By Olivia Cahoon
As digital printer technology continues to advance, efficiency and volume improve to make it a viable solution for high-volume printing. Digital production presses offer the ability to produce output volumes between one and ten million impressions per month. This area is served by both production electrophotographic and cutsheet inkjet equipment.
High-volume printers include book manufacturers, commercial printers, direct mail agencies, in plants, and outsourcing providers. Here, we speak to a variety of print providers that utilize the latest digital technologies for high-volume printing.
Above: Tidewater Direct uses digital printing technologies like the Screen Truepress Jet520HD to produce high-quality continuous forms and four-color direct mail trade printing. The press provides the ability to run untreated, coated substrates.
L & D Mail Masters
In 1986, L & D Mail Masters, Inc. started with three employees in New Albany, IN as a home-based direct mail and mailing list management company. Today, it has 100 employees and operates as a full-service direct marketing and statement processing vendor. Services include design, offset and digital print, direct mail, email and landing page campaigns, statement processing, branded promotional products, and advertising specialties. The company operates out of an 180,000 square foot campus.
In 1998, L & D Mail Masters started digitally printing with five Kodak Digimaster 9150 B&W machines. “At this time, data-rich documents were still in demand and B&W print was laid down on pre-printed forms or letterhead, usually provided by the client,” comments Dianne Fischer, president, L & D Mail Masters, Inc.
Clients started demanding four-color digital print in 2006, prompting the company to purchase a Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS C8000 and two Canon imagePRESS C7000VPs. As digital technology advanced, L & D Mail Masters also purchased two HP Indigo 7000s to provide a quick turnaround and meet quality demands of existing clients, says Fischer.
In 2009, the company received more demand for transactional print and acquired its first inkjet press, a Screen Truepress Jet520, and a Screen Dual Engine two years later. “In 2017, we firmly settled into our belief and investment in inkjet technology with the purchase of a Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 machine as well as replacing two HP machines with a Kodak Nexpress to meet the demand of clients wanting four-color digital qualities at a reasonable cost,” says Fischer.
At the core of its business, L & D Mail Masters is a direct marketing and statement processing firm that handles projects from concept to mail truck. According to Fischer, digital printing and data has always been the fabric of the company. “We grew up on data, so while digital has greatly expanded within the industry in recent years, it is second nature with our company.” As digital technology advances, Fischer sees more companies demanding SOC 2 Type II reporting and compliance documents in regard to data security procedure to ensure client data is utilized and deployed safely.
Typical run lengths for L & D Mail Masters vary from as few as 5,000 pieces to 14 million at a time. The company employs a full-time staff of programmers to efficiently evaluate projects and provide quick turnaround for clients. It produces 150 million pieces yearly.
With its digital presses and ability to offer full-color solutions, L & D Mail Masters prints very little in B&W. “With the variety of state-of-the-art equipment and technology we have invested in the past several years, we are able to provide color digital projects very economically,” shares Fischer.
Digital technology and data-driven communication are powerful tools for L & D Mail Master’s clients.
According to Fischer, if a campaign is executed poorly, it leaves the client with a bad experience and a mistrust of using data in a campaign. “Unfortunately, some are willing to undercut pricing just to fill up machines and really hurt the pricing for the entire industry,” she shares.
Combined with ensuring data security and adequate procedures necessary for data-rich campaigns as well as the investments needed for equipment, technology, and an experienced workforce, Fischer believes barriers of entry can become quite high for producing data-driven direct mail.
“Digital has been and will continue to be the future of print,” she adds. “Our company will continue to invest in technology that allows us to not only execute highly complex projects in a printed format, but also combine print with online experiences.”
As the company grows, L & D Mail Masters evaluates its high-volume printing capabilities and invests in future technologies. Currently, Fischer says the company is interested in Screen’s HD Printer as well as the Canon Océ ProStream 1000.
