By Melissa Donovan
The transactional print segment is well suited for digital print, particularly inkjet. From inventories of pre-printed shells to white paper factories, the industry has become more efficient and effective.
However, transactional’s success in the future is only guaranteed if print providers take the time to understand their customers. “Some customers will pay earlier or more reliably with nudges from multiple channels. Understanding the business impacts of how your customers respond to transactional print, as part of the overall communication mix, will help you collect more money faster from your client base. Transactional print can deliver better benefits to you if you understand your customers better. Today, there is no excuse to not have a good grasp of the various personas in your customer base that help you improve your communication design to best serve them in a way that maximizes your business outcomes,” shares Scott Draeger, customer experience officer, Quadient.
It is all about the client. “We believe the future of transactional print will continue to further accommodate customer preferences with highly customized and targeted information that continues to add value and more interaction to each communication. In addition, we believe more print volume will move to digital delivery. How much and how fast, who really knows, but it will continue to move to more digital. Print is not going away, but customers will require their providers to afford them the delivery method of their choice—that has been made clear in several recent studies,” adds Ryan Semanchik, president, Transformations, Inc.
Kemal Carr, president, Madison Advisors, foresees a shift to more outsourcing. “I think it’ll be harder for companies to continue to do transactional work in house at scale. Businesses large and small have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in some cases, their entire business models have changed. This triggered some strategic thinking about what to do with currently owned or rented office space, particularly because letting much of it go can deliver positive results to the bottom line. With the looming labor crunches and the rising demand for new digital communication options, as well as the affordability of printing in color, outsourcing will continue to be increasingly attractive to many enterprises.”
“We expect to see more migration to inkjet technologies within this segment alongside an increased demand for higher speed presses. We also expect an increased interest in more complete automation throughout the plant for more synergy from pre-press to post-press and between different stages of the finishing process. With more automation comes expanded capabilities, increased efficiencies across entire operations to save money, and a reduced labor burden,” notes Johan Laurent, director of business operations, Standard Finishing Systems.
Leveraging automation in all parts of the print process is essential and transactional print is no exception. “Across the broader commercial print market, both inkjet and finishing manufacturers are developing even more advanced automation. With fewer manual touch points from pre- to post-press and simpler training, providers can achieve growth while also reducing labor concerns. Operators can now easily be cross trained and moved seamlessly between different stages of production without causing slowdowns or needing to pause production,” shares Mark Hunt, director of strategic alliances, Standard Finishing Systems.
Automation is being used, according to Lisa Weese, director of marketing, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solution, in prepress to manage diverse color requirements and needs, by processing multiple and non-traditional data sources, and reengineering and normalizing print using automation tools.
Draeger sees automation tools prevalent in omni-channel communications, which transactional print is part of. “Customer preferences change quickly and frequently. Automation tools are managing omni-channel communications to deliver the print components at a time that makes sense. This may mean holding some email, SMS, or in-app notifications until the delivery status is received from the post office to avoid customer confusion. When communication delivery channels are silo-based, customers may receive print messages that conflict with other information. Automation tools can coordinate this at the customer level, while efficiently aggregating print for efficient production.”
A place were automation is underutilized, according to Semanchik, is in combining like jobs. “Cleaning up data, pre-processing activity, combining files, and optimizing print output are typically repetitive steps that take place prior to print. Automating these steps and combining jobs together make it possible to gain better postal rates and a more efficient use of run time on the production floor. The goal of an efficient workflow is for a file or files to enter the system and show up ready to print fully optimized without the need for human intervention.”
Automation tools are also apparent in inspection systems. “These systems can identify printing errors in real time to prevent costly re-work, even on high-speed presses, and generate a variety of production reports for compliance. For providers with inkjet printers, inspection systems can now quickly find defects like nozzle streaks, color issues, and other special defects, reducing waste and overprints to save money and time,” says Laurent.
For example, Hunkeler’s IPI Intelligent Print Inspection dynamically compares the printed image against the bitmap information sent to the inkjet heads, for 100 percent inspection of fully variable information.
Finishing vision systems like Tecnau’s WebVision go beyond the color/jet-out checks provided by press vision systems, to ensure the overall quality of the printed document with data integrity and workflow test capabilities.
Not everyone is all in when it comes to automation. Carr notes that it’s mostly adopted by the companies at the top end of the market. “The large service providers have the right tools in place to streamline their processes, which is generally called ‘the workflow.’ They all have workflow tools that allow applications to flow seamlessly from one stage to the next, with detailed work tracking and reporting to increase quality and ensure service level agreement attainment. We haven’t visited any top-tier print mail providers that don’t have these automated workflow tools.”
Inkjet and Automation
Advancements in both continuous and cutsheet inkjet as well as finishing, workflow, and automation all make for a more efficient future for transactional print. For more on this topic check out, Making a Statement.
Aug2022, DPS Magazine