Commentary & Analysis
DI Presses: No Longer a Niche Product
By Todd Chambers March 12,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: March 12, 2007
By Todd Chambers March 12, 2007 -- As you may have read, I have recently joined Presstek as its first-ever Chief Marketing Officer. Coming to this role from outside the printing industry, I wanted to share my perspective with you in this edition of the Presstek Perspective, based on what I have observed so far. Increasingly, companies are purchasing DI presses to augment their digital, toner-based or conventional offset capabilities. There is no question that the dynamics of the printing industry are changing, and along with that, the way we need to do business is also changing. In a recent white paper, industry commentator Dr. Joe Webb said, "Technological and economic changes in the industry have led to a variety of market conditions that demand compressed workflows with more effective use of time and skills, more responsive job turnaround, and output configurations that more optimally fit the job characteristics of emerging print demand." One of these changes is the growth in demand for shorter run lengths was documented in a study conducted by research firm InfoTrends that reflected that the requirement for run lengths of 5,000 and above is declining, while the demand for run lengths under 5,000 shows significant increases. This shift has challenged print service providers to reexamine their equipment mix. I have been particularly intrigued with what appears to be a shift in the role of DI presses in the overall production picture as a result of these changing requirements. Increasingly, companies are purchasing DI presses to augment their digital, toner-based or conventional offset capabilities. These presses primarily fill a run length gap for runs of 250 to 10,000 that they can produce more cost effectively than conventional offset or toner. But I am also seeing companies adopt the DI as their central production focus. Much of this, I believe, is due to the fact that the DI is now a fourth generation product that has grown to meet market needs in a much more robust manner. For example, with the new high productivity Presstek 52DI, its increased automation, 300 lpi printing and larger sheet size means that printers can handle a wider range of high quality applications than ever before. When City Colors was launched as a printer to the trade in 1998, replacing its predecessor, general commercial printer Metropolitan Press, its digital offset operation was based on two Heidelberg Quickmaster DIs, and the company purchased a third DI last year. All three presses have been busy, primarily producing gang-run business cards, postcards, menus, flyers and tri-fold brochures. Despite the fact that two of the three QMDIs were fully paid for, the firm decided to invest in a Presstek 52DI to increase quality from 150 to 300 lpi and to take advantage of the larger sheet size to improve the efficiency of its gang-run operations. The company quickly found that not only were those two objectives met, but the added automation and efficiency of the newer generation press will allow actual price reductions to its customers without any decrease in margins. Within 30 days, the company acquired a second 52 DI press, replacing the other fully-paid-for QMDI. Meeting customer requirements Another customer who recently acquired his business and set out to reinvent it based entirely on toner-based digital printing equipment found instead that he needed the speed and quality of offset to meet the full range of customer requirements. Fourth-generation printer Grover Daniels is transitioning Boston's Copy Cop into a different kind of company. He says, "We came to the decision that the business model of leases and monthly click charges for high-end digital toner-based presses were simply too expensive. It was clear to us that by investing in a DI press, we could have a real offset press that prints at 7,000 impressions an hour. That puts us in a whole different category without worrying about all of the issues surrounding the way the toner-based companies have structured their financial models. Give me a 10-minute makeready and 300 line screen printing at 7,000 sheets per hour, and I'll show you the money." Many printers have found themselves having difficulty competing with the old business model that worked well for them when they, or even their fathers, started their businesses. And Business Cards Tomorrow of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico added two DI presses to their production mix. According to Mark Ell, CFO, "There is no question that short-run four-color is a growth market for us. In the first six weeks, we put over a million impressions on our first Presstek DI [in Phoenix] with absolutely no mechanical issues. We were so excited that we bought another one for Colorado. We have never done that with a major purchase before because usually there are issues that need to be solved. The Presstek DI beat every expectation we had from the beginning." Many printers have found themselves having difficulty competing with the old business model that worked well for them when they, or even their fathers, started their businesses. They knew that to survive, they needed more efficient and effective ways to serve their customers. And they are finding that increasingly, a DI press is the right technology to add as more of their customers are looking for run lengths in that 250 to 10,000 range. It also brings them to a new level of quality, turnaround time and the ability to deliver affordable short run printing. The other aspect I have found very interesting is the reaction of pressmen to the addition of a DI press. Almost every one I have spoken to says they would never go back to what they were doing before. That is high praise coming from a tenured pressman who has grown up with conventional offset. But many also found themselves frustrated with the effort to produce an increasing amount of work with tools that were not optimally designed for it. With their DI press, they are able to turn out a high volume of high quality work, including reprints that maintain the level of color consistency their customers are looking for. As the short-run market continues to play an increasingly dominant role in the printing industry, we are finding that more printers are operating the DI press as their primary output system. This is a sign that DI printing has become a mainstream solution, a fact that is further supported by the market shift in run length requirements. Presstek's record sales of DI presses also reinforces this notion. Given this snapshot of the industry, I am very excited to be a part of it and Presstek and look forward to sharing more thoughts with you in future columns. In the mean time if you would like to comment or share a thought with me please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.