Despite the long-ago promise of the paperless office and the increase in digitised content, schools still need to print a variety of materials, from application forms to exam papers and from yearbooks to event posters. To date, many schools outsource all but the most minor of printing jobs for a number of reasons. For example, they may not have the relevant equipment for printing or finishing on campus. They may also find cost efficiencies in printing larger volumes externally. Most schools do not have enough resources and staff to spend time managing big print runs and the staff that are available often have no formal or updated training. Additionally, many schools simply do not have the physical space for a print room.
This has all added up to a culture of outsourcing print jobs. However, advances in technology mean that in-house digital printing operations are emerging as a viable way to deliver organisation-wide efficiencies and to pave the way for competitive differentiation and innovation. While digital production solutions have been around for some time, recent technological advances mean the quality and flexibility of digital printing are better than ever before. Digital printing is also relatively low cost and high speed, meeting demands of now and in the future.
Four Drivers towards In-house Digital Printing
There are four main trends that have emerged to drive the demand for in-house digital printing operations:
- Print automation
It has been well documented that, by streamlining the workflow, an organisation can make bottom-line boosting cost savings, efficiency and productivity increases, along with reductions in human intervention and errors. The development of print automation technology has allowed the print room to streamline production processes with far-reaching benefits for the whole organisation.
Traditionally, finishing was considered the major bottleneck area in the print production workflow due to its complexity and labour intensity. Latest developments in inline and near-line finishing equipment for digital printing, such as collators, binders and folders, are now automating the set-up to reduce make-ready, especially for repeat or same format jobs.
Automating print production with job tickets is simple and straightforward, and includes the automatic set-up of output devices as well as fully automated inline finishing.
Due to their integral role in the automated workflow, in-house printing operations are being called upon to share the valuable data they have access to, such as the volume of print jobs, invoices, customer communications and marketing pieces, which can drive operational efficiencies by informing management decision making.
Web-to-print software lets users easily submit print jobs using an Internet browser. Its role in process automation is critical for cost efficiency. Web-to-print is fast evolving into web-to-finish and web-to-product in organisations investing in their own comprehensive online printing capabilities based on all-inclusive, fully automated workflows.
Educational institutions are well placed to leverage web-to-print solutions further as online portals for creating, archiving, managing and deploying communications between teachers and students, or between the school, students and parents. Such portals might even provide certain variable data printing capabilities that enable non-print or non-design staff to create, customise and order personalised documents.
Maximising the value proposition of web-to-print requires a firm dedication to the process, the development of an easy-to-use interface and promotion of the tool to those most suited to using it.
- Shift to cross media
If students, parents and industry partners prefer to access information from a variety of channels, schools and universities that want to remain competitive and prominent need to find a variety of ways to reach them.
Cross media applications are tipped to become one of the fastest growing production tools. To keep up profitability, many print providers and in-house print facilities have already diversified their services portfolio beyond just printing to cross media offerings. Just as institutions can no longer afford to offer their stakeholders generic, hard copy mail outs, neither can print providers afford to limit their offerings. They also need to coordinate and consult throughout the entire set-up for this mailing to include, for example, a personalised URL (PURL) that takes the recipient from print to the web, or a QR code that the recipient scans with his mobile phone to offer more information via the web.
An increasingly important aspect of cross media outreach is personalisation. Personalising a document so that it addresses everything from the individual recipient’s name, salutation, demographic, past results to his subject preferences, is a powerful demonstration of the relevance of the communication.
- Shift from offset to digital
The 2010 InfoTrends study, Future Proof Investments in Document Technology, found that those who rely on in-house print centres expect turnaround within 48 hours for run lengths up to 4,999. Like the external print provider, the focus of the in-house printing operation is to provide the best, most responsive service to its clients. The advantage of the in-house centre is its proximity and its exhaustive understanding of the school and the wider implications associated with failing to respond effectively to demands for fast turnaround.
In addition to greater demand for quicker turnaround times, the expectation for more complex finishes and more engaging and conspicuous materials has also increased. Digital, with its superior variable data and in-line finishing capabilities, looks set to continue its unwavering climb in popularity over offset.
Digital production processes allow frequent, last-minute information updates and, as a result, eliminate a great deal of printed waste. Digital printing has responded to the call not only for faster turnaround, but cost-efficient shorter run-lengths, personalisation in marketing and transactional documents, and print on-demand.
The new technology behind digital print systems is better than ever before, so the accuracy and consistency that was elusive is now achievable.
Six Reasons to bring Printing In-house
There are six key reasons schools should bring professional printing in-house:
- Control and cost savings
Outsourcing the printing of yearbooks can be costly to deliver perfectly bound, full-colour, quality yearbooks. To achieve printing and finishing discounts, schools are often required to order a minimum amount, which may end up being surplus to requirements. Managing the process in-house means schools can produce these materials as required, reducing waste and delivering more control over the entire process.
Being able to respond fast to things like requests for a prospectus gives schools a potential competitive edge. This flexibility to print materials on demand reduces the chance of existing materials going out of date and becoming wasted, while still letting schools respond quickly.
New technology means high-quality digital printing is able to produce high-quality finished printed material. Schools can also maintain control by monitoring jobs as they are printing, which means they can make adjustments where required and ensure that the school’s colours and branding are presented correctly.
Using the same equipment and processes for every print job can help schools ensure their materials are presented correctly and consistently, every time. It makes it possible to reproduce logo colours to the highest quality.
- Bulk printing
By automatically diverting larger print jobs to the print room instead of printing on office multifunction printers, schools can save time and money and free up the multifunction printers for smaller print work. Production press printers offer higher quality as well as cost savings.
Printing professional-quality materials in-house provides opportunities to customise materials on the fly, creating high-value, personalised communications. This can include prospectuses, letters, report cards and more.
How Konica Minolta can help
Konica Minolta works closely with schools around Australia to find ways to streamline their processes and lower costs by better managing print volumes and complex printing requirements. Cutting-edge solutions help schools take back control and improve print room functionality and capacity, letting schools realise significant time and cost savings through bringing printing in-house.
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