Production printing has long been a way for the industry to capture more page volumes and grow business. With advances in toner-based digital production print presses, many dealers and OEMs have invested time and money to participate in this market and have added production print sales forces. Others may not have entered the market due to the fear that this increasingly competitive and maturing market brings another “race to zero” in toner page revenue and profit. But a sub-segment of the production print market – production inkjet – provides a new opportunity for dealers already in the market as well as those wanting to enter it to find the edge needed to gain real revenue and profit growth.

Production inkjet growing market – cut sheet inkjet advances

A recent Keypoint Intelligence study found that in the U.S. alone, page volume for high-speed inkjet will reach over 200 billion A4/letter pages by 2022 — more than 12 percent growth over 2017. More inkjet pages than production toner pages were printed in 2018 and Smithers Pira expects inkjet pages to represent 53% of digital production print volume by 2024.

Until recently, most production inkjet opportunity lay in high-speed roll-fed (continuous-feed) systems that carry multimillion-dollar price tags but deliver extremely efficient, reliable and low-cost performance when compared to toner-based printers. Advances in high-speed inkjet technology have now come downstream and cut-sheet inkjet devices are available at sub-million-dollar price points, delivering the efficiency, reliability and affordable cost that is the nature of inkjet technology. These cut-sheet devices fall between cut-sheet toner production devices and roll-fed devices, providing a growing opportunity for dealers to engage in the production print space with minimal investment and less competition.

The drivers of demand for any kind of digital color production print press include:

  • Growing demand for the use of color.
  • A need for faster job turnaround times than print providers can get from offset presses.
  • More short-run on-demand jobs
  • The cost-effective nature of digital printing because printing plates are not needed.
  • Increased demand for personalization or customization using variable data printing (VDP).
  • A need for consistent, high-quality print.
  • However, inkjet provides the print community other benefits including:
  • Higher print speeds because of inkjet’s “heatless” process.
  • Inserting and folding equipment have an easier time due to the cold and flat output (no curling from hot fusers).
  • Less maintenance and higher reliability because of fewer moving parts.
  • Less electrical consumption because of no heat operation.

The added benefits a production inkjet printer brings to a customer over a toner-based production printer can provide a salesperson that competitive edge both they and the dealership are looking for. The cost of production cut-sheet inkjet equipment makes delivering those advantages and benefits a more affordable investment for the customer and a dealer entering the production print market.

More profitable incremental print volume

The key reason to sell production print is to gain the incremental print volume from customer in-plants, outsourced print to commercial printers, and commercial printers themselves. This incremental volume on a device can range from 80,000 to 10 million pages per month. For the toner-based models, an embattled service department all too often must give away low color toner CPCs just to land one sale. Inkjet can present a different, more competitive and more profitable model to a dealership.

In many cases, customers only add color to small areas of a print — a red number added to an otherwise black & white form, highlighted color to statements and invoices, or using VDP for personalization of envelopes, for example. This drives down CPC revenue and per page profit in toner-based printers. Inkjet users prefer a model where actual coverage dictates the cost of the page. This means a “CPC” for service and parts can be priced more competitively at a lower CPC than toner, while customers buy the inkjet cartridges separately. The consumable revenue and profit that comes with this model can give a much-needed boost to any dealership.

Additional advantages of cut-sheet production inkjet

Selling cut-sheet production inkjet is profitable and also provides additional advantages and benefits to a dealer:

A fresh message about color. Color printing from toner-based equipment has molded customer perception to believe that color printing is more costly than printing in black and white. Inkjet shatters that myth. Through its lower cost of operation, a color page printed on an inkjet printer can cost no more than a toner-based black and white page and, in many instances, less. This means that for every customer that has ever said “we’d love to use more color, but our budget does not allow for it,” a salesperson has an immediate prospect. At a minimum, salespeople can revisit monochrome clients and convert them to affordable color.

