The digitization of label production began years ago with bleeding-edge projects but only now is beginning take a foothold across the printing world, which is still dominated by flexography. Some of the globe’s largest brands are reinvesting in print with the shifts in advertising effectiveness to younger generations, who may never watch a television ad or block them entirely online.
A recent report by Future Market Insights estimates the demand for digital printing in packaging will grow at 15.3 percent to surpass US$52 billion in revenues by 2026. By product type, labels is currently the largest segment, accounting for over US$7.1 billion in revenues in 2016. Future Market Insights estimates demand for digital labels will increase at 16.7 percent CAGR to reach US$38.4 billion in revenues. The labels segment is estimated to hold the highest market share by the end of the projected period, accounting for more than 70 percent of the global market share by the end of 2027, up from 64.1 percent in 2016.
Consider for example, the money invested by Coca-Cola to produce its largest-ever personalized brand campaign, Share a Coca-Cola, launched in 2013 across 32 countries. Coke used printing operations with HP Indigo presses to digitally print labels with 150 of the most popular first names, nicknames and terms of affection – initially 800 million high-quality personalized labels.
The Share a Coca-Cola campaign became famous across the printing world because it signified a paradigm shift in what is effective marketing, leveraging print. It is an example of long-run versioning through digital, but the possibilities of digital labels burst open.
Commercial printers are certainly attracted to the potential of digital labels but without a large client base will find it hard to invest millions in capital equipment and workflow infrastructure. Instead, many will take the route of entry-level inkjet- or toner-based printing engines, which can be integrated with a range of finishing technologies to work with existing clients and build up a base before committing significant resources. PrintAction spoke with Brett Kisiloski, PDS Sales Manager, about the potential of digital label printing, as well as the challenges and opportunities of investing in entry-level digital printing systems.
What kind of systems do printers need to enter digital labels?
Kisiloski: cEssentially you need two machines for a full production label system. You have your roll-to-roll label printer and your label finisher, which will laminate, die cut custom shapes, waste matrix, and then you can slit into singles from a multiple-up format. We focus on toner-based printers rather than inkjet – roll-to-roll toner. For us specifically, we use the OKI engines. We carry a few different die cutters but essentially they do the same sort of thing.
When is a die-cutter not needed?
Kisiloski: The only time we ever suggest to a customer that it is okay for them just to purchase a label printer is if they are only doing one or two sizes of labels… then it is easy for them to print pre-die-cut and they only need to stock one or two sizes in their shop. If you have a lot of other custom sizes, you can’t just phone up your label material provider saying you need new shapes… it is going to cost you twice as much. The flexibility isn’t there.
Are more commercial printers looking into digital labels?
Kisiloski: A lot of printers like the idea of it. The problem is that even for an entry-level system it is fairly costly if you want to get into a new machine. You are looking at probably an entry cost of definitely no less than $50,000, between $50,000 and $60,000. So you have to think that these printers already have a built-up label business of some sort. I have seen the most random, small print shops that are looking for a label printer. They might be doing hundreds of thousands a month and they have been outsourcing it, because they just happened to stumble across these customers who want labels.
Another challenge with digital labels is finding that sweet spot… Is it going to be six cents a label, eight cents a label, because there is a difference when you have a trade printer quoting five cents a label. What really comes into play is that there is a lot of short-run or variable-data label printing.
How much work do you need for ROI on an entry-level system?
Kisiloski: You actually do not need that many jobs per month for this to make sense. It is likely you are selling that thousand let’s say for $300 and it is costing you maybe $80 to $100 to print. That’s printing, labour and everything, so let’s say $100, and you are making really good margin.
If you are making $200 on every order and you get two orders a week you can pay off the machine. So that is really not a ton of volume for someone to jump into it based on getting one or two orders per week.
What are the pros and cons of inkjet versus toner?
Kisiloski: We carry smaller systems so I do not want to compare too much to the bigger guys… Systems for under $100,000 let’s say. We still sell Memjet print-head [inkjet] systems for envelopes and labels. It is great in the sense that it is really fast and it is quite inexpensive to print in terms of the ink costs. You are printing 60 feet a minute which is two to three times as fast as you are going to get on a toner printer, so it was really interesting a few years ago.
The downfall is that you have to print on inkjet-coated material. About three or four years ago it was still cheaper when all was said and done to print on inkjet with the coated material. In the last two to three years, however, coated material prices have gone up big time, so it is very difficult. I would say it is 25 percent cheaper to print any size label using a toner printer rather than an inkjet just because of the material cost.
Inkjet is also very finicky. It might have 70,000 print nozzles in a tiny little bar stretching 8 1/2 inches wide, so those things clog easily, whereas toner is very consistent.
When does entry-level inkjet make sense today?
Kisiloski: I have a customer who prints post-it notes, for example, and because it is a paper you do not need inkjet coating… The paper stock will absorb the ink… an inkjet system is perfect for him, because it is super cheap. He is just paying for the ink and it is really fast. But most people print on gloss paper or polyesters or vinyl, which has to be inkjet coated and you are doubling or tripling your cost.
What is most exciting about digital label printing?
Kisiloski: The label business is huge. Packaging is a massive industry so it is very exciting to be able to offer that… it is nice to be able to provide different options for a customer when they walk in the door and open up their mind a little bit to other ways of making money
“Acquiring Gunther is another strategic move that strengthens Bell and Howell’s leadership position in an area that is fundamental to our success as a company,” said Ramesh Ratan, CEO, Bell and Howell. “We are committed to the production-mail space and are making substantial investments that will enable us to better serve our customers.”
Gunther International is a manufacturer of high-volume, software-driven mailing systems to the insurance and banking industries. It specializes in complex, high-page-count mail finishing via high-throughput machines, integrity at every stage of the insertion process, and machines that can process both flat and folded mail.
Its Champion software, explains Bell and Howell, is a sophisticated and extremely flexible operating system in mail-finishing equipment control and management systems. “We are excited to add top technical talent to the Bell and Howell service team,” said Jim Feely, Bell and Howell’s Senior VP of Global Service Solutions.
