Growing Pains Persist for Digital Printing Technology
Digital printing technology is ready, willing and able, but are the people who make, sell and use the products?
Sliced bread's got nothing over digital printing as far as Joe Mehl's concerned. In fact the CEO of Erie, Pennsylvania-based Dispatch (formerly Team Dispatch) called it the most significant development for the industry since the computer. But as with most changes, there are difficulties to overcome before reaping the benefits.
The early color-quality issues—blacks, purples, reds and blues that left something to be desired—have been corrected. Said Mehl, "My Xerox DocuColor's quality is as good, and in some cases better, than any offset equipment I've ever had."
Frank Romano of the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology agreed. "Color isn't the issue it used to be," he said. "Sure, there will be differences when compared to offset, just as offset was different from letterpress which, at one time, was the status quo."
Both gentlemen agreed that the challenges now are sales and marketing oriented, including manipulating databases for personalization, higher pricing, a longer selling cycle, establishing the necessary infrastructure to support the technology and correctly identifying when an application fits the technology—issues affecting everyone along the value chain.
"Digital printing involves a tremendous learning curve and a leap of faith," said Mehl. "The sell-cycle is also longer, and then there are error-prone databases to contend with." Still, advised Mehl, "If distributors don't pay attention to the digital revolution, they are sure to miss a huge opportunity."
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Digital printing accounts for approximately 20 percent of the orders Dispatch produces, but Mehl said it is growing faster than any other segment of his business. The benefits of digital printing, in his opinion, lie in personalized mailings and digital warehousing programs.
"Measurable results prove that using digital print for personalized, one-to-one marketing significantly increases returns," Mehl said, thus providing a tremendous tool for making communication cost-effective.