Direct mail printer switches from offset to inkjet printing
The digital transformation is now complete at MSP, located in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, culminating with the installation of a high-definition inkjet web press that eliminated the need for offset equipment in the printer’s processes. direct mail. “We’re out of lag,” according to MSP COO Doug Wright, “and it’s like a switch has gone off. We are now strictly digital powered.
Although the concept of digital transformation is not new, recent developments in high-speed inkjet printing technology – including production speed, substrate versatility and faster drying – have “deciphered the code” on high production viability and greatly expanded the possibilities of what digital printing can do.
MSP, which was founded in 1953, is a privately held company with 350 employees that primarily focuses on direct mail for nonprofit organizations. It typically runs jobs ranging from 1,500 pieces to 500,000. In addition to printing, the company also operates a full-service postal facility designed to handle large volumes.
Wright explains that the company’s current guiding principle is to “become an all-digital space. We want to print once and for all, without inventory. It’s more profitable. This effort by MSP includes minimizing production space by no longer leasing a production site in Freedom, Pennsylvania, and instead consolidating production into its own factory in Bloomsburg.
White paper in, color printed product out
According to Mark Schlimme, vice president of marketing at SCREEN Americas, whose Truepress Jet 5220HD AD high-definition inkjet web press was the latest critical element in MSP’s digital transformation. colorful shells. These analog-printed color components were then printed digitally – a two-step process necessitated by the need for strong color and print quality.
This was done, Schlimme adds, because MSP “wants to be a full-fledged white paper factory, where the white paper goes in and the finished product comes out.” With the new press, he says, MSP “is able to eliminate all challenges and shell inventory.”
Wright points out that the move away from pre-printed shells and toward full-color digital production has opened up opportunities for customers and designers to integrate color into the heart of direct mail messaging. As an example, he says a financial institution might use color to highlight an attractive interest rate; a non-profit organization could use it to make their message more visual.
For direct mail printers like MSP, changes in the nature of the market – where the use of data enables a deeper and more granular approach to marketing – production inkjet printing provides the key link
between design and production. Economical short runs in color and the ability to embed variable data in the printed output means not only printing differently, but doing it differently.
The changes that high-speed digital production has brought to direct mail producers go beyond the elimination of typos. Wright says one of the biggest benefits is “speed to print” and the elimination of process keys. Additionally, customers and designers can be trained to “think digitally” and leverage the deeper value that digital output can bring. Wright, as an example, presents the concept of an animal rescue organization personalizing direct mail communications, based on knowing individual prospects, featuring the type of animal that the person is most passionate about.
Wright says the new acquisition is the company’s fourth SCREEN inkjet press, so MSP is keenly aware of what digital printing can bring to its customers. This includes the ability to do individual work, bringing additional value to its clients. MSP’s focus on inkjet is driven by speed and material choice, says Wright, who considers toner-based digital systems to be “old-fashioned and unprofitable.”
As well as bringing value to the customer, MSP’s complete move to digital printing brings other tangible benefits: “When you look at real estate,” he says, referring to the floor space required for digital units, “I can have two presses in the space where I had one before. While the speed of inkjet printers doesn’t match the speed of a litho press line, he says, there’s more to the value calculation than just speed. “There are cost savings, labor reductions and no shelving or storage requirements. Printing is a little more expensive, but with the savings factored in, you’re about on par with lithography.
What is driving the inkjet opportunity?
What has changed to improve inkjet technology now directly affects the vertical markets it can serve. With inkjet, says Schlimme, “people were used to lower quality for transactions, direct mail and some publications; the quality was not really there for high-end work.
Since then, he notes, developments in print quality and the ability to print on standard coated and uncoated offset printing media – no need for primer or premium paper – have changed the given. Additionally, new drying technologies have helped to maximize inkjet productivity by enabling faster production speeds and eliminating drying time before finishing.
Inkjet systems, like the SCREEN press installed by MSP, can be a game-changer, not just for specific businesses, but for entire segments. Schlimme says direct mail is becoming more personalized and even online businesses are finding their value. “The look is traditional, but can be personalized, regionalized,” he says.
Added envelope production capacity
In line with MSP’s “white paper factory” approach, MSP is adding a Winkler+Dünnebier (W+D) 410 Combi roll-fed envelope converting system, in part to gain additional process control and to create a lower cost and more reliable system. solution for its supply of envelopes. This system, combined with an inkjet envelope printing system, will allow MSP to convert and print (in colour) up to 33,000 envelopes/h. The workforce will also be increased beyond MSP’s current 350 employees, according to Wright, to accommodate MSP’s new business envelope.
Recent developments at MSP, Schlimme says, are indicative of a broader trend in the commercial printing space. The ongoing convergence of direct mail and other business segments is driven by a confluence of changes in the labor pool, instability in the paper supply chain, and evolving marketing rules. More and more, he hears commercial printers say, “I bought my last offset press.
The benefits of MSP transformation are profound. In addition to eliminating the need for shells, Schlimme says it has added flexibility to the client by bringing the creative and data elements of a job closer to the deadline. He notes that this is particularly useful for programmatic mailing work, where messages change more frequently.
According to Wright, the digital space is a great opportunity for employees to become proficient news operators. And because the skills required of an offset press operator are not needed in the digital space, companies can realize reduced labor costs. Also, the digital press operator doesn’t need to be an expert in color management, he says, noting that color is tackled at the prepress stage.
To find operators in the midst of a labor shortage, Wright says MSP has looked to young talent – gamers in particular – those who have some PC knowledge and can easily get to grips with the digital printing equipment. A short learning curve on new systems also speeds up operator proficiency.
MSP’s journey is part of a larger trend. Many of today’s commercial printing and direct mail companies are seriously considering — or already on the path to — digitally transforming their businesses, in whole or in part. MSP’s transformative experience offers a granular view of what has increasingly become a broader industry movement.