- July 01, 2001, Teresa Koltzenburg, Senior Editor
The other day PFFC's editors were discussing how pleased — and surprised — we were about the responsive service some of us recently received from our health insurance providers. Everyone talks about service today, but it's not a cliché — to stay at the top of the game, customer needs need to come first. And in our industry these days, that's often where digital printing comes in.
Superior, responsive service will help ensure the future of your operation, explains Don Bence, VP/general manager-packaging group, Xeikon America, Wood Dale, IL. For converters that aren't looking into digital printing (or already practicing it), he says, “I think there's a serious danger, within four or five years, that a lot of their customers will drift away.”
Digital printing can help take your converting plant to the top tier in responsiveness, Bence suggests. “Unless somebody is totally dedicated to long-run production, increasingly, they're trying to be in the service business.”
Your customers, who may be asking for shorter, more “flexible” runs, probably are aware they can get this with digital printing. Here, flexibility can mean a number of things but still is key to superb service. Geert Van den Hole, product manager of Barco Graphics, Gent, Belgium, says digital technology can increase your operation's flexibility. “A digital solution offers [converters] economic short runs, shorter downtime/change-over time, and variable-information printing.”
Bence says converting operations with digital capabilities “can offer customers service that few others are promoting, including frequent repeats, runs as [the customer] needs them, and the flexibility and the change capability the industry seems to be afraid to address.”
According to Bence, converters that are into digital are making the most of their investment, adding that the investment doesn't necessarily pay for itself right away. “The people using [the digital presses] successfully today run them right alongside their flexo or offset presses — maybe in another room. They utilize all the processes; they don't have just digital, and they steer the work that fits the process toward digital. This really frees up capacity on their production presses. If they are doing short runs on a production press, the make-ready time kills them. If they can leave that work off for stuff that fits the digital process, they can end up with more time on their large presses.”
For converters not quite ready to make the leap into full-on digital printing technology, Chromas Technologies, Boucherville, Que., Canada, “now offers a digital printing system available for retrofit onto conventional printing presses,” reports digital sales manager Robert Rogers. He lists the jobs ideally suited for this type of hybrid press: “single- and multicolor, health and beauty labels and packaging, pharmaceutical, industrial, and electronic markets.
“By combining a digital system with a flexo press,” Rogers adds, “converters can take advantage of the strengths of flexo and digital in-line.”
So, is digital printing going to sustain and/or save your printing business? Well, not without investigation and a forward-thinking mentality, Bence suggests. “Many think they know what ‘digital’ means, and in most cases, they actually don't. So, until they really start studying it, it's a mystery ground. I know they've all heard about it, but the number actually thoroughly investigating [the technology's benefits] is still not too high.”
Bence says that may be due to the fact “packaging people” are looking at the digital process as another way to print the way they do today. “That doesn't work,” he warns. “What digital really offers is a way to handle work they don't have today.”
Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month and consult the June Buyers Guide.