by Melissa Donovan
Part 2 of 2
Copy shops looking to supplement analog technology or move some basic inkjet work off of higher end presses to free up time consider light and entry-level production printers or multifunction printers (MFPs). Alternatively, for the newer print shop, they also act as stepping stones to larger production devices. For the purposes of this article, we classify the printers in the 70 to 90 page per minute (ppm) range.
Functions and Features
Print environments like copy shops look look for a number of functions when it comes to light and entry-level production printers or MFPs. Important to users this space include features like versatility, as they look to do more with less overhead.
“Looking at the light and entry-level production printers and MFPs in print environments like copy shops, the assumption exists that more robust key operator devices provide the heavy lifting while serving the needs of the walk-in user for short-run jobs. I default to ease of use, reliability, and minimal user intervention needs. Another area is image quality and broad media support. Customers just expect good image quality because they’re paying for it. The media range is also significant to organizations,” explains Robert Covington, senior product manager, Toshiba America Business Solutions.
Broadening on the point of versatility, copy shops need a printer that can help grow their business. “Smaller commercial printers spent a lot of time during the pandemic exploring new routes to revenue, which often meant reaching out to customers they may not have approached before. If a restaurant in town was looking to produce a quick mailer for a five-mile radius, a light production device could deliver both the quality their customers expected at a price point they are willing to pay. From the printer’s perspective, they could do multiple short runs for many local businesses without much downtime,” admits Bernard Matheny, senior portfolio manager, Ricoh USA, Inc.
At the lighter end of the print production spectrum, there is a debate on whether inline finishing components are a necessity.
Both Covington and Matheny agree that production devices or MFPs in the lower range are favored for their smaller footprints in copy shops—so space is at a premium, adding inline finishing to the mix cancels out that spacing concern.
“The inline solutions tend to be slow, have limited capabilities, are costly, and take up a lot space. Unique needs are better met by the online and dedicated finishing solutions that exist,” admits Covington.
“Typically when entry-level production devices are being used it’s because of their smaller footprint. Inline finishing is much more important when producing large-sized output such as banners. When customers ask us if they should explore inline finishing, we ask ‘what volume are you doing that would require that?’ If the answer is less than 40 percent, we recommend near-line finishing or other options,” shares Matheny.
Kent Villareal, senior manager, product planning and marketing, Sharp Imaging and Information of America, agrees that “real estate is at a premium and having offline finishing equipment onsite to make professionally finished documents is not always an option.”
In response to these smaller footprints, Sharp edge-to-edge printing capability comes standard with the Pro Series MX-7090N/MX-8090N color models. This feature allows printing to the long edges of 11×17 sheets, allowing for printed full-bleed booklets with a simple face trim offered on the company’s MX-FN22 Saddle stitch finisher and MX-TM10 Trimmer unit.
In the copy shop space, entry-level, light production printers and MFPs can be viewed as stepping stones. At some point, a print provider will need to consider moving up to a specialized production printer—but when will they know when the right time is?
“We find that when customers need capabilities that are outside the capabilities of our models, it is time to look upstream for mid/high-production options. These needs include florescent colors, spot gloss, Pantone colors outside of the CMYK color gamut, and volumes over 300K for color models and one million per month for B&W models,” shares Villareal.
At Ricoh, the team asks print providers to answer a few important questions when considering expanding into specialized production equipment. “‘Are my customers looking for embellished applications, can my current fleet manage these applications, does my staff have proper training, do I hire new or train current staff or both?’ Only after asking these questions do we recommend exploring more mid-level devices with specialized capabilities,” says Matheny.
Covington suggests that print volume act as the guide to decision making. “A total cost of ownership analysis can help a customer get the right device to best meet their volume demands. Though lower speed devices are more affordable, the cost per copy is invariably higher. A quick look at the historical or anticipated monthly volume can help an end user get the right device. As a rule of thumb, I like to err on the side of a higher volume device, but only slightly. An over-capable, under-utilized MFP or production printer is a waste of money.”
Light and entry-level printers in the 70 to 90 ppm range are used in a number of environments including copy shops and the enterprise. For the enterprise, connectivity and security functions are paramount; and in copy shops, print quality and versatility are attractive features. In both scenarios, these users are looking to address issues like smaller footprint and ease of use.
Jan2022, DPS Magazine