Commentary & Analysis
Production Inkjet a Game-Changer for Documation
Senior Editor Cary Sherburne recently spoke with Documation Vice President and COO Martin Aalsma in developing this HP-sponsored feature. Documation is the proud owner of two HP T230 Color Inkjet Presses that it is leveraging to reduce costs, improve throughput and develop new product offerings
By Cary Sherburne
Published: September 16, 2014
This article is sponsored by HP’s Graphics Solutions Business unit.
Documation's digital print team: (top) Jeremy Stanek Production Manager, (left) Lisa Fischer Prepress Manager, (right) Joe Strauch Digital Print Manager, (center) Ryan Berg Digital Press Tech
Wisconsin-based Documation has been in business for two decades and operates with 160 employees and a mix of sheetfed offset, sheetfed digital (color and black & white), and now, two HP T230 Color Inkjet Presses to support its national client base of associations and publishers. Brad Stuckert, Documation’s President and CEO, made the decision to acquire the HP T230s, one of which has been in operation for two years, with the other in its first year of operation. Subsequently, Martin Aalsma, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, joined the company. He says, “In my prior life, I had extensive exposure to production inkjet presses from a variety of key vendors and I would have made the same decision had I been there at the time.”
According to Aalsma, the company was looking for a way to continue improving its quality and service levels at a more competitive price point.
In making the decision about these significant investments, Stuckert and his team looked at a variety of production inkjet presses available on the market and determined that the HP T230s best met the company’s needs. “Every press has it nuances,” Aalsma says, “and HP has been very responsive, open to suggestions and willing to make changes based on customer input. This is critical in a dynamic marketplace and with a company like ours that is not satisfied with ‘business as usual.’”
He adds, “I am a relationship-based person in business, and HP is a relationship-based company with whom I have a long history. I feel comfortable with their technology and their people.”
Documation has worked with HP to stretch the limits of its inkjet presses, in terms of quality, throughput and the range of substrates used. “We’ve had the best success with Finch uncoated, Mondi DNS Enhanced and Appleton Utopia,” he explains. “We have also been able to overcome issues with running gloss stock at full rated speed. The key to success in production inkjet is finding the right substrates through ongoing testing to make sure they perform well in terms of ink laydown and drying. We are committed to that ongoing testing process as the substrate manufacturers continue to enhance their products for better inkjet compatibility.
Although people told me you couldn’t ‘G7’ inkjet printing, as a G7 Certified printer, we have proven that to be false with a proprietary process that balances the management of both ink and color. That has resulted in consistent color across our entire production platform, a critical factor considering that many jobs use components from multiple printing technologies.”
Documation also used the services of Mary Schilling, “the Inkjet Genie,” who has worked on-site with the company to refine paper and color management strategies and processes.
Today, direct mail represents about 13% of Documation’s revenues, and Aalsma sees good growth potential there. The recent addition of an inline UV coating station to its HP T230s has also opened the door to the production of very high quality postcards and tri-fold mailers on those presses, both new business and migration from other printing technologies. “We are also very excited about what we have been able to do with our work in children’s books,” he says. “We are gradually moving that work from offset and digital sheetfed to the T230s, bringing faster throughput and more competitive prices to our clients with a quality they love.”
Documation runs a PDF workflow and has been able to integrate the HP SmartStream front end for its T230s with its KODAK PRINERGY workflow. “All of our direct mail runs through SmartStream,” he says, “and the integration with PRINERGY has helped us balance the work across our entire production platform, as well as providing one point of entry for our client base.”
Documation is also expanding its services beyond print, to increase the value of print and Documation’s value to its customers. “We print a number of journals and magazines,” he explains, “and have developed EZMag for a nice digital replication of the printed editions. We are just gearing up our cross-media platform based on HP partner MindFireInc, and we can do full personalized URLs, email blasts and other campaigns that allow us to track and report, presenting results in an easy-to-understand dashboard for customers. I believe this type of work is essential to the long-term viability of our business—and to print as a medium. Blending the two adds more value for the client than either can deliver alone.”
Aalsma concludes, “The HP T230s are top-notch presses with competitive operating costs, even compared to digital sheetfed. We like to push the envelope on quality and innovative applications. Our team meshes well with the HP team as we work to do that.”
If you are going to Graph Expo 2014, be sure to stop by HP’s booth on Sunday and Monday. Martin will be available to share his experiences and expertise as well as samples of Documation’s work.
Editor’s Note: According to Martin, Paul Gardner, Director of Innovation for Salt Lake City based Hudson Printing, is the self-proclaimed Number Two Most Disruptive Person in Printing. While Gardner declines to say who is Number One, Martin proclaims that he holds that spot. Watch this space for an upcoming article on Hudson Printing and you decide!