Help print shops provide more diversified offerings to their customers. A print shop with only toner printing is handicapped. Installing an affordable production color inkjet printer can help the print shop address their customers who thought color was too expensive. Diversifying and adding a more cost-effective inkjet printer allows the print shop to meet those customers’ desires and convert black and white jobs to affordable color. This helps the print shop customers meet their business needs and grow their business through the power of color. The print shop grows in business and the dealer benefits as revenue and profit streams grow.

Generate unique revenue streams for print shops. Adding an alternative technology to a print shop’s operation to complement the toner devices can also create unique revenue streams. Using variable data to personalize envelopes, adding color to NCR forms, and printing instruction manuals and educational materials at affordable prices can create new and unique streams of business for the print shop. Of course, all this creates more ink sales for the dealer.

Unlock sales doors that were once closed. There are many times a salesperson will call on a school district, government account or a Fortune 1000 company that has a fleet of MFPs locked into a competitive contract for up to the next five years. Many of those accounts will have a mailroom or in-plant print shop that can use a cut-sheet production print inkjet device. If the school would like to make color materials available as part of their curriculum but feel they cannot afford it, or if an in-plant is sending out jobs to be printed on high-speed color production printers, this makes a perfect opportunity to introduce an affordable inkjet printer to address those needs. Getting a foot in the door of a competitive MFP account this way puts a salesperson, and the dealer, in a strong competitive position when the next decision to update the current MFP fleet comes around.

Protect the current production toner fleet. Higher-priced inkjet devices can displace a dealer’s fleet of black and white production devices. If that happens, the dealer can lose millions of monthly meter clicks overnight. Adding a lower-cost cut-sheet inkjet device as a complement to the black-and-white fleet addresses a print shop’s need for affordable color output and can keep the current fleet intact. A small footprint production inkjet printer reduces or eliminates remodeling costs for the customer when adding a color production device and with the affordable pricing of the equipment it makes an easy way to build a “moat” around that fleet of current production units.

Help customers through growing pains by complementing production toner devices. As digital production printers keep advancing and making it easier to move print from complex, labor-intensive offset presses, many shops and in-plants may find their production toner devices over-worked and not able to keep up with growing print demand. Many dealers are placing affordable inkjet units to pick up the slack, adding printing capacity to the account that helps the customer keep up with growth demands until it becomes justifiable to replace or add another production unit. Providing a solution like this helps a dealer become a fully trusted business partner with the customer and puts them in a strong position to place more inkjet or toner production units when the demand to capacity justifies that need.

Reduction of sales force turnover. Every dealership struggles with turnover because sales is not an easy job. One of the most challenging parts of the job is prospecting. It’s become more difficult to interest prospects with messages that they have heard before. Inkjet brings a fresh new story of affordable color, improved print shop sales, and more satisfied print customers by delivering what they once thought was unaffordable. These and others are different messages that few salespeople are talking about. The production inkjet message can make a salesperson stand out from the crowd by speaking about a different approach to printing and business. It’s a message that is a door opener which can lead to more appointments. With a fresh message, more appointments, and more sales a salesperson is less likely to leave a dealership.

By becoming the home for production inkjet in their market a dealer can successfully enter the growing and profitable production print business. When the staff of production print houses attend events and forums where inkjet is discussed as a growth opportunity, they are likely to go in search of resellers that can help them take advantage of that opportunity when they return home. A dealership that is “the home of inkjet” in their market will be the one they trust.

Production inkjet technology comes in many speeds, sizes and a wide array of pricing. In the past, most production inkjet devices were multi-million-dollar roll-fed units. Today production inkjet has evolved into a wider offering that includes much more affordable cut-sheet devices that are designed for all budgets. Now is the time to enter the cut-sheet production inkjet market. A dealer needs to get out in front of the market while competition is limited, the margins are healthy, and the technology is fresh.

Andre D’Urbano is director of RISO’s dealer channel and corporate marketing department. He has been in the business a little over 30 years, having spent 18 years with RISO and five years each managing sales branches for Konica Minolta and Canon.