The following editorial appeared in PrintAction's December 2017 issue, now availble online.
The ongoing debate over net neutrality was once again ignited in late November as Ajit Pai, Chairman of the United States’ Federal Communications Commission, ramped up a campaign to eliminate Obama-era policies promoting fairness in the access to the Internet – as outlined in a Telecommunications Act.
Pai, a 44-year-old Republican attorney, is spearheading the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback of net neutrality protections. As Olivia Solon of The Guardian explains, “Net neutrality, which some have described as the first amendment of the Internet, is the idea that Internet Service Providers [ISPs] treat everyone’s data equally – whether that’s an email from your mother, an episode of House of Cards on Netflix or a bank transfer. It means that cable ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T or Verizon don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly and which sites get blocked or throttled based on which content providers pay a premium.”
Net neutrality is every bit as critical to the direction of an economy as free-trade agreements and monetary policies, arguably more so if you consider the World Wide Web to be its own border-less macroeconomic system impacting the growth of nations. There are all sorts of positive and negative externalities in eliminating the open Internet, but one of the most obvious is a danger many pundits have described as resulting in a deeper divide among peoples of the Information Age. Access to information can create an educational separation between the Haves and Have-nots.
In a November Wired.com article called Net Neutrality Is Not the Problem, Harvard professor Susan Crawford writes, “The real problem is a complete absence of leadership and policy aimed at making sure that low-priced, ubiquitous, world-class fibre optic services reach every home and business.” She argues the FCC can deal with the public outrage over losing net neutrality, calling it a shell game, because it is too hard to pin down its meaning down. “On the Hill, the public will be out-lobbied at every turn by the essentially unlimited resources of [telecom giants].” The Guardian reports AT&T, Comcast and Verizon collectively spent $11 million lobbying the U.S. government in the first quarter of 2017.
Considering instead Crawford’s concern over the real problem of Internet access, the availability of access to printed knowledge and educational literacy over the past several centuries had a major impact on the development of various regions of the world. This analogue growth of knowledge among the masses happened at a much slower pace, of course, than what is already possible with today’s breakneck digital information speeds.
It is why Johannes Gutenberg’s automation of the printing press was so impactful from the 1450s onward, allowing mass reproduction of printed material to spread knowledge. Of course, access to that printed knowledge has never been never truly ubiquitous either. This impact of print on society was best described by the late American historian Elizabeth Eisenstein who focused on the transformation of media between the era of manuscript culture and that of print culture.
Describing Eisenstein’s seminal work, James Gleick wrote, “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, a two-volume, 750-page exploration of the effects of movable type printing on the literate elite of post-Gutenberg Western Europe… focuses on the printing press’ functions of dissemination, standardization, and preservation and the way these functions aided the progress of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution. Eisenstein’s work brought historical method, rigour and clarity to earlier ideas of Marshall McLuhan and others, about the general social effects of such media transitions.”
Even today there are countries around the world with alarming rates of illiteracy and lack of access to books. Statistics relayed earlier this year from Kodak’s Print for Good program, for example, suggest that in middle-class communities there is an estimated 15 books per child. In underdeveloped areas, however, there is only one book per 300 children. Print for Good is a global initiative to support communities throughout America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East with book drives, donations, and the printing of materials in an effort to increase worldwide literacy.
“An investment in literacy is an investment in the future; and every dollar that’s spent on adult literacy provides society with a return of $7.14, enabling individuals to help themselves, their families and their communities,” said Brad Kruchten, President of Kodak Print Systems. “We feel that print is and will continue to be a critical piece of that solution.”
There is no way to understand how the loss of net neutrality can affect the prospects of print and business, but we have learned access to information might be more of a human right than a privilege.
The awards program is organized into four sections based on Printing, Technology and Environmental categories, as well as Industry Achievement to recognize the contributions of four leaders. Sponsors of the 2017 Canadian Printing Awards program include Veritiv (Platinum); Canon, Fujifilm, Huber Group, Kodak, Koenig & Bauer, Manroland Sheetfed and Sun Chemical (Gold); and Domtar, Heidelberg, Komcan and Spicers (Silver).
The 2017 Best of Show Award, chosen from among all printing category entries, went to Friesens Corp. of Altona, Manitoba, for its production of the hardcover book Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa. The book was produced in a 10,000 piece run on a 4-colour, 50-inch Manroland (text) and 6-colour 40-inch Heidelberg (cover).
As previously reported, this year’s Industry Achievement winners includes Bob Cockerill, who retired in 2015 as Senior Vice President of SGK Inc. and President and COO of Schawk Canada. Cockerill continues to serve as Chairman of PAC - Packaging Consortium, helping to lead many of that organization’s world-class research and certification initiatives around production and environmental sustainability.
Sean Murray, President and CEO, Advocate Group of Companies based in Pictou, Nova Scotia, was named the 2017 Printing Leader of the Year. Founded in 1891, Advocate is the largest independent printer in Atlantic Canada with four facilities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while controlling 10 newspapers, 21 trade and regional magazines, a flyer distribution organization, among other commercial printing initiatives.
John Hueston, President, Aylmer Express Graphics Group in Aylmer, Ontario, received the Community Leader of the Year Award for a range of programs he has been involved with across Elgin County, including founding of the 3 Port Tour, which has raised more than $70,000 in seven years. Hueston also helps lead Aylmer Express’ Thanksgiving Food Drive and is a Past President of the Aylmer Kinsmen in addition to involvement with the Ontario Community Newspaper Association, St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre and Aylmer Chamber of Commerce, among a range of other programs.
James Rowley, General Manager, Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging in Vancouver, British Columbia, received the Emerging Leader of the Year Award for his efforts in establishing Glenmore as a one of Western Canada’s premier printing operations. Founded in 1981, Glenmore now has more than 130 employees and is one of Canada’s most prominent independent custom print and folding carton manufacturers, while also venturing into roll label printing and continuing its high-end offset litho work.
Award winners in the printing, technology and environmental categories include:
2017 Best of Show
Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa
Self Promotion, printing company
Gold: Fou, Fou, Fou!
