the revenue currently spent on procuring offset shells from outside offset print suppliers, increasing their bottom line,” adds Sheri Jammallo, corporate enterprise segment marketing manager, Canon Solutions America.

New introductions of inkjet web presses makes the addition of inkjet technology to a transactional environment attractive to buyers, according to Pat McGrew, M-EDP, inkjet evangelist, HP PageWide Web Press. “The combination of speed and cost per page combined with the new wave of finishing equipment that keeps up with the speeds of the presses opens the door to more capacity with a smaller footprint than banks of toner-based devices.”

“A more empowered consumer and the proliferation of digital communication channels dictate that physical communications be more personalized, engaging, and tightly integrated with other components of an omni-channel communications campaign. That means print and mail operations must be flexible enough to process a multitude of complex job profiles in a faster and more cost-effective way,” shares Grant Miller, VP global strategic product management, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies.

On the finishing side, Johan Lauren, business manager Hunkeler, Standard, believes a barrier in the past to transactional environments adopting automated digital solutions was the lack of ability to perform important quality checks. “That obstacle has been removed, since state-of-the-art inspection systems can track the mailing piece from end to end to ensure its quality and integrity.”

“These integrity checking vision systems in addition to new finishing technologies like conventional high-speed inserters with optional printheads added for envelope addressing to complete white paper factories enable limitless personalization in all areas of the traditional transactional market,” say Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM transaction printing and direct marketing segments, and Jerry Sturnick, GM, finishing and output workflow solutions business team, Xerox Corporation.

As a whole, Lance Martin, director of sales, MBO America, sees these trends occurring in transactional printing as a natural progression of the business. “When new technology is introduced, companies apply it as best they can with the existing technology and resources available in the market.”

Case in point, Dr. John Kuta, director of sales and marketing North America – print media handling, BDT Media Automation GmbH, notes that many digital printing systems have implemented media handling systems borrowed from older analog print systems.

“Limitations inherent in these older approaches to media management limit the flexibility, versatility, and machine utilization for digital presses at a time when the industry demands more. With the value of the printed piece being driven down due to competition from electronic communication solutions, printers are seeking full automation with greater machine versatility and process integration to reduce the cost per printed piece,” he continues.

Catering to the Demand
Vendors are collaborating to offer complete mailing solutions for those in the high and ultra-high volume space. While some partner with other vendors, some embark on launching their own product lines to meet demand.

BDT Media developed its BDT Tornado technology to address the need for flexibility and versatility in media handling. The technology is implemented on feeder systems found on the HP Indigo 10000 and 30000 digital presses and recently the BDT TPF-550 deep pile feeder with BDT Tornado technology was incorporated into the Kodak Nexpress Digital Press digital production color press.

Bell and Howell LLC influences the creation of mail pieces with its Inveloper, which forms an envelope around contents rather than inserting contents into a pre-formed envelope. When combined with color printers, the result is high-speed production rates of up to 30,000 finished pieces per hour.

Canon offers its Océ ColorStream 3000Z Series, featuring high speeds for ultra-high volume environments. This continuous feed inkjet press can be equipped with inline or nearline finishing depending on the customer’s needs.

HP launched its HP PageWide Web Presses, which caters to the transactional and book printing industries, according to McGrew. The portfolio spans from 20- to 42-inch models and can be paired with both inline and nearline finishing solutions, depending on the customer.

MBO developed its solutions to require less manual handling and the ability to place different modules together to create a custom system. The tailor-made solutions are ideal for those in the high and ultra-high volume transactional segment.

Pitney Bowes offers an end-to-end solution that helps print and mail operations migrate to a White Paper Factory. IntelliJet high-speed digital color inkjet printing systems are built with Pitney Bowes Production Intelligence software to offer personalized communications with greater impact.

Rollem maintains relationships with most major inkjet manufacturers, enabling the company to provide a complete print and finish package to customers. Of note, its Jetstream XY Finisher features Smart Perf, offering three perforation modes. It is ideal for the creation of remittance forms and messaging—applications prevalent in high-volume transactional print.

