As 2008 rolls out before us, business is already accelerating and the endless rush to move forward continues at an increased pace. But this year, the economy is not playing ball, the housing market is gasping for breath, fuel prices are soaring, economists are on edge, and technology continues to plow along while everyone in a buying cycle wonders what types of equipment they should invest in and why. In our industry, these questions are asked often because every hard-earned dollar needs to go to the right place the first time.

Complicating customer’s decision making process, all the equipment vendors are rolling out impressive new systems this year. After all, drupa, the granddaddy of all print trade shows is just a few short months away. So maybe you're thinking about what and when to buy, while realizing there is more to the decision than just the flash of new model names and the gleam of new technology.


when it comes to investing in new equipment it's vitally important to learn about the company behind the sizzle

Buy the Steak, not the Sizzle

The allure of new technology is always there, but when it comes to investing in new equipment it's vitally important to learn about the company behind the sizzle. It's especially important to see how the continual investments a company makes deliver value for customers. Look beyond the types of printers and presses that are most relevant to your business so you can see what else the company is doing, because this shows you how the company thinks and how it sees the market. And perhaps it can even show you how you can change your perspective and be open to new opportunities.

For instance, today your business may thrive off of its black-and-white cut sheet systems. But all the exciting new color devices reaching the market have you wondering about the best way to take advantage of this new technology --and how to respond to a key customer’s question about how soon you can provide a specific type of color printing. You know you'll still need monochrome machines for much of your work, but you also need a clear migration path to color. This may be a simple solution such as adding a full color cut sheet device such as an Océ CS 650 or it may mean shifting to a higher volume, color capable system from the VarioStream 9000 family that can replace several cut-sheet devices while providing a smooth transition to highlight and full color printing. For either choice, knowing the company has made the investments to provide the support you need should be part of your decision.

Similarly, companies with high print volumes may be using older continuous feed monochrome machines but find themselves facing the demands of customers seeking to expand their use of color and MICR toner while demanding higher print quality. For such firms, new machines like the VarioStream 8000 have the enhancements to deliver speed, productivity, and versatility while providing both transactional and graphic arts levels of print quality.

Whatever your needs may be, the acquisition of new equipment or software should never be made lightly. Always look to the benefits you expect to achieve. New machines offer not only higher speed and better productivity but lower operating costs --critical attributes in a time when the pressure is on the economy and business profits. Be sure to ask your vendor about the investment protection that comes from a strategy of continuous investment in innovation and products that meet market needs. For example, ask how the black-and-white equipment you buy today can give you investment protection you need when you make the move to color tomorrow. 


Look at what vendors have been doing and how their technology has advanced

Redefining Choices

As I look at the announcements being made this year, particularly with drupa on the horizon, I see customers wondering what they should do. The answer is actually pretty simple. Look at what vendors have been doing and how their technology has advanced. Look at the range of products they have invested in and introduced over time and how well they meet the needs of the marketplace. Are they offering something really new, or just updates to the same old iron? And look at software, too, and see whether it has kept pace with demands for automated workflows, new application support, and the scalability needed to grow with your business.

Beyond looking for continual investments and improvements, look for multiple choices in each of the major equipment categories. Some analysts and industry experts break down equipment into segments that measure print speed. Others look at duty cycles. But those broad generalities aren't always helpful. I prefer to keep it simple and make sure you find what you need, so I break them down this way: Monochrome cut sheet, color cut sheet, monochrome continuous form, color continuous form, and ink jet.

These categories help you see the landscape more clearly. There are speed ranges within each of these, and what should drive your decision is not some arbitrarily defined segment but your applications and the combination of performance, paper handling, pre- and post-processing, and workflow software that fit those applications. And always remember that software, field upgradeability and pre- and post-processing systems can be more important to overall productivity--and TCO--than mere speed.

It's easy to go to a show, especially a huge one like drupa, and see lots of technology. But the sheer volume of equipment on display at these extravaganzas can be intimidating and blur the landscape and delay buying decisions for the very tools you need to drive your business. This is especially true when vendors show off new products but don't plan releasing models with the capabilities you need for a year or longer. So you wait, and maybe some opportunity slips away.

It is better to focus on your needs today and how you can also achieve the investment protection you need moving forward by looking at the companies that have made continual investments along with the investment protection programs to support your needs.

Give your feedback to Guy. He can be reached at [email protected].