Should you start selling entry-level production devices or could you be biting off more than you can chew? Here, we look at what the
customer wants, what the reseller needs to provide and how vendors are satisfying these requirements.
Resellers on the look-out for new sources of revenue might do well to investigate opportunities in production print. As entry-level production machines blur the lines between offie and production print and more businesses bring the colour printing of marketing material inhouse, demand for light production machines is on the up.
Gareth Parker, Strategic Marketing Manager for Production Print, Ricoh, says growth in the UK and Ireland is being driven by demand within CRDs and copy shops for some or all of the following:
- Technology that reduces the cost of providing an effiient print service – in some cases by as much as 50%;
- A cost-effective entry into digital printing that could form the basis of future growth;
- Entry-level technology that can qualify for capital funding;
- More accessible and standardised technology that improves internal processes for communicating information;
- Technology that strengthens business agility and is more responsive to stakeholder/consumer needs, in particular the ‘want it now’ mentality;
- Technology that carries a rapid service response to maximise machine uptime;
- Quick, onsite production of full colour marketing materials;
- The production of better quality support material;
- Much faster job turnaround times;
- Signifiantly improved customer service for users, especially students in education; and
- Printing processes that are more productive and less wasteful.
Adrian Campomanes, European & UK Product Marketing Business Developer Professional Print at Canon Europe, is also seeing clear signs of
growth in this sector, much of it being driven by CRDs and smaller print shops that want to be able to offer the same high-end output as larger production environments, but with the flxibility to respond quickly and cost effectively to growing demand for short print runs.
He said: “A key growth driver is quality, as this can offer a clear differentiator and a competitive edge. This is vital in small agile copy shops and internal print rooms for attracting new customers and in corporate print environments looking to secure new business that would otherwise be outsourced.”
Entry-level production print is a big growth area for Sharp, too. Stephen Fieldhouse, Sharp’s Business Unit Director for Production Printing Systems, said: “One of the big drivers for this is the wider adoption of direct mail. Businesses are moving back to the printed mailpiece to complement e-campaigns in order to get a stronger ROI on marketing campaigns. Variable data printing functionality on digital presses is enabling targeted marketing, and personalised collateral delivers better results. Digital production print offers a cost effective way for professionals to bring print back in-house, reduce costs, improve productivity and reduce waste.”
Benefis for resellers Alan Clarke, Production Marketing Manager (UK/Nordic), Graphic Communications Business Group, Xerox, says that growing demand for production devices gives resellers the opportunity to increase the diversity and amount of business they do.
“CRDs/copy shops are looking at the whole process,”
he said. “This gives the reseller the opportunity to extend their offering to more than just the light production device and to differentiate themselves from other resellers. They have the opportunity to grow volumes, if they are able to offer more than offie devices, and do work that would typically be outsourced and produced on offset. Doing this would bring in additional click charges and may lead the customer to upgrade to a larger device in the future.”
For Parker, the primary benefis of selling production print devices are the ability to diversify business offerings with profiable operating margins; to strengthen core sales (in cases where printing is the core business); to maximise people resources by using extra service capabilities; to use new applications to break into new markets; and to lock out competitors by capturing customers’ print rooms.
“Secondary benefis are the ability to capture more total print volume; full technical support and sales from dedicated specialists; and the opportunity to gain the Ricoh production print certifiate,”
he said Purpose-built devices Campomanes says it is important for resellers to choose devices designed specifially for their target market.
“Having a top class print device that is optimised to serve the specifi demands of the CRD and copy shop environments is undoubtedly a positive for resellers, especially when they can confiently offer profiable solutions that they know provide best-in-class technologies that will deliver reliable performance for their customers, time and time again. It is also important that resellers have access to devices that offer profi margins for themselves, as well as their customers,” he said.
“Every reseller is looking to retain the relationship with their customer as well as to develop new sales channels. When resellers are in a position to offer their customers the very best product on the market, where the reputation of the technology is already proven in other sectors, the device can often sell itself as well as safeguard that all important customer/reseller relationship.”
In this context, Clarke stresses the importance of positioning light production devices differently to fast offie machines.
“It is important to know the product features, but also to understand what the CRD/copy shop is trying to achieve. If the reseller can offer advice and guidance rather than just a cost per page, they will stand out from others,” he said.
