Once an essential part of every university in the country, inplants have been in retreat from higher education, but are still prevalent in schools, lawyers offices, and in specialist areas such as the ADF. Wayne Robinson assesses the state of play.
Synonymous with every university in the country, inplant printrooms have been under stress for the past decade, since the internet came into full swing. The last annual inplant professionals Nippa conference was five years ago, and that was a low key affair where suppliers almost outnumbered printers. Nippa itself – once a thriving association of inplant professionals – has been quiet for the past three years, no-one seems quite sure whether it is still in existence.
You could be forgiven for thinking that inplant print rooms, or CRDs as they are also known, have ceased to exist, but that would be far from the truth. In fact in some areas, schools and colleges a prime example, they are resurgent, as their hosts consider the benefits of speed and security worth the investment.
And not all universities have ditched their printrooms in favour of digital communications, one well-known Uni in south east Queensland has a thriving inplant, which manages not only the university’s own inhouse printing requirements, but all its external work, acting as print broker, as well as meeting the staff and students printing requirements from its own equipment.
In schools, law firms, corporates, cruise ships, the armed services inplants are in full swing, with the new generation of digital colour and monochrome print solutions, with their inline finishing, including bookletmaking, able to knock out great printed products at the press of a green button, providing these organisations with those requirements of speed and security, allied with cost control and quality. No longer do inplants need the oily rag and the highly skilled print operator, nor the acres of space for finishing options.
Inplants or CRD (corporate reprographic departments) are these days virtually identical to any small or medium sized print operation. They face similar challenges; in cheapskate competitors, sales pressure, cost pressure, paper documents being switched to digital, with the added pressure in inplants of having to provide a virtual annual reason for their continued existence. Growth opportunities are similar too, with the multi-channel world now enabling broader offerings, and new technology enabling product diversification.
The vast majority of inplants/CRDs are run as stand-alone self-funding and sustainable units, rather than a recipient of the host organisation’s largesse. The evolution of inplants and their need to sell has caused a new breed of manager to come in, with a sales focus and an eye to opportunity – drone photography for instance is now being offered by some inplants – and a focus on client relationships, all quite different from the more sedentary inplants of old.
The modern CRD or inplant is no longer an dirty offset press in the basement of its host, but a clean digitally enabled printroom offering on demand print. It also provides design, and crucially print management, for both internal and external print, and for the production presses, and the multitude of MFPs (multi function printers) that may be found throughout the offices and corridors of the host organisation.
New technology is providing a serious help in enabling cost management, for instance Konica Minolta has a software which automatically finds the optimum print unit for any job. Grant Thomas, product marketing manager at the company says, “AccurioPro Flux is designed for optimum production, sending jobs to the unit best suited to that job, maybe the MFD in the corridor or to the printroom, so the non-print professional does not have to make the choice; it is rerouted according to the rules. With all organisations under cost pressure this software will always provide the most cost effective route to print. The education sector is under continued print pressure, software is part of key to realising efficient returns.”
Thomas, as the person responsible for Konica’s relationship with the inplant CRD world, is fully aware of the evolving nature of the beast. He says, “The inplant world is changing, some universities have closed down their inplants, some outsourced the running of them, however plenty of universities, private colleges and schools are still running inplants, there is even a resurgence as it allows them to manage costs and come up with quicker print.
Thomas says Konica Minolta has range of printers for inplants from the high level colour machines AccurioPress C3080 and C3070, and the monochrome AccurioPress 6120, all of which can come with inline booklet making, to reduce costs and improve turnaround times.
In colour printing the company says versatility and reliability are now combined in the AccurioPress C3080 digital colour print system, which it says is “empowering print professional to surpass their requirements for on-demand printing.”
The company says that with print speeds of 81ppm and a 4399 A4 sheets per hour productivity (2113 SRA3 sheets per hour) the C3080 will manage those print deadlines with ease.
