Webcom today announced its second major capital investment in the past 18 months, bringing its total to an impressive $20 million. The unprecedented investment will involve installation of an HP T350 Colour Inkjet Web Press to complement the T300 installed just over a year ago, solidifying Webcom’s leadership and commitment to growth in digital inkjet print. Uptake of digital inkjet print resulted in a ten-fold volume increase for Webcom in 2011.
Set to more than double digital inkjet capacity to 2 billion pages annually, Webcom’s Toronto plant now stands as the second largest book production capacity for digital inkjet printing in North America, dominating the Canadian market and positioned in the top five worldwide. The HP T350 inkjet press which will be in full production by March is a high quality four colour, wide width, 600 feet per minute inkjet press capable of producing over 8 million customized books annually.
The total $20-million cumulative investment value reflects of Webcom’s enterprising stronghold. “Not only do these commitments demonstrate our responsiveness to the needs of publishers today, they also exhibit Webcom’s flexibility in taking on the challenges of tomorrow,” commented Webcom’s President and CEO, Mike Collinge.
Dramatic shifts in the printing landscape toward digital inkjet also require a paradigm shift for systems automation. Included in Webcom’s $8-million investment in 2012 is a significant upgrading of hardware and software, both of which will drive efficiencies and lower publishers’ costs for custom, short run books. “We’ve seen a 31% increase in the number of orders as run lengths continue to shift in favour of a short-run model and as colour solutions are introduced,” said Gerry Cronin, Digital Product Manager.
The BookFWD™ production model, introduced to publishers last year, is becoming ever more relevant in today’s book market. Specifically designed to transform the way publishers print and manage their inventories of books, catalogs and directories, BookFWD establishes a comprehensive program to balance the needs for offset and digital. Bolstered by its recent investments, Webcom now occupies an unclaimed printing territory and is uniquely positioned to service the print-to-order segment.
The shift in ordering patterns spans across all markets – happening with Educational and Trade publishers, and also increasingly with Directory and Professional Reference customers who are looking for greater efficiencies. For publishers like Pearson, BookFWD was a simple and compelling solution that translated into a multi-year strategic alliance. Educational publishers are experiencing exponential growth via new business models recently defined. “Increasingly with custom printing, personalized course materials are being compiled for individual classrooms. Webcom’s BookFWD concept has given us a manufacturing approach that is flexible, agile and cost-effective, allowing us to manage classroom-size print runs with the most advanced press technologies,” revealed Neil Harris, Director of Operations at McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
Following the lead of Educational publishers, Trade publishers are also moving away from the practice of ‘print and pray’. Rapid changes are taking place on all fronts including significant changes in distribution, and Trade publishers are making necessary modifications and developing new business models to address them. “It means moving away from the mindset of title-by-title pricing and considering the broader benefits of overall shorter runs to ensure we can respond quickly to changes in the marketplace,” explained Cronin.
With the increasing importance of systems automation as order numbers rise, integration will include front-end automation to better manage order processing. Wider use of InSite will also be a target to automate proofing and file preparation. “Much is happening behind the scenes to strengthen the overall process from beginning to end in order to improve productivity, reduce redundancies and ensure timely delivery,” said Gabe Preczner, Vice President, Operations at Webcom. “It’s all part of our broader vision to balance inkjet and offset capabilities that are supported upfront, with ordering and file management, and on the back-end with new bindery systems.”
The speed of the HP T350 Web Press brings digital productivity to unrivaled levels. Webcom’s previously announced Müller Martini bindery lines combined with the Horizon StitchLiner will support the HP T350 in producing both perfect bound and saddle-stitched products. The wide range of coated and uncoated paper options also continue to be leveraged by the new press, which accommodate both black and four-colour printing.
“The combined investments at Webcom and today’s urgency for new book publishing business models are a powerful combination designed to help publishers move their businesses and plan for the future on their own terms,” said Collinge in closing.