This article is sponsored by HP’s Graphics Solutions Business unit.

Rotolito Lombarda is one of the largest printing companies in Europe, with annual turnover in excess of €200 million, with €6 million of that attributable to its digital book printing operation. The company has more than 450 employees across six locations. Across all technologies, the company prints more than 100 million books per year. Its production platform across all of its businesses includes conventional sheet-fed and offset web presses, HP Indigo sheet-fed and two HP Inkjet Web Presses (T360/T410), as well as full prepress, bindery and automated warehousing capabilities. Its bindery facility processes about 200 million books annually, including 100 million PUR perfect bound books and 200 million between sewn paperbacks and cased books.

In the 2009 timeframe, Rotolito began to see a significant shift in customer demand for shorter runs for books and other publications that could not be cost-effectively handled with its conventional printing processes. Customers also wanted to reduce the amount of inventory stored in warehouses. This led to the establishment of a digital book printing operation that consists of an HP Indigo 10000 digital production press, primarily for covers, and two HP production inkjet presses (T360/T410). The company installed the HP T360 in 2010, followed by an HP T410 in 2013 to accommodate growing digital volumes.

But the investments went further than that. “We knew we could not simply purchase digital presses without also investing in infrastructure,” said Gabry Moretti, Marketing and Business Development Director at Rotolito. “We needed to make investments in systems management workflow that would allow jobs to be directed to the appropriate technology, as well as updated MIS and bindery systems suitable for managing the digital book printing and finishing process. We also spent a great deal of time testing papers to determine the most suitable products for the digital printing technologies we planned to acquire.”

Today, about 40% of Rotolito’s book printing jobs are comprised of run lengths of 2,000 or less, which is ideal for digital production. They typically fall in the following categories:

  • Short runs of textbooks for use during the adoption decision process
  • Scientific/technical/medical (STM) books and journals, cookbooks and magazines with a circulation suitable for digital printing
  • Out of print books or books needed by schools to refresh exhausted supplies
  • Customized Publications using multi-job that result in a variety of versions. Textbooks are often individually barcoded to discourage copying of the book.
  • Short-run manuals and catalogs, especially those that are required to be published in multiple languages.

Rotolito took its digital transformation to an even more sophisticated level by entering into a global alliance with King Printing in Boston. This alliance was designed to create efficiencies for both firms’ clientele across a global platform, offering the same level of web to print, on-demand digital book printing using the same technology. In addition to equivalent quality, clients also benefit from time and cost savings, avoiding long lead times, shipping/customs delays and excessive shipping costs.

“About 50% of our inkjet production is comprised of scholastic books,” Moretti adds. “We also expect to see good growth in digitally printed magazines as we bring on board more qualified glossy coated papers. We believe our digital operation will double its revenues next year.”

Moretti also reports that the HP T410 was installed with an in-line manroland FoldLine VPF211 that can finish either books or newspapers, the first worldwide installation of this equipment. “We initially had a Mueller Martini book finishing unit in line with our T360, but decided to move part of it offline to give us more flexibility. We get completed book blocks off the back of the T360 press with our current configuration and bind them offline.”

All of this adds up to a 50% reduction in cost for many of Rotolito’s short-run jobs. “Especially journals and magazines,” Moretti explains, “which carried a high per-unit cost when produced in short runs with conventional technologies.”

Moretti points out that Rotolito is also seeing a trend among publishers to bring work back to Europe that was previously being outsourced to China, and that has benefited the company. “We are seeing a big benefit from the Long Tail, which publishers were not able to effectively take advantage of when work was outsourced to China,” she says.