(Watch Lois Ritarossi’s video interview with Patrick Masset, CEO of aiim here.) 

At the recent Hunkeler Innovation Days conference, I spoke with several service providers who shared their goals for growing and evolving their print and mail business. They also talked about challenges in production and how they are approaching new investments. Their focus is on creating opportunities with workflow optimization, leveraging inkjet to drive growth, and finding the best partners.

Print mail providers included:

Sattler Media is one of the largest printers in Germany with more than 500 employees working at four production sites. Sattler has acquired several companies in the last few years enabling it to expand from commercial printing into direct mail, logistics and shipping services. The company have a diverse client base across many verticals.

Aiim based in Toronto, Ontario, has 90 employees and runs one production facility. The facility supports aiim production and two recently acquired sister companies. The company’s services include direct mail, transactional communications, omni-channel marketing, large format and commercial printing.

Print Mail Solutions has 165 employees and runs two facilities in, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

It produces mission critical communications for clients in highly regulated industries including: financial services, banking, insurance, and automobile services, with statements, invoices and notices.

Inkjet Drives Growth

Sattler installed a Ricoh Pro 70000 to replace a hybrid direct mail operation with offset pages having print added through inkjet or toner personalization. Hanke stated that high speed inkjet is no longer a niche. Despite some economic challenges with the price of consumables, he sees inkjet as mainstream for commercial print. Sattler is planning new inkjet investments. 

Masset said aiim transformed its facility by moving from cut sheet offset to roll fed high speed inkjet with a Ricoh Pro 70000. The platform has enabled the company to bring more value to its customers by reengineering their workflow. The company is now producing shorter runs more consistently, with improved time to market.   

Renaud said Print Mail Solutions made its inkjet transformation five years ago with a move to a Ricoh 5000 which eliminated over 1,000 preprinted forms. As a result, the company is able them to offer clients full color statements and invoices with both increased speed to market and operational efficiency. Print Mail Solutions plans to expand its inkjet capabilities to provide higher quality output and offer direct mail services to existing clients.

Opportunities with Workflow

Hanke stated that there are large opportunities in running a hybrid shop with offset and inkjet in the same environment. He likes the flexibility of having multiple platforms working together to meet customer demands. He is working to adapt the workflow at Sattler to maximize efficiency across offset and inkjet. In a just a few years, Sattler has seen suppliers bring solutions with significant improvements in automation for book finishing and bindery. Several were on display at Hunkeler.

Masset said aim is focusing is on workflow improvements and further software integrations. The company can run multiple jobs together with continuous feed inkjet. Their goal is to get to a lights out automation by further reducing the number of touches from receipt of artwork to finished products ready to ship. Masset said aiim continues to evaluate and make improvements in speed between their digital, offset and finishing to meet clients demands for time to market. 

Renaud indicated with newer inkjet platforms they can produce the quality necessary for direct mail. Existing clients trust the company with highly personalized data and welcome the ability to add services for direct mail. Print Mail Solutions’ infrastructure can be modified to support the capabilities needed in design and data for direct mail campaigns. 

More Automated Finishing

Hanke said his biggest challenges are with staffing shortages. He is looking for automated finishing solutions with integration to their print processes to reduce the amount of labor needed to complete jobs. He was researching finishing automation and technologies like auto-splicing during the conference.

Masset was most interested in the new solutions with more finishing automation for saddle stitching and folding to improve time to market. Renaud was very interested in insertion with automatic traying for mail. Yet the solution she likes best is currently only available in the European market. 

Partnership Matters

All three service providers spoke about the importance of strong partnerships with their suppliers, like Ricoh. Renaud said Ricoh has assisted in areas where her company has gaps in expertise such as color management. Ricoh has assisted with solutions, metrics and training to improve color management.

Masset shared that Ricoh’s long partnership has enabled them to continue improving their workflow. Ricoh has provided integration services to connect their prepress tasks and their Avanti MIS to get the most value out of their systems. Hanke shared how they partner with their service team to perform monthly maintenance, keeping the press running with phenomenal uptime.

Next generation inkjet with increased automation in finishing is driving leading companies to expand offerings. Improved capabilities with inkjet and hybrid solutions are enabling providers to meet customers’ demands for new applications with better time to market.