Standard’s new Hunkeler DP8 dynamic perforating and punching module has increased its speed to 720 feet per minute (fpm) to match high-speed inkjet systems. In addition, Hunkeler’s WI6 inspection system inspects every page printed—at speeds up to 850 fpm—and communicates results back to the workflow management system.

VITS adapts its high-speed, high-volume technology originally used for offset and configures it to the needs of high-volume web-fed printers.
Xerox was one of the first digital solutions providers to establish partnerships with leading finishing providers. Today this is still a service offered through Xerox Production Ink Jet Solutions and complements Xerox Workflow Software and Service offerings.

Electronic Push
Electronic mail delivery, specifically in the high and ultra-high transactional space, remains a strong consideration for many print—or marketing services depending on their capabilities—providers. While some remain steadfast in their opinion that a large portion of the transactional market will rely on electronic mail, many believe that print will continue to hold its ground.

Those citing electronic as the majority holder in the equation see major drivers such as customer demand and budgetary concerns as tipping the scales in favor of this model. For example, rising postal rates continue to challenge direct mail. On the other side of the argument, industry players believe print is steadfast in its growth in the transactional space and will always play a role.

Sweeney and Sturnick cite analyst firm InfoTrends’ statistic that only about 25 percent of bills and statements are delivered paperless. “While there is a push to electronic mail delivery, it is not at the rate that was expected or projected. Despite the attempts of many companies to transition to electronic mail delivery to reduce expenses, many billing recipients still like to receive hard copies of their statements,” they admit.

Miller cites a recent study that found 84 percent of people believe they understand information better when they read print on paper. Further, he refers to when the U.S. inspector general’s office analyzed three consecutive months of 2014 billing data for a major utility company. In its research, it discovered that 91 percent of customers chose to receive their statements via mail.

“Many believe that the quick rise in the acceptance of email as the transaction communication medium has already topped out with the early adopters and that going forward there will not be a significant increase in those adopters who accept it as the only form of communication. The reasons are many, from changing personal email addresses to concern about hackers and the fear that transaction email will be scooped up by a spam filter causing a missed payment,” suggests McGrew.

“The transactional document still breeds trust, especially in today’s day and age where consumers are bombarded in every way imaginable including email, text, and video,” agrees Jammallo.

Laurent believes that transactional statements benefit more with print over electronic delivery. “Color inkjet and more sophisticated finishing equipment allows companies to improve the quality of their statements, and as a result the overall experience of their customers and their incentive to pay their bill on time.”

Pete Jones, director, business development, Bell and Howell, says that transactional mail that remains in the mail system maintains a higher value because of the introduction of color.

Future Transactions
In the next three to five years, the transactional print space—specifically the high and ultra-high volume portion—will differ from its current state.
Patti Smith, WW senior director, strategy and partnerships, enterprise inkjet systems division, Eastman Kodak Company, sees the integration of full-color direct marketing inserts into the transactional print stream as the fastest growing segment in color transactional inkjet applications. “This is a more affordable means of reaching the target audience than direct mail as postal service costs continue to rise,” she adds.

According to Miller, there will be a greater demand for higher resolution and more color, “as inkjet print quality improvements and cost savings shift more impressions to digital color inkjet.”

“As inkjet costs decline and with digital overload becoming more evident with consumers, color print communications continue to hold weight,” agrees Corwin.

In a Transactional State of Mind
The printed page is viable in the transactional space. Advancements in color inkjet printing coupled with automated finishing devices inline or nearline provide in plants and data centers playing in the high and ultra-high volume production range with a cost-effective way to create transactional statements that stand out in the mail stream.

While electronic delivery methods remain prevalent, transactional print is an important part of overall communications. The quality emitted from a well-designed, colorful, targeted piece of paper instills trust in the intended recipient. dps


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