Silver: think4D Marketing Kit
Bronze: Hemlock Holiday Wrap
Self Promotion, technology supplier
Brochures & Booklets, offset
Gold: Cirque du Soleil: Luzia
Gold: Watson Soul, Walk on This
Silver: Sun Towers, The Centre
Bronze: 2017 BC Lions Season Pass Package
Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging
Brochures & Booklets, digital
Gold: Bradshaw Delicacies From the Sea
Silver: Introducing Biolage R.A.W.
Bronze: Premium Lobster
Advocate Printing & Publishing
Books, hardcover offset
Gold: Canada 150th Anniversary, Through Ottawa (Best of Show)
Gold: Berlin Coffee Table Book (Best of Show Finalist)
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: Intercom on Starting Up
Silver: Toronto Jazz Treasures
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Bronze: AB Scale Model - Anniversary Book
MET Fine Printers
Books, softcover offset
Gold: Design Thinkers 2017 Program
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Horseshoe Bay Books
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Gaslight District Book
Simpson Print & Litho
Bronze: Brigus Mark Book
The Lowe-Martin Group
Bronze: Une ile d'Arbres
Marquis Book Printing
Gold: Mildred’s Temple
Gold: Keys to Recovery
CBN Commercial Solutions
Silver: The Power to Create Change Book
Bronze: Close up and Marco Photography by Robert Thompson
Gold: Danica Studio Catalogue
Bronze: TASTE Magazine
Business & Annual Reports
Gold: The Heart of the City, St. Michael's Foundation
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Silver: ATB 2017 Annual Report
CBN Commercial Solutions
Bronze: Tricon 2016 Annual Report
Gold: IGA Holiday Promotion
Silver: Copperleaf Mailer
Bronze: NBCC Alumni Association
Advocate Printing & Publishing
Gold: Audi Magazine
St. Joseph Print
Silver: Pure Luxury, 2017 March/April
The Lowe Martin Group
Silver: Mountain Life
Bronze: Lush Magazine
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: Bombardier Business Aircraft 2017 Desk Calendar
Bronze: Engagement Calendar
Gold: ROCVALE Catalogue 2017 (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: Bugaboos Eyewear, 2018 Ryders Catalogue
Bronze: Polygon Realty, Seven Peaks Book
MET Fine Printers
Bronze: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Silver: Crown Royal World's Greatest Dad Label
Gold: Crown Royal Celebrates Canada 150 Label
Labels, flexography or gravure
Gold: Monarch Late Harvest (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: Kacaba Susans Sauvignon Blanc
Bronze: Kacaba Pinot Gris
Gold: Leap Popcorn Bags
Silver: Big 8 Beverages
Gold: Laura Secord, Cognac Chocolates
Silver: Norham Beverages Legends
Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging
Bronze: Vancouver Candle Co.
MET Fine Printers
Bronze: Canadian Club Premium Original 1858
Gold: Crisp Fine Foods Business Cards
Pronto Reproductions Ltd.
Silver: Toyota Air Freshener Business Cards
Bronze: New Era Cards
New Era Print Solutions
Stationery & Invitations
Gold: Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Exclusive Invitation
Silver: Maple Lodge Zabiha Halal Kit Folder
Simpson Print & Litho
Silver: C.J. Graphics Open House Invitation
Bronze: Camp Brightworks 2017 Summer Party Invitation
Gold: Doctors of the Game
Silver: GCM Grad Book
Silver: Onboard Booklet – McMillan
The Lowe-Martin Group
Bronze: Auto House - Private Automotive Galleries & Social Club
Gold: Alberni by Kengo Kuma
MET Fine Printers
Silver: Getting Started with OFEV, Boehringer Ingleheim
Alymer Express Graphics Group
Silver: USC Football Season Tickets
CBN Commercial Solutions
Bronze: Griffin Poetry Price
Gold: Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion (Best of Show Finalist)
Silver: PrintAction September 2017
Bronze: Cling Promotion
Technology Category Awards (Only Gold Presented)
Most Progressive Printing Technology, offset
Multi-Cassette Unit Energy Savings and Footprint Reduction Kodak Platesetters
Most Progressive Printing Technology, digital
NexPress White Opaque Dry Ink with Auto White Blend
Most Progressive Printing Technology, inkjet
Océ Colorado 1640 with UV Gel Technology
Environmental Category Awards
Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Project
YVR Sustainability Report
Most Environmentally Progressive Technology Company
Gold: Canon Canada, HP Canada
Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Company
Gold: Hemlock Printers, The Lowe-Martin Group
Oberly is currently VP of Global Development at RE/MAX LLC where he has COO-level accountability for global development, field services, technology and training for over 3,800 offices and 50,000 agents.
“Larry is a proven leader with 25 years of experience in franchising, both as a multi-unit franchisee and as an executive in a franchisor,” said Chris Sugahara, SpeedPro’s Chairman. “He is a relationship, team and culture builder with demonstrated success in growing revenue for franchisees along with the franchisor.”
InfoTrends estimates approximately 30 percent of the total colour pages printed in North America and Western Europe, or nearly 1.8 trillion pages, currently receive some form of special effects enhancements or embellishments. These statistics are pulled from a 2016 report called Beyond CMYK: The Digital Print Enhancement Opportunity, coauthored by Jim Hamilton, Group Director of InfoTrends, who explains this relates to a range of value-add special effects like spot or flood coatings, adding a Pantone colour, metallic inks, opaque whites, fluorescents, security features or any number of CMYK+ features.
The vast majority of these 1.8 trillion enhanced pages are printed offset and finished with conventional methods. In fact, the report found that 46 percent of enhanced offset printed material requires two or more enhancements. There has been recent growth in digitally printed pages receiving enhancements because most toner-press makers now provide a fifth station for inline treatments, but Hamilton estimates this is applied to less than 10 percent of all digital pages and less than three percent of total production colour digital pages receive special effects.