AutoMail, LLC started in 1998 in Jonesboro, AR with three employees. It operates under three company titles; Trinamic Corporation, a Sub S Corporation; AutoMail, LLC, a software development company; and Document Output Center, LLC (DOC), which operates as an outsource vendor for print2mail item processors.
Until 2006, its flagship product, AutoMail, was its only solution, which was specifically developed for banks and new check image statements. It featured three USPS certified elements that provided CASS, PAVE, and Manifest capabilities, which qualified bank statement mailings for USPS work share discounts on postage—a dollar savings of 25 percent.
“By 2006, AutoMail was the premier mailroom solution for banks throughout all 50 states including Guam,” says Harry Herget, co-owner/director of marketing, AutoMail. “AutoMail became the bank industry standard for mail automation and mixed weight manifesting—in-house users swelled to more than 1,400 banks.”
In 2010, DOC started with one employee and operated in an unfinished, 500 square foot space. DOC is an outsource provider that runs on its proprietary mailing and work process software developed by AutoMail. The company started in response to the house market crash. According to Herget, the total population of banks dropped by 50 percent since 2006—from 12,000 to 6,000.
At this time, banks outsourced item processing and bank mailrooms disappeared while the growth of outsource providers boomed, recalls Herget. DOC now has a target monthly volume of 28,000 items. It has 12 employees and processes more than two million items per month from a 3,500 square foot production space and 5,000 square foot warehouse. The company also has a St. Louis, MO location that occupies 5,000 square feet.
In 2010, AutoMail started to use digital printing technology with HP DI950 presses and then moved to Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS models 1050, 1250, 1200, and 2250. As the company grew it needed to increase capacity and add color printing. “The more we studied printers, the more we were convinced that the cost of an entry-level, roll-fed printer was beyond our reach,” says Herget.
Today, the company is a digital-only business that uses the Xerox Rialto 900 inkjet press. According to Herget, the Rialto 900 was priced above high-end sheetfed printers and below the least expensive roll-fed models. “The market space the Rialto 900 serves is critical and has been a black hole until now.”
The Rialto 900 has a print width of 8.66 inches and produces 342 letter-sized impressions per minute. “The quality of its inkjet technology is superb,” says Herget. “It’s peripherals, such as double stacker, adds to its total through-put, increasing its capacity.” AutoMail is currently in the process of adding a second Rialto 900 to its fleet.
The company serves a variety of transactional businesses for statement printing and is currently expanding into other opportunities in non-transactional commercial printing. Its core verticals are banking, utilities, medical, and insurance.
On average, the company prints 50,000 pages per job with a large variation between large to small jobs. In 2017, AutoMail ran 34.7 million duplex pages. Currently, it prints an equal amount in color and B&W with anticipation for increased color printing in the future.
“Digital print technology is state of the art today and we intend to leverage its production quality and efficiencies to expand beyond transaction item processing and include commercial printing of non-transactional items,” says Herget. “The potential to dramatically increase our processing volume is almost limitless and enables us to leverage our digital print technology for optimal value.”
Tidewater Direct started in 2006 after the assets of Tidewater Publishing, which started in the early 1960s, were purchased. With 125 employees across three locations, the company produces high-color, high-quality continuous forms, four-color direct mail trade printing and finishing, and commercial inkjet web printing and finishing. Its combined workspace is 200,000 square feet.
Tidewater Direct has a large mid-Atlantic presence in the U.S. with locations in IA and MD. In 2017, the company began using digital printing technology. “We believed that in order to evolve as a direct mail component part supplier, we needed to embrace technology to support our customers’ growing inkjet needs,” says Geoffrey Eisenberg, EVP, Tidewater Direct, LLC.
The company uses the Screen Truepress Jet520HD for its versatility in running multiple DPIs on untreated, coated substrates. The Jet520HD has a 520 milimeter media width and prints up to 120 meters per minute. It features an enhanced version of the Equios professional workflow system, which allows for increased production benefits, job automation, color management, in-RIP imposition, JDF communication, and PDF/VT support.
