Short run colour: the technologies that drive it

Short run colourOn February 17, Digital Imaging Association members and guests gathered at Heidelberg Canada to participate in a panel presentation about short run colour.

Where offset and digital printing overlap is now blurred by new technologies being offered by Digital, Hybrid and Offset presses. The following panel of presenters offered DIA participants some insight into what is quickly becoming a complex production-based decision:

Steve Klaric, Heidelberg Canada
Mike Duggan, Kodak Graphic Communications
Steve Chmielewski, Presstek Canada
Terry Thompson, Xerox Canada

All presenters clearly articulated the fact that the technologies they presented are compatible in today’s print production environment. DIA members and guests were able to hear supporting statistics as well as the presenters’ interpretations of how the various tools co-exist and support each other to deliver today’s complex communications avenues.


Presenting to DIA members and guests from Heidelberg was Steve Klaric. It’s no secret that Heidelberg’s market strength is with offset technology. Print’s function in communications has been changed, not eliminated. It continues to play a strong role in the integration of technology. Many printers have already – and should – strengthen their core offset capabilities with variable print capabilities, web presence, fulfillment, mailing and data base management to name but a few strong additional options.

Klaric echoed the other presenters by talking about integrated competencies. Citing survey statistics from NAPL, he demonstrated to DIA participants that a State of the Industry Report shows that by a ratio of 6:1, survey respondents stated that adding digital printing and other value-added services increased their core lithographic business. The key message is to integrate, not just add. “Integrate the services into a compelling value proposition that contributes to your client’s success.”

Heidelberg’s array of technology is a strong part of a digital workflow. Its connectivity can accept web portal files and can automate make-readies. Attendees did recognize that the front end workflow and digitally integrated workflow and MIS management is the same regardless of the ultimate end product.

All technologies are important. Again the message was clear: traffic the jobs to the right equipment that will make the most money for your company, all the while solidifying your company as a strong value-added resource to your customers.


Mike Duggan shared Kodak’s well-researched outlook on the present and near-future marketplace, addressing these key questions: how is the printing industry changing and what will the printer of the future look like? He addressed:

  • The importance of workflow
  • The impact of the economy
  • Managing the economics of an increasingly complex business
  • Digital press business model

Attendees heard how printers need to develop strategic planning to meet their customers’ diverse requirements. These plans are likely to be marketing focused encompassing all manner of run lengths, and increasingly more variable including mailing and fulfillment. Print reps will become consultants and account managers offering expanded intelligence for digital asset management, variable product, repurposed images, web-to-print and soft proofing. Printers will select the appropriate press technology for each job, whether it be offset or digital. And they will require a highly-automated and integrated workflow to control costs and deliver profit. The evolving printer needs to manage a business that offers growing product and functional diversity. Getting to the heart of where business gains are coming from will require more complex income statements that will identify profit and loss for each major work centre.

All presenters agreed with Duggan’s quote from Andrew Paparozzi, vice-president and chief economist, NAPL: “The biggest threat to our industry is not the recession, it’s not China, and it’s not competitors who don’t know their costs. It is complacency, the status quo, and assuming that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. Because in an industry being redefined by structural change, a rising tide no longer lifts all boats, and no risk is greater than doing nothing.”

All presenters also agreed that conventional offset is still very efficient for the great majority of today’s printing, and that it is the printer’s decision about when it makes economic sense to select a digital press for a project over offset. Suppliers and vendors offer assistance to printers to navigate the complexities of making this important decision on a continuing basis. But…offset printing is on the decline.


The right tool for the right opportunity to deliver revenue advantages was the focus of the information provided to attendees by Presstek. The tools identified for the purposes of the DIA presentation were conventional offset, digital toner technology and DI digital offset. Assuming all three technology choices are available, one of the printer’s deciding factors of which to choose is the run length. The statistics Presstek’s Steve Chmielewski shared with the audience were from vendor-independent industry specific resources. And he emphasized that the decision of which press or cost centre to use for each job is for production and management to make. It is not a customer-driven decision.

DIA members and guests were also told that print market trends demonstrate that about 80 percent of print jobs are 5,000 pieces or less. This count could fall into any of the three technologies. Much of the volumes continue to be static print so offset technologies are still viable. Chmielewski agreed with the other presenters – all technologies are compatible. The DI is somewhat unique because it bridges heavy iron and digital.


Xerox’ analysis of industry statistics demonstrate that lithography is going to decline, on average from 69.1 percent to 56.4 percent by 2010. In contrast, digital and value added services are expected to rise to 37.8 percent from 24.5 percent, and that the print-on-demand market will continue to escalate as shown by statistics into 2013.

DIA meeting attendees heard and saw the Xerox perspective of how market realities for rebuilding within the printing industries in 2010 will ride on two strategic planks:

  • Digital transformation
  • Operational effectiveness
  • Managing costs by doing all work more efficiently
  • Operational creativity in reducing all operational friction
  • Reducing cost and cycle time to drive efficiency

But, as digital print technology continues to expand into new market areas, we may see a new generation of market leaders develop outside traditional printing companies. The challenge commercial printers face, said Xerox’s Terry Thompson, lies in improving business results, increasing productivity, reducing costs and growing profit. Surviving in today’s market and keeping up with the volatile conditions require thinking beyond an equipment list to what mix of communications resources will provide top and bottom line benefits that ultimately drive customers’ businesses:

The Right Workflow – The Right Technology – The Right Business Model

The escalation of shorter runs and shorter turn-around times, 1:1 marketing, web fulfillment and digital colour page volumes will help drive the increased revenues of the future. Prolific content tailored to consumer needs is driving shorter print runs and a faster migration to digital, though offset still continues to be part of the mix. Cross-media communications are already becoming a market reality, and they include print, Internet, mobile and social media.

Xerox has identified some marketplace resources that service providers can look to for revenue streams, most specifically for digital print and related digital-driven services: financial, sales and marketing, agency and design services, application and development, paper and media resources, training and business development, as well as professional support services (to name just a few).

Listeners could be inspired by the key points that Terry Thompson concluded his presentation with. “Even at the recession’s deepest point when most are hunkering down, cutting, freezing and hoping the economy turns around soon, leaders are still thinking about getting more productive, more competitive, and more valuable to their clients. While others are distracted by uncertainty, confusion and the fear recessions create, leaders are focused on what they have to do to prepare for the upturn and to make structural change an opportunity.”