Hamilton also points to the recent uptake in offline digital enhancement systems introduced from companies like Scodix, Konica Minolta (MGI), Duplo and Steinemann to apply spot gloss, dimensional, foil and other effects. Beyond CMYK estimates, however, the digital print enhancement market (both inline and offline) only amounts to about nine billion pages annually. “That may seem like a lot, but it’s just a tiny sliver compared to the total 1.8 trillion print-enhanced colour pages produced each year,” Hamilton explains. “The conclusion is pretty clear. There is a significant growth opportunity for digital print enhancement processes.”
The opportunity in digital enhancement outlined by Hamilton helps to describe two of the three strategic pillars leading the development and commercialization of Scodix technology. Founded in 2007 by Eli Grinberg and Kobi Bar, Israel-based Scodix introduced its first digital enhancement system in 2010 and then caught the attention of the printing world at drupa 2012 for its unique application of polymers to enhance print – both offset and digital pages. Today, these polymers can be used in nine different or combined enhancement applications on three system platforms including the Scodix S, Scodix Ultra and the recently introduced 41-inch Scodix E106.
The Value Category, as described in large part by Beyond CMYK’s research focus, was Scodix’ initial push to the market in 2012 based on the ability to apply spot textures on a page through what are now branded as Sense polymers. Scodix’ introduction of a digital foil enhancement module in late-2015 supported its existing value-add approach, but also introduced a Cost Replacement Category of commercialization for the system maker. The third strategic pillar is referred to by Scodix as the Dream Category, which relates to a printer’s ability to attract completely new work based on enhancing pages.
Cost replacement foil
Scodix’ value and dream categories are often hard to quantify because numbers will shift based on the type of application being produced, run length and a printer’s sales ability to create a demand for enhanced pages. Cost replacement, however, provides printers with solid numbers in their application of digital foil relative to the costs of insourcing or outsourcing such analogue work.
“Scodix is building a story about how they have grown and it is closely linked to the availability of what we call digital foil,” says Christian Knapp, owner of Toronto-based CMD Insight, who serves as the Canadian agent for Scodix. He has worked with Scodix for the past two years and been involved with almost half of the 11 Scodix installations in Canada, with a twelfth nearing completion. “[Texture] is very interesting but somewhat limited in its application and adoption by the market. Once Scodix brought out digital foil they opened up the parameters completely… and they experienced substantial growth simply because the market realizes digital foil fits the cost replacement model and that is what most commercial, and in fact other, printers are going for.”
Approximately 150 Scodix systems were sold during drupa 2016. There are around 50 Scodix installations currently in North America and now more than 250 worldwide. Knapp believes the technology has moved past the early adopter stage, when printers were initially intrigued by texture, into an early majority phase. “Any return on investment calculations for a commercial printer require, on the one hand, to reduce costs in their business and, on the other hand, offer new technology. And digital foil together with texture, what we call Sense printing, gives us that ability,”
Knapp says, relating to the set-up time of traditional hot and cold foiling methods suitable only for long runs, and the direct costs of outsourcing. The ability to apply digital foil naturally fits with the digitalization of prepress and presses, as most commercial printers today face a higher number of daily print-work transactions.
“Once you go from that product life cycle early adopter to early majority, people are starting to look at that in much more detail,” Knapp says. “Now the calculators come out and people need to justify their investments and let’s face it these machines are not inexpensive.”
Knapp explains a base Scodix Ultra system, onto which modules can be added, sells for approximately US$600,000 and the foiling unit is around US$150,000, resulting most often in a machine set up for around US$750,000 all in. “In calculations for customers, I have been able to justify the investment on the foiling unit alone within less than 12 months,” he says, noting the ROI on many full systems can be done in the range of 24 to 28 months. “That is fairly aggressive for a product that is not a small investment.”
Value and profit
In addition to the cost replacement models that help drive Scodix ROI calculations, Knapp also points to the value-add category where printers can simply charge more for print work when it is enhanced. He explains that traditional coating is actually more of an enabling technology relative to true page enhancements applied through systems like those built by Scodix. “Coating enables you to participate in the market, but you cannot really add that much value. Because at that level there is a market price that is highly fought over and there are lot of competitors in this segment,” Knapp explains. It is rare for an offset press to be sold today without a coating unit and coating holds as much customer expectation as sharp CMYK work, as much as service provides client loyalty but not necessarily a premium price.
When discussing value-add, Knapp is directly referring to profit contribution for a printer based on page enhancements. He provides the example of a printing company that generates $10 million turnover, which is a suitable revenue number for Canada’s majority of small- to mid-sized printers. “If you are a good printer, well regarded, and have high productivity, you might make five percent margin so there is $500,000 on a $10 million turnover,” he explains. “Now take the Top 10 percent of your customers and convert that with value-added processes such as Scodix digital foil and digital embossing. For that $1 million, if your profit number is now, to simplify things, 50 percent, you are making $500,000 profit on that volume.”
Knapp explains by maintaining the remaining $9 million of turnover at five percent margin, which is about $450,000 profit, and adding the Scodix profit from VIP clients, a printer might generate around $950,000 for the same $10 million business turnover. “In that example, if you wanted to make $950,000 profit on a five percent margin for a conventional business you would have to produce about $19 million in sales. We all know how difficult it is to grow a commercial print business from $10 million to $19 million.”
The example of achieving 50 percent margin on Scodix print work would certainly need to be adjusted depending on how it is being applied and for what select clients. A high margin figure, however, is not unrealistic for enhanced print. “Special effects printing can be a profitable endeavour,” wrote Hamilton, based on the Beyond CMYK report. “According to InfoTrends’ research, print buyers will pay premiums in the range of 24 to 89 percent for digital print enhancements over CMYK-only work. Interestingly, many buyers expressed a willingness to pay a higher premium for special effects than printers believed they would pay.”
Knapp points to three third-party studies that suggest a premium margin for enhanced print comes in at anywhere from five to 40 percent. These studies, however, focus on a range of enhancements including lower-value coatings and not exclusively Scodix-level work.
