According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “change is the only constant in life,” and that’s certainly been true over the last few years. For the most part, that’s a good thing, since the rapid change forced upon the education market in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021 had some significant impact, and while not all students were impacted the same, overall, they were mostly impacted negatively.
McKinsey found that, on average, K-12 students were five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. High school students were better able to adapt to virtual learning than lower grades, but online learning still had adverse effects on them overall. Meanwhile, first and second graders ended the year two or more grade levels below expectation than in any previous year, according to McKinsey.
The research firm said that the loss of time will cost today’s students between $49,000 and $61,000 in earnings over their lifetime, resulting in a $128 to $188 billion impact on the U.S. economy every year once these kids enter the workforce. The effects of COVID-19 appear as if they will ripple through society for decades. We must make up for this lost ground. And print is going to help us.
How? Students need and rely on curriculum materials printed on paper — in color. Why color? According to studies, color print improves reading comprehension and retention by up to 80%, helps students better understand new ideas, and helps them remember ideas more easily. In fact, students performed better in standard pattern recognition tests using color compared to black and white, are more likely to read a document that contains color, and are more likely to focus on important information, remember key facts and information, and be more interested in their work — all just from using color documents instead of monochrome.
For this reason, cut-sheet production inkjet has become a must-have option on the floor of every school district in-plant in the country. An ink-based digital device offers the perfect blend of affordability, reliability, and speed and optimization — all the benefits of offset with the ease of use that comes with toner-based engines. Give the in-plant the ability to generate affordable color and they will print workbooks, newsletters, exams, and even fundraising material all day long inside of that coveted operating budget.
The problem with color is the perception that color print is expensive, and whatever else has changed in education, one thing remains the same: schools have to get the absolute most for every dollar to provide the best education possible. So, despite the proven advantages of color in the classroom, the cost of color is a huge limitation for school administrators. Even now, they still believe that the cost of color printing must be sky high.
So the question on the minds of many school district administrators today is, “how can I increase the use of printed color material without increasing my operating budget?” Roll-fed devices are overkill for most school systems, especially when you consider the cost. While print volumes in the education space are higher than other verticals you sell into, the volume is typically not high enough to justify the cost of a roll-fed device or for education institutions to realize any actual savings. Cut-sheet inkjet devices represent a mid-five to low-six figure investment, whereas roll-fed devices can cost millions. With inkjet, the days of 10 cents a page for color prints are gone, and schools can enjoy color printing for as little as a penny
Print doesn’t get much more reliable than with cut-sheet inkjet technology, and this is a function of the simplicity of inkjet printers compared to laser printers that use toner, combined with the options offered by cut-sheet. When you print on an inkjet device, the only thing that moves is the paper, as compared to the complicated orchestration of moving parts with many potential points of failure involved in laser printers. The technology in production inkjet allows for true duty cycles ranging anywhere from half a million to 10 million impressions per month, with minimal servicing.
Compared to roll-fed devices, you can expect better image quality from a cut-sheet device as well. Cut-sheet inkjet devices can output color images at 4,800 dpi, whereas roll-fed devices top out at 1,200 dpi. In other words, you can expect more vibrant colors, amplifying the reading comprehension and retention benefits noted previously.
Fewer moving parts and a simple mechanism for printing means fewer breakdowns, easier operation, and optimal functionality. Because ink, unlike toner, doesn’t need to be bonded or fused to the substrate, there is an absence of heat. Heat, or heat buildup, is a reason our cars, appliances and toner-based printers often break down. This reliability reduces the amount of on-site visits for dealers, widening their profit margins on service contracts. There is also a large environmental benefit from utilizing “heatless” inkjet, from less electrical consumption to virtually zero emissions, to the capability for high duty cycles.
The thing that makes inkjet so reliable and sustainable is the same thing that makes it so fast: there is no wasted motion in inkjet printers, since all printing is done with a single pass. The printhead doesn’t have to move from side to side or pass across several drums—once the page has passed the print head, the job is complete.
Cut-sheet inkjet printers support multiple paper trays, so it is much easier to print on several substrates, while roll-fed devices only work with one media type at a time. That means roll-fed printer operators would have to spend time switching between rolls. This can be a problem in an education in-plant or CRD, as teachers are submitting jobs that need to be printed on a variety of media types. For example, if a teacher submits one job for 50 handouts printed on ordinary office paper along with 50 bound packets, then the print operator would have to stop printing and switch the roll manually. Cut-sheet operators can simply load both media types before the job, then click print — no extra steps are required. Keep in mind that loading cut-sheet pages is a much simpler process than loading media on a roll-fed device.
Inkjet devices also work with print management solutions, which allows school administrators to secure and control the print environment and keep costs from running out of control. For example, a rule can be set so that all jobs are printed in duplex only to minimize paper usage, or so that certain documents that don’t require color are printed in monochrome only. These solutions also enable school districts to apply smart security settings to their printer, so they can mitigate security risks presented by the printer. For example, you can restrict user access to only what they need to get the job done, so you can adhere to the principle of least privilege.
Color cut-sheet inkjet for all
It’s not like educators are the only folks who can benefit from color inkjet. Government, another tax-funded entity that needs to squeeze as much value from every dollar, can also benefit from color inkjet. It can also be an invaluable improvement to in-plants at healthcare providers, which have never been busier than now. Basically anyone with the need for small-batch production print can benefit from color cut-sheet print. The use of color in each application has its own benefits—producing important documents in color so that they are more likely to be read, understood, and acted on—which were presumably outweighed by cost. But color isn’t expensive anymore. The cost barriers are no longer in place. It’s up to dealers to dispel the myth.
As we slowly and carefully ease our way back to post-pandemic life, it’s important that we learn from the changes we experienced. Some of the changes were for the better and are worth hanging on to. Others we can just chalk up to a learning experience – and ironically, the way we learn is one of those. Virtual learning has its problems, and physical, color learning materials can’t be beat, no matter how far the cycle of change takes us.
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.