July 18, 2018

Switching to Inkjet? Check Your Production Workflow

Leslie Wengenroth | Director of Marketing
inkjet production

If your company is in the document production business as a print service provider or an in-house department and you haven’t migrated to an inkjet printing environment you have probably been thinking about it.

Inkjet hardware and per-page production costs keep falling. What started as a platform affordable only to shops with very high volumes is now filtering into operations with more modest requirements. Inkjet conversion is an attractive idea for many businesses.

However, something that hasn’t changed so much is the production workflow required to take full advantage of inkjet printing investments. The best ways to prepare files, print, and finish documents might differ from the tried-and-true methods serving your organization for the last several decades. Underestimating the level of effort and planning necessary to migrate to an inkjet-optimized workflow could be an expensive mistake you don’t want to make.

Reaping Productivity Benefits

Most print producers plan on efficiencies gained by a white paper document factory as part of their ROI calculations. In this environment, a print operation eliminates the need to stock and inventory pre-printed shells. Plain white paper enters the printer and full color documents come out.

Making the switch to a white paper workflow sounds easy, but it’s not. Print operations must acquire and convert resources such as form templates, logos, photos, and signatures. Check the requirements for the new print device to see what file formats it supports. You may also need to match colors to replicate corporate colors formerly produced by offset presses. Managing ink coverage and optimizing print streams for efficient RIP’s and printing are also tasks print operations must handle.

You must address all these areas to continue printing the same documents you’ve been producing for years!

Issues with color can be especially troublesome for businesses with only monochrome experience. Color management is part art and part science. It may be necessary to add a color expert to the staff to help migrate jobs from one print platform to another.

Print stream optimization and transformation requires specialized software. Print service providers will need to engineer the existing print stream – extracting data, identifying repetitive elements like logos or form outlines, converting to new print description languages, and adding tracking and control barcodes.

Speedy inkjet printing can cause a production bottleneck at the finishing steps. Folders, bindery, or inserting production lines that formerly matched the output capacity of slower printing devices may fall behind when inkjet printers generate pages at a faster pace. Even non-technical aspects of production workflows like space for storage, staging, and material movement must be anticipated.

Combining Jobs Requires Sophisticated Tracking

A white paper document factory allows printers to combine small jobs. This tactic reduces machine idle time and lessens time spent on intra-job activities like logging, tracking, and quality control. Accounting for all the pages and ensuring document integrity, however, becomes more difficult when shops combine print jobs. You can’t use old-fashioned manual methods like batch control totals– especially if you have optimized the print stream for postal presort discounts. Automated processes must account for pages from multiple jobs interspersed throughout the run.

Add barcodes to the documents with software like Crawford Technologies Operations Express. This allows document operations to track pages as they progress through the production workflow. If a page is missing or out of sequence, the equipment will stop and alert the operator. The software can automatically reprint damaged documents while logging the status of each page to ensure complete job integrity, even in a complex combined-job environment.

Switching to inkjet involves much more than swapping out the hardware. To get the best return on this investment, print service providers and in-plant print operations should spend time before the machine installation to confer with experts who can help printing companies avoid unanticipated difficulties and unmet requirements. Reach out to us at Crawford Technologies. We will answer your questions about converting to inkjet and help you identify the areas of your present workflow that may need adjusting.