Power of vision and touch
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) conducted an experiment in which the end user price sensitivity was tested in respect to tactile print enhancement. The researchers concluded that price increases are possible by adding soft-touch tactile features to packaging whereby brands could raise prices to end-users by up to five percent.
The British Royal Mail looked at measuring user interaction with direct mail back in February 2015 in a survey called Private Life of Mail, which included looking at the effects of tactile printing on a reader’s emotional responses. The study states: “Behavioural marketing experts, Decode, scanned recent academic literature for us to see what had been discovered about the importance of touch in human psychology. They demonstrated that there are strong reasons why getting consumers to engage physically with a brand is likely to have a strong effect on them. Multi-sensory stimulation seems to alter the way the brain processes messages – often making processing quicker, which is key for driving emotional response to messages or brands.” The Royal Mail’s study found that a sense of ownership over a printed item derived from sight and touch translates into a 24 percent increase in value.
Earlier this year, Canada Post – through True Impact Marketing – produced its own study called A Bias For Action that used brain imaging and eye-tracking technologies to see into the brains of people interacting with physical (direct mail) and digital (email, display) advertising media. The researchers developed two integrated campaigns featuring mock brands, applying the same creative and messaging across both physical and digital media formats. The 270 participants were later given memory tests to assess their recall of branded material.
True Impact Marketing found that it takes 21 percent less thought to process direct mail over digital messaging, and that the paper product creates a 70 percent higher brand recall – that our brains process paper media quicker than digital media. Researchers found the motivation response created by direct mail is 20 percent higher and even better if it appeals to more senses like vision and touch. “Physical fills a much-needed, and very human, sensory deficit in the virtual world, where we spend most of our time these days...The most important renaissance in advertising has gone largely unnoticed,” wrote Deepak Chopra, CEO of Canada Post, in a guest column for The Globe and Mail about the study.
Research by the Foil & Specialty Effects Association in 2013, in a study called Results of Impact of High Visibility Enhancements, concludes that there are overwhelming responses for what it calls First Fixation of foil stamped packaging. The authors explain, “The ability of a product to attract the shopper’s visual attention has a strong influence on a consumer’s decision to purchase.” The study found that foil can increase sales prices by 10 to 40 percent depending on the end product.
“We have a number of instances where people are charging $30 for 500 business cards, for example,” says Knapp. “Business cards are a dead giveaway market for this type of technology, compared to maybe only $10 for a conventional, standard CMYK business card.” He explains Scodix is currently focused on five target markets where it can add value: Commercial print, Web-to-print (such as business cards), folding-carton convertors (based on the introduction of the 41-inch Scodix E106), book publishing and photo-books.
The cost of polymer, explains Knapp, is always a point of discussion with printers when doing ROI calculations, especially as it relates to value-add, but he does not see it as a significant factor. “We encourage them to not put down too much polymer, because you will then lose the uniqueness, the ability to make this page standout,” he says. Knapp explains the worldwide average of Scodix polymer usage per page on a B2 sheet, 28 x 30 inches, is somewhere in the range of seven percent. “That is fairly low and the cost for a page produced like this is then in the range of 12 to 15 cents U.S. So that is actually not that much, especially if you can sell every one of those pages for a dollar or more, $5 – it depends on the application.”
The third pillar of commercialization for Scodix, beyond value and cost-replacement, is referred to by the company as the dream category, based on a printer’s ability to increase sales outside of existing product offerings and clients. “It doesn’t fly very well in the hard-nosed business world of commercial printers,” says Knapp, who began his printing career by spending more than two decades selling offset technologies. “We mention it to people because we know this happens, but in a return on investment calculation it is very difficult to quantify.”
It is logical, however, that opening up VIP clients to enhanced print with texture and foil can help attract more of their offset or digital printing work, while at the same time provide a route into new accounts through differentiation. This is also fuelled by the development approach of Scodix based on the fact that most of its research effort is put toward polymers to expand beyond its current nine applications, which are branded as Sense (texture), Foil, Foil on Foil, Spot, Metallic, Glitter, VDP/VDE, Braille, Crystals and Cast&Cure.
Knapp explains Scodix views itself as chemical company more so than just a hardware company, focusing on engineering machine platforms to leverage new polymers and applications. “The future may well have polymers with a specific light frequency that reacts or they may taste or smell,” he says. “There are so many markets where a unique polymer or application would have great benefits. Think of security, foods, packaging in general. There are lots of applications that this technology will go to in the future.”
The polymers are a major differentiator for Scodix in the market relative to traditional inks and coatings, as well as the growth in new electrostatic inks for fifth and sixth imaging units. Knapp explains, “Scodix always determines the ideal and right polymer for the print job. Its modular [system] philosophy is application specific to what the end user needs and it is a very open R&D-centric company.”
Knapp continues to explain the use of polymers also provides an advantage for the vast majority of commercial printers who produce work-and-turn jobs, because Scodix jobs can be processed quickly with efficient drying. He also points to Scodix’ machine build, weighing around 9,500 pounds, and the registration accuracy of the systems as advantages.
“The underlying theme for Scodix, has always been to make printers more profitable,” says Knapp. “That is how I see their differentiation. I can talk technical Olympics for hours if that is what we need to do, but in the end it really comes down to providing tools for printers to be successful.”
After a decade of growth and acquisitions, Mi5 Print and Digital has become one of the most formidable printing operations in Greater Toronto, now housed in an 180,00-square-foot facility
Mi5 Print and Digital Communications Inc.began life 14 years ago as one of Canada’s first all-digital prepress bureaus. The importance of that history is immediately seen when you walk through the front offices of its new 180,000-square-foot facility, designed from the ground up by the executive team, and onto its production floor.
Dead centre in Mi5’s digital printing department, which is separated from the 40-inch litho area, sits a large prepress room, open to the production floor by a glass wall stretching more than 30 feet across its front.
Brightened by 90,000 gallons of white paint, the digital department – nicknamed The White House – holds a range of small-format Heidelberg offset and Xerox toner presses, as well as industrial large-format inkjet systems from Inca, Fujifilm and Scitex. Mi5’s digital department is built for redundancy and peak periods with two of most every imaging system, even compressors and back-up generators are duplicated.
