By Cassandra Balentine
The traditional publishing model continues to evolve. The latest advancements in booth cutsheet and continuous-feed digital printing forges a new era of supply chain effectiveness across the lifecycle of a book.
In the May issue of DPS, we provide an in-depth overview of the continued role digital print and finishing technologies play in the modern book manufacturing process. In a two-part Web series, we dig a little deeper, taking a closer look at the factors book printers take into consideration when determining whether to produce books offset or digital.
Next week, we provide commentary on workflow considerations, including thoughts on embracing ebook capabilities.
The role of digital print technologies is increasingly important in the book manufacturing space. However, analog is not disappearing.
John Conley, VP, global publishing production, inkjet solutions, Xerox Corporation, says offset is not going away in the U.S., even if a chunk of it moves over. “You’re going to need less of it. The reprint demand is moving to the digital platform, that’s why you see so many looking to inkjet,” he offers.
Conley sees the biggest opportunity for digital book manufacturing in monochrome, inkjet applications. While the specific opportunity relates to the segment, he estimates that one-color books make up 70 to 80 percent of the overall market. “I believe that any book that prints fewer than 5,000 copies in a print run will be produced in inkjet, in one color,” he says. “The presses get faster, the inks get better and less expensive, driving the cost to meet offset at 5,000.”
Bruce Richardson, national sales manager, web presses, KBA North America, agrees, pointing out that the cost reductions and efficiencies are enabling digital inkjet to better compete with offset. “Still, in general, the cost benefit favors digital under 5,000 to 6,000 copies.”
“Assuming a roll-fed inkjet system, hybrid environments typically run counts of one up to 2,000 to 3,000 copies on their digital solutions,” says Andrew Fetherman, director of digital solutions, Muller Martini. “This breakeven point will continue to rise as more productive digital solutions come into the market,” he predicts.
However, besides a general estimate on the substation point of digital for offset, many factors play a role, and the actual crossover point is all over the map.
“Typically, equipment providers are tasked with input/feedback, yet so much depends on internal process and cost structures for any given provider; thus, it is important that the equipment providers and service providers create an open dialogue related to true corresponding costs,” says Brad Simpson, director, inkjet sales, production print solutions, Canon Solutions America.
“According to discussions with customers, this data is really linked to the type of presses installed,” says Manrico Caglioni, president, Book Automation, Inc.
While the manner in which each printer establishes its breakeven point is different according to their specific environment, it also depends on the job at hand, suggests Todd Blumsack, VP of sales and marketing, Xeikon North America.
Dr. Douglas Sexton, director global business strategies, inkjet high-speed production solutions, Hewlett-Packard (HP), admits that breakeven points are driven by numerous factors. “The most important are press productivity, plate cost and change times, waste, and consumables costs including paper and ink,” he states. “A simple breakeven is computed by dividing the difference in makeready costs by the difference in running costs of offset and digital production.”
Results vary significantly depending on the presses and products compared. “Another consideration is that the additional of digital presses to offset plants allows managers to increase overall factory productivity of their offset fleets by moving inefficient short runs from presses designed for long runs,” he adds.
Mike Herold, director, continuous feed inkjet technologies, Ricoh, says shops running both digital and offset will use typically use digital printers exclusively for short run and variable data jobs. “These jobs, when printed on offset printers, can create waste of both time and resources and ultimately produce a loss. Most will make the decision on a job-by-job basis and with the ever-improving final product quality coming off digital presses, many are often leaning on digital presses when a job is on the cusp between long and short run,” he adds.
Aron Allenson, sales support specialist, Screen USA, suggests that the crossover point is generally not a solid line where if the run is below do this, and above, do that. “There are other factors that come into play, such as timing, size of the book, paper requirements, and finishing requirements. Having stated that, as long as the costs are quantified and understood, breakeven or crossover point can be calculated,” he asserts.
Will Mansfield, director, worldwide sales and marketing, inkjet presses, Kodak, notes that because the best press for a job is the one on your shop floor that has available time to print—now, or when the job comes in—is the best for the job, a theoretical breakeven point may be X, but it’s not uncommon for a book printer to run higher counts in digital or lower counts in offset than the ideal.
“The best–lass customers, will, however, look at a fully burdened landed cost to deliver the book to the end customer, and select both the print technology and location that provides the lowest delivered cost,” he says.
Determining the breakeven point for digital versus offset production is unique to each shop, and sometimes each job. While there are obvious exclusions, such as variable jobs that must run on offset, or hot runs that hit millions of impressions, book manufacturers that produce using both technologies rely on expertise and workflow to make the right call in a situation that hovers over their crossover line.
Workflow is another essential component to managing profitability on shorter run work. Next week, we look at best practices when it comes to hybrid production environments in the publishing sector. dps