According to Eisenberg, the Jet520HD’s substrate compatibility was a game-changer and created a financial advantage for the company.
Tidewater Direct is also a direct mail component part supplier that prints and delivers personalized and generic direct mail component parts as coated or uncoated rolls to direct mail contractors, newspapers, and print brokers. The company remains focused on direct mail but has expanded its applications to allow clients greater opportunity. “Our clients enjoy trade pricing on high-quality inkjet web printing without an investment—it’s a win all around,” says Eisenberg.
Conventional run lengths for the company are typically several hundred thousand copies to several million copies. With inkjet, the company sees quantities of 20,000 up to several million, with the majority of jobs falling around 100,000 copies.
Eisenberg believes one of the greatest advantages of digital technology is that it allows Tidewater Direct to print on untreated coated stocks.
The company has seen its fair share of challenges. “One challenge has been marketing ourselves and building trust in our clients that outsourcing this product is no more difficult than outsourcing traditional print,” admits Eisenberg.
In the future, Tidewater Direct hopes to grow its digital printing sector. “We see tremendous potential with inkjet. Many clients are realizing this and designing campaigns specifically for inkjet,” offers Eisenberg.
Headquartered in Valmeyer, IL, MAR Graphics started in 1961 as a forms printer in a 700 square foot garage. Today, the company has 90 employees that operate in a 98,000 square foot facility. Its services include digital print, direct mail, forms, integrated products, pressure seal, and security printing.
In 1995, the company started to use digital printing technology with a Xerox DocuTech 135. Today, MAR Graphics uses the Ricoh Pro VC60000 for its high image quality and 495 feet per minute speed. “The print engines can be upgraded as Ricoh continues to innovate, helping us to scale into the future,” says Rick Roever, president, MAR Graphics.
The Pro VC60000 continuous feed inkjet printer produces up to 40 million impressions per month. “The Pro VC60000 is narrowing, sometimes eliminating, the quality gap between UV offset and inkjet,” shares Roever. “In some cases, it even beats offset in terms of image quality.”
The company also uses the RICOH Pro C9110 and RICOH Pro 9100. Both presses feature a 13×27.5-inch maximum media size, 400 gsm maximum media weight, and 1,200×4,800 dpi. MAR Graphics also uses the Ricoh InfoPrint 4100 duplex, roll-fed toner press.
MAR Graphics uses other digital printing presses including the Xerox iGen4, Xerox Nuvera 144, Xerox Nuvera 314, Xerox Nuvera 288, and products from Memjet, Hammerhead, and RISO. “Our digital print environment was strategically designed and implemented to cover a variety of applications and capabilities at a consistently high level of quality,” says Roever.
Historically, MAR Graphics’ core business provided forms for direct mail and transactional documents. Its direct mail services include personalization features and the USPS’ Every Door Direct Mail program.
Typical run lengths for MAR Graphics run from one to 500,000. Its devices support a variety of programs and versioning. The company currently mails five million pieces per month and with its most recent equipment, it has grown to ten million per month. “We print more than 64 million UV offset forms per month, which are imaged at letter shops across the country,” offers Roever.
The company prints a mix of B&W, inkjet, and color toner with digital-only projects and applications. It has seven half-web UV offset presses that support its letter shop and other letter shops across the country. “For the most part, color inkjet and color toner complement our UV offset print,” says Roever.
One of the biggest challenges of digital technology for MAR Graphics is taking full advantage of it—including building programs to leverage existing technology for effective solutions and staying on the lookout for new software, hardware, and services to meet customers’ evolving needs. “The biggest challenge is also our greatest advantage—the potential is so huge, it can almost be daunting,” offers Roever.
In the future, MAR Graphics hopes to continue to grow by bringing new, innovative applications to its customers.
Digital printers offer new capabilities and efficiencies for high-volume production environments. From books to direct mail, a variety of print providers invest in digital printing technology to cost effectively produce high volume runs without sacrificing quality. dps
May2018, DPS Magazine