Next, you will notice Mi5’s receiving and shipping doors at opposite sides of the building, accommodating two and four 53-foot tractor-trailers, respectively. Excited to finally have a blank canvas after moving through a range of existing plants, Derek McGeachie, Mi5’s founder and CEO, and Steve Tahk, Executive VP and GM, often worked late into the night determining how print would flow through the building, west to east. To ensure work never moves backward and always toward shipping, the executive team – after some healthy debate – decided to forgo marketing atheistic in favour of efficiency, which is literary measured in operator footsteps, by facing its Xerox presses away from the entrance.
Walking past the prepress unit and into Mi5’s main litho department reveals four 40-inch Heidelberg presses, including 8-colour and 10-colour perfectors equipped with roll-to-sheet and two 6-colour UV machines. A pad for a fifth 40-inch sits open with electrical ready to go. Eight folders on the opposite side of the aisle signal all of Mi5’s full-size litho work also flows west to east. Toward the back of the building, it is then easy to pick up a huge postpress configuration, with three stitchers and 21 pocket folders, as well as the tail end of a full-size web press. The 2006 Heidelberg M130 was delivered in January 2017 and scheduled to be operational by the end of July.
After starting up in the back of an industrial garage with a 5-colour press, Mi5 has been transformed into one of Canada’s largest privately owned printing operations – with more than 150 employees generating revenues of $29 million in its most recent fiscal year. Mi5 has been recognized as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies nine years in row on the Proﬁt 500, which measures businesses on five-year revenue growth. Through a decade-plus of acquisitions and technological investment, Mi5 has secured the work of leading brands and caught the attention of Toronto’s print community as an innovative shop with press capacity.
Mi5 began putting the Heidelberg web press together in March, after 17 cement trucks were backed into the building to directly pour its pad. “This machine has been immaculately maintained. It is probably the best used press I have ever seen over my years in the industry,” says Tahk, who holds an ownership position in Mi5 with McGeachie and Chief Visionary Officer Sheryl Sauder. Tahk explains even the rollers on the 40,000-iph press look like they were put in last week and that the only problem found during installation was a drained battery on a PLC programming unit – basically a watch battery.
“We are in the process of creating an ink series for it. We are going to bring ProBrite to heatset,” says Tahk. “It is a full web so we can now offer circulars to fashion, food and cosmetics clients who need a superior colour gamut.” Tahk, who began his career with ink manufacturer huber before helping to manage large plants with Grafikom, Quebecor and Matthews, Ingram and Lake, is one of the country’s leading colour-control specialists. He was instrumental in the development of Mi5’s unique ProBrite, MetalMaX, MiCote and XLCote ink and coating offerings, which helped to secure the print work of colour-critical brands like Starbucks.
“ProBrite came about through some considerable amount of research and development. We were actually looking at a seven-colour series… but the cost of three extra specials and taking them off the perfecting machines didn’t make it a viable product for most clients.” Instead, Mi5 created its own four-colour process series leveraging intense pigments and internal algorithms. “The ink is expensive, but you can take ordinary substrates at a very reasonable cost and make something pretty spectacular with it. A lot of times we’re taking customers off that number one sheet, bringing them down to a number two, or even a number three sheet, and giving them a far better product.”
Given common industry estimates of ink being three percent of the cost of a print job and substrates 40 percent, Tahk explains the strategy of doubling ink costs in favour of less expensive paper allows Mi5 to print a superior product with competitive pricing. The same ProBrite approach will soon be applied to the web offset world, in addition to Mi5’s growing interest in packaging, which includes the use of UV ProBrite for printing direct to substrates and also laminating corrugated. “I would say at least 30 percent of our clients have used it on one project,” explains Tahk, “and there’s a number of clients who use it on a regular basis.”
Research and development has always been a part of Mi5’s strategy to attract and retain clients. In recent years, its R&D effort has focused on developing online portals to drive efficiency for a range of print campaigns. With the recent addition of large-format programs, Al Monteath, Executive VP, Sales & Operations, estimates Mi5 has now developed more than 200 print portals for its clients. Monteath joined Mi5 approximately two years ago and played a major role in establishing the company’s new building. He orchestrated the massive move, which included 86 pieces of equipment, without work interruption.
“I have been in this for over 40 years, with five plants, so I have a lot of experience,” says Monteath. “One of the main reasons I came here at this point in my career is that things were changing and all of a sudden I found a group who believes print still does matter and there is a better way to do it – we invest in technology and we invest in people.”
In addition to its skilled operators, running challenging applications, Mi5 now has a department working exclusively on client-facing automaton, front-end design, software integration and programming. “JIT [Just In Time] only started six or seven years ago and it hasn’t taken over in all firms,” says Monteath, describing a recent print audit for a potential client who ended up having more than $300,000 worth of useless inventory in warehouses across Canada. “We set up over 25 portal entries for them and their people just go on 24 hours a day to order 200, 500... we are doing it all JIT, because of our capacity here.”
For another large client, Mi5 was able to eliminate what had become known as Reprint Wednesdays based on a national instore signage and fulfillment program, which the print executives are hesitant to share in greater detail. “We focus on what is important to the client,” says Monteath. “We’ve had some new clients that have come on board, who we’ve been working on for the last year and a half, that have really come to fruition.”
Mi5 now produces about 90 percent of its clients’ work internally. “We’re doing more work with the customers that we’ve always had and the key really has been the penetration into those brands with the additional capabilities we have here,” says Tahk. “The expansion of the plant has paid off… Derek has always been the one pushing for innovation – new products, new ideas and all-around delivery of a high-quality customer experience.”
McGeachie was born into a printing family and recalls being around a pressroom since the age of eight. Today, at age 45, he understands the dynamics of printing as well as any seasoned executive. “I am a relatively young guy and it is a longer-term play,” says McGeachie, who invested $13.5 million for the new building and improvements, after renting a portion of Mi5’s 85,000-square footprint in Markham spread across three shops.