The performance is matched by the extended capabilities of long sheet duplex, up to 762mm, and professional envelope printing.
The company describes the 6120 as a “fast monochrome press that can handle high volume print demands with ease.” It prints 120ppm output in high resolution and has a duty cycle of 2.5 million pages per month. According to the company the addition of dual side colour scanning of up to 240ppm makes this system an all-rounder, with proven print technology that delivers reliability and print consistency for trouble-free high volume monochrome printing. Thomas says, “Inline booklet-making is a major benefit for inplants.”
According to Thomas, as far as private colleges and schools are concerned, for communications to parents and promotion to prospective parents, print is the key platform. He says, “Websites and emails are not kept and info soon disappears, but print can be put on the fridge, into the notices basket, onto the kitchen or coffee table.”
Thomas also cites the wifi link between teacher iPads and workflow, which can see teachers create a test on their tablet, upload it, and have it printed straight away if necessary.
There is a host of print technology available to inplant printers. Henryk Kraszewski, senior product manager, industrial and commercial solutions at Ricoh, says inplant printers are looking for several factors when it comes to choosing a digital print solution. He says, “The first thing that inplant printers require is print equivalent to what is available from commercial printers – and on a similar, broad array of stocks.
“A key requirement is ease of use – often operators are not printers by trade, so simplicity is key to ensuring high quality print jobs can be turned around quickly.”
Inhouse finishing is another key requirement – either in-line or off-line – with ease of use again paramount. Having printing equipment inhouse loses its edge and advantages if print work can’t be finished on site. Lastly, with floor space often at a premium, a small footprint is a key advantage.
The most popular solution Ricoh offers for inplant operations is the Ricoh Pro C5200S series. Kraszewski says it offers the print quality required, the ability to run a broad variety of substrates and applications, is compact, easy to use, available with an array of in-line finishing choices, and has a low acquisition price, enabling a rapid ROI.
A step up from the Pro C5200S series is the Pro C7200X series, which offers higher performance and the capability to run a broader array of stocks combined with the ability to run a special colour – like white, clear, neon yellow, neon pink or invisible red – to add value to print jobs.
Ricoh has also had success with the Ricoh Pro C9200 series into high-volume inplant operations. This is a high performance digital colour jobbing machine capable of handling up to 1 million prints per month.
Finally, there is still some demand for black-and-white print. The soon-to-be released Pro 8300S series offers robust mono production capability with high quality print on a similar array of stocks to the Ricoh colour solutions (plus NCR).
According to Kraszewski inplants opt for Ricoh as it, “Can provide inplant print operations with a complete end-to-end solution: a choice of printing equipment to suit business requirements, an array of in-line and off-line finishing options, software to automate processes, comprehensive operator training, dedicated telephone support, and extensive service and support. Production printing equipment – and finishing and software – can be incorporated into fleet deals and Ricoh Finance can provide attractive finance options.”
When it comes to finishing Kraszewski says inplants want both inline and offline systems, depending on application. “The preference is for in-line with the production of saddle-stitch booklets, stapling and hole punching. Off-line is the choice for cutting, folding and ring-binding. Ricoh offers an array of choices for in-line or off-line to enable production of fully-finished print jobs,” he says.
Ricoh partners with EFI to offer MarketDirect StoreFront as a web-to-print solution that is easy to implement, cloud based, and available on a subscription basis. Kraszewski says, “This is something that inplants are implementing in order to easily manage print requests from across the business, simplifying the process of in-house customer requesting template-based jobs or bespoke work.”
For many inplants it is about the flexibility of the offering, it is the entire production line, from design, web to print, wide-format, cut-sheet digital, finishing, delivery. Inplants like the uni in Queensland may also manage external print, the multi-function units scattered around the buildings, as well as being a scanning hub, a postal service and, digital post.
New technology – hardware and software – and a new breed of manager is providing inplants with the opportunity to step up to a new era in printing.