“CRDs and copy shops need to differentiate themselves by offering product (prints) that cannot be produced with the necessary quality or more cost effiiently in the offie, or product that simply cannot be produced at all in the offie.”
He added: “Light production devices can typically handle heavier stocks (up to 350gsm), print faster and with better colour consistency. They also have more powerful Digital Front Ends (DFEs), which can process larger fies at speed and have more tools. The combination of engine and DFEs makes it easier to set up jobs, reproduce brand colours and offer better fiishing, such as being able to staple more pages, trim edges or do more folds. Ultimately they can offer a more professional product. One other key difference is the ability to feed SRA3 sheets that allows the CRD/copy shop to create full bleed documents.”
For Clarke, production devices should also offer high levels of effiiency and automation. “Automation on a light production device can mean how easy it is to set-up new stocks, registration, colour accuracies and colour profies. Features like this are increasingly common on light production devices, where previously they were only available on high production colour digital presses,”
he said. Another important consideration is workflow.
“This is about how you getjobs delivered to the CRD/copy shop (i.e. Web to Print) and, once the job arrives, how the job is set-up. Every time the CRD/ copy shop needs to touch or correct a job, for example impositioning, adding page numbers or adding covers, it costs them money. So if the pre-press can be automated, then it reduces costs as well as reducing waste and dissatisfid clients.”
Parker, too, says devices for this market need specifi qualities that separate them from high-end offie machines.
“The device needs to be fi for the job, particularly with regard to volume capability and media handling (up to 300gsm). Quality standards are vital with colour calibration on the engine and toner type. This encompasses 4800 x 1200 dpi (1200 dpi 2-bit colour) print resolution; toner formulation with uniformly sized toner particles; and high colour density and saturation still achievable,”
he said. “Other features include in-line fiishing (normally for booklet making); productivity and the use of a professional Fiery RIP (workflw server) to maintain effiiency and prevent bottlenecks; and the operating environment including whether the footprint is small enough to cater for space-deprived workplaces.”
Campomanes says that although speed and duty cycle are generally what qualify devices as production machines, other factors need to be taken into consideration.
“The main differentiators for devices serving this particular sector are the quality of imaging technology and the flxibility to meet the demands of this growing sector. Internal print departments, creative communities and smaller print shops are now looking for print technologies that offer total flxibility for a range of applications, premium quality output and the ability to maximise production and cost effiiencies. It is also important that successful print devices in this category are fully optimised to facilitate seamless and secure integration into both existing and future workflws.”
Skills and expertise It is not just devices that require specific capabilities. Resellers also require different skills and expertise if they are to be successful in this market.
Parker said: “Resellers need a number of capabilities, such as sales knowledge, customer accounts and a will to develop and be patient. Service capability is a bonus, while back offie processes that can handle escalations are needed. Other things that should be taken into account include matching investing in this area to the overall business strategy, having the resources to generate quick wins, market knowledge and an understanding of the macro and micro trends that are driving the markets.”
He added: “Dealers need to consider if the sales team can handle the sales cycle: do they understand the technology enough and why it counts?; does their chosen manufacturer provide a ramp-up program that helps with all of the above?; and do they have specialists on hand?”
Campomanes said: “There is defiitely a need for resellers to understand the challenges facing their customers and how print solutions optimised to meet the specifi demands of this sector can have a positive effect on their business. Being able to demonstrate these benefis to their customers and show the return they can achieve is vital.”
He added: “Every reseller will need different capabilities to be able to successfully ‘sell’ the different product offerings from their supplier partners. From Canon’s point of view, we work with our partners to provide full training as well as ongoing sales and service support. This gives our partners and their customers the confience, knowledge and expertise to gain maximum benefi from their investment in a Canon device.”
“Selling and supporting production print devices does require a different skillset,” said Fieldhouse. “The sales cycle in itself is longer, but it’s in the service support area that resellers need to be geared up to deliver. The key thing is to understand that you’re selling into areas where print is critical. In the production print environment, whether that’s a CRD, print or copy shop, on-time delivery and quality is central to what they do.
“In these settings, where they are providing a service to their customers, print is much more important than in an offie setting where a short delay doesn’t necessarily impact on their business. Resellers supporting production print equipment need to ensure maximum uptime and, in order to do that, the service structure has got to be fist-class.”