“I think we are watched – absolutely – and the last 12 to 24 months were exceptional, so a lot of industry players will be asking what are they doing. Some of them might be hopeful that we stub our toes,” says McGeachie. “We have been in business 15 years now and have been profitable every single year. We are a good company. It is a solid shop.
“Any money we put into the building is going to be ours and we get to enjoy the slow appreciation of the building, which is nice, but that was kind of secondary. It was more to stabilizer our production footprint,” says McGeachie. He notes the importance of leveraging Mi5’s unique technologies like ProBrite to set itself apart with clients, but the new building also provides purer production efficiency. “You have to be a low-cost producer or you are going to be in trouble.” Mi5’s current workflow initiative, led by Tahk, is integrating a full Avanti Slingshot MIS installation and tie together its new plant.
“Mi5 is one of my children basically... it is important to me,” says McGeachie, noting they have already gained a permit to expand by another 30,000 square feet. “We are here to stay. This will be our last move. It is a big enough plant to support Toronto, Canada, North America and it is where we want to be.”
When asked what level of interest do you have for investing in a production inkjet press within the next two years, cutsheet or roll-fed, 27.5 percent of respondents indicated it was “high, very likely”, which received the second highest response behind “low, waiting but watching”.
Fifteen percent of respondents indicated their interest was “medium, investigating”, while 20 percent indicated they were “not interested” in investing in a production inkjet press within the next two years. One respondent commented they were waiting for an affordable 19 x 25-inch duplex machine, which echoes sentiment about the current high cost and high monthly production requirements of production inkjet systems.
What type of press
When asked if the needed funds were available, assuming relative pricing parity between machines, what type of printing press would you first invest in, the vast majority of respondents indicating “cutsheet production inkjet” at 47.5 percent. The remaining respondents included: Roll-fed production inkjet at 27.5 percent, followed by production-strength colour toner at 20 percent and five percent for a 40-inch sheetfed offset.
When asked what application or sector would you most want to target, assuming that you have purchased the appropriate inkjet press, 45 percent of respondents indicated “commercial print”, which clearly stands to gain the most installation attraction in the years to come.
The remaining respondents included: Direct mail at 17.5 percent, Transactional or statement at 12.5 percent, Labels at 10 percent, packaging (other than labels) at 2.5 percent, and publishing at 2.5 percent. Four percent of respondents indicated other print sectors, including B2C applications “which I would not really class as any of the above.”
When asked what do you see as the greatest challenge to making an inkjet investment, given the current state of the technology or market, the largest challenge was the “price of the presses". This again points to the fact that inkjet systems have not yet settled into a commercial printing friendly position under $1 million.
In fact, 35 percent of respondents indicated “press prices” was the biggest challenge, followed by the “price of inks” at 22.5 percent, “quality of work” at 20 percent, adding “necessary workflow/IT” at 10 percent, “available substrate range” at 5 percent, and the “speed of cutsheet presses” at five percent. One respondent shared a comment that is likely on the minds of most printers: “We have so much capacity with our current equipment, I couldn't justify spending money on a different press.”
Four of Canada’s technology leaders discuss the current state of production inkjet technology and what impact it is having in the domestic printing market.
After decades of intense research and development, supported by unprecedented technology partnerships, production-strength inkjet on the cusp of disrupting commercial printing. In mid-June, four of Canada’s technology leaders travelled to Burnaby, BC, to participate in a panel discussion focused on the business strategy of production inkjet at PrintAction’s one-day PrintForum West conference. The panelists included: Alec Couckuyt, Senior Director, Canon Canada, Professional Printing Solutions Group; Brad King, VP, Graphics Communications, Xerox Canada; Ray Fagan, Sheetfed Product Manager, Heidelberg Canada; and Edward Robeznieks, VP of Sales, Ricoh Canada. Below are key excerpts from their hour-long discussion.
Why should printers invest in inkjet today, are we past the bleeding-edge?
Alec Couckuyt: Yes – we are past the bleeding edge. There has been tremendous evolution in the technology with inkjet… The commercial printer right now is really looking at how can I better serve my customer and inkjet technology together with offset, wide format and digital are all services that are being offered. It really has gone from just putting ink on paper to how can I better serve my customer in a total cycle.
Brad King: Cutsheet inkjet is new from a strategic point of view. In Canada, we have one [Xerox Brenva] install that we can talk about and two others we cannot talk about, so it is still fairly new. There is a lot of interest from commercial printers about these products – how it fits, what are the applications, where does it play. More products and applications are coming and the inkjet space is very close to exploding.
Ray Fagan: If you think about cutting-edge or bleeding-edge technology it is still, in my opinion, in its infancy in terms of long-term development. We took the advantage of some existing platforms of the XL 106 sheet transport, feeder, delivery that have been around a long time.. and we partnered with Fuji for the inkjet heads using Samba technology and their expertise to combine both technologies into one machine. We got to market fairly quickly and launched it at drupa.
There are still a lot of learning curves, a lot of consistency challenges… But our first [Primefire 106] press has been installed in Europe with a beta site at a packaging customer and we will do another machine this year. The roll out will continue to be slow... By 2018 we will finish our beta testing and move into serial production.
Ed Robeznieks: Because we migrated to our [Ricoh] 60000 platform we are able to now go to commercial printers and say you can move offset work over. We can run coated stocks, thicker stocks… we are not running 300, 350 gsm, but we are running 250, 260 and that has opened up the door.
Copywell in Toronto put in a VC60000… They took an original application which was sold as an [offset] sheet run and have now billed 2.5 to 3 million feet a month, which are true offset transfer applications.
How does inkjet present new opportunities for printers?
Couckuyt: An example of a new application for one our clients is magazines… They are actually personalizing or regionalizing the advertising in the magazine. Part of the magazine is printed offset and then the variable part is printed on the inkjet web and then they assemble it. That is an advantage they can sell to their client – the ability of having regionalized information for a specific advertiser.
So it is a new way of approaching the market and creating new opportunities. The critical part is that we can now combine variability with static… The question of whether inkjet can replace offset is the wrong question. Offset and inkjet together open more opportunities for clients.
King: When inkjet came out it was roll-to-roll, big machines, two million plus investment in capital. You needed big volumes to justify the roll-to-roll devices and there were not a lot of printers who could participate in the economics of inkjet.
Now the technology is coming down for lower volumes, as an investment with cutsheet devices, so that mid-sized commercial printers can start playing in this game... You can do a short-run campaign with similar economics that the big players are using today. That is where inkjet is really going to open up big opportunities.
These devices are not $100,000 yet – still a pretty good number that you have to spend – but they are not $2.5 million roll-to-roll devices that need to be running 3, 4, 10 million impressions a month to have the economics make sense.
Fagan: Because [Heidelberg’s] Primefire is basically focusing on the packaging market, as we roll out the product, there are a lot of things happening in packaging that are forcing those printers to look at economics a little bit differently. As run lengths decrease in packaging, it is harder to make money because you do not have the pure volumes. The customer demand for individualization is growing and it is really in its infancy.
We have seen jobs where a 100,000 sheet run is broken into batches of 500 cartons... and this is where the digitization of the industry and the industries around us in advertising are driving manufacturers to do something quite a bit different. Major brands are really forcing that upon packaging printers.
We also see a lot of legislation for packaging with batching and traceability of the package through UPC codes. It could be in the European market in the near future where every single box has an individual identification marker on it so that we can trace it back to its origins. And this is due to the amount of piracy.
Robeznieks: As the price goes down for devices inkjet will become more attractive. It is good for us in a way as manufacturers. Because there is so much downward pressure on operating costs right now, it is becoming difficult for us to make a profit because of servicing the equipment and toner-based technology requires a lot more service than inkjet-based technology.
So it is better for us in the long run, from our perspective, to move toward inkjet. Your gain [as a printer] is operating costs and flexibility where you can do variable, but you are going to be able to take advantage of significant cost savings with inkjet versus toner.
How do you describe total cost of ownership for inkjet to printers?
Couckuyt: Inkjet uptime is a really critical issue. If you are used to a digital press, uptime is in the 60, 70 percent range. If you look at [Canon’s] i300, for example, it has a minimum uptime of 95 percent. When we start talking about total cost of ownership, for a commercial printer and a specific job, that could mean dedicating three shifts [on a toner device] or doing it with inkjet in two shifts… when you look at the evolution of inkjet devices a lot of R&D effort went into building those machines so that they really look after themselves.
King: Inkjet is new technology, that over the next 15 to 20 years, I feel is going to change the printing industry. It allows variable print onto all substrates... It is going to allow us to offer our customers, and printers’ customers, some pretty impressive product solutions to help keep print alive... having strong economics to keep print relevant for people who use marketing communications.
This is really where inkjet TCO will help keep print alive, because it is variable and it will have something valuable to sell to the people who want to use print as a marketing vehicle versus just going digital.
Fagan: We do not see inkjet supplanting offset in a large way for quite some time. We think they are going to run in harmony based on what is being produced. And if you follow that philosophy, the total cost of ownership for the offset printing press can also be improved... because you have another alternative which improves the total cost of ownership on your other equipment.
You are also reducing costs in prepress and you are reducing costs in other areas of building. You do not have to warehouse products. There are a lot of other costs that inkjet lends itself to... that lends itself to a facility’s overall production cost.
Robeznieks: There are still heavy users of offset technology that are going to be difficult for us to strip away... it really comes down to a manufacturer partner who understands a certain vertical really well and who can help you understand your client base and then figure out where the footprint fits.
Why will variable be more impactful for inkjet than it was for toner?
Robeznieks: I’m going to give the non-politically correct answer but it is not. If you have a good working relationship with your client and can help them with variable campaigns, it doesn’t matter what you use – inkjet, toner, there are lots of ways to interact with the client.
What is very interesting is the next phase of inkjet which will be direct to shape... That is a whole different ball game, because now you are going to have things done on the manufacturing line. All of a sudden our devices are no longer creating labels, they are going directly to their object. And all of us are looking at how to get into that space.
Fagan: Big Data has been slow in being understood by a lot of people... in terms of managing the data and properly executing it into a portfolio of products. I really think Big Data in general, Industry 4.0, all of that growth we are seeing right now is accelerating at a very high pace and it is going to become much more manageable to do large variable data programs, computing that information, managing it and getting it where it needs to go. I see growth in that area with inkjet.
King: There is a [Xerox] customer in Toronto who has figured a bit of this out. When you go onto a Webpage and click on a couple of items you thought of buying – and then forget about it or leave to go somewhere else – they are actually grabbing that data. That night, they run a batch file with those three items you looked at, print it the next day on a direct-mail piece and it gets mailed out to that customer within 24 hours. That is where I see some of this very interesting data management… You can do a great direct-mail campaign on a very cost effective platform like inkjet.
Couckuyt: As a printer, you have to be involved in a lot more than just putting ink on paper... you have to be able to handle data, make sure it is being utilized and sent out to the client in record time to have relevance. This is where we as an industry have to be able to take in that data, configure the data properly, and get it out as fast as possible.
We are under pressure to really understand what it is that our clients are communicating, what they need. Inkjet technology and the combination of different technologies, where you go inline or near-line, whichever way you set it up, is an answer to producing relevant communications tools for your client.
The Speedmaster CS 92 was first launched at China Print 2015 as a press for printers looking to consolidate multiple, older machines or wanting to upgrade from a half-size press to widen their market offering. The new press is available in standard four- and five-colour configurations with and without coater or as a six-colour plus coater model. The CS 92 is also available with UV curing.
Heidelberg states based on its productivity versus price performance, the new press offers the lowest cost per sheet against any other competitive press in its class. With a format size of 25 x 37 inches (8-up letter size sheets), Heidelberg explains customers benefit from a 20 percent plate savings over traditional 40-inch presses.
Built upon the platform of the Speedmaster CD 102, the CS 92 prints up to 15,000 sheets per hour and comes standard with Preset Plus Feeder and Delivery. It can also be equipped with Intellistart technology to shorten makeready times.