With the purchase of a new digital printing press, Earle O’Born hopes his company will soon be able to tap into a new market.

The Printing House Ltd. (TPH) in Toronto is in the process of installing a Xerox DocuColor iGen3 Digital Production Press. And with it, O’Born, the president, hopes TPH

will be able to expand its variable printing business. This is the printing of customized marketing material which enables one-to-one marketing on a large scale.

But the market for variable printing is growing slowly, O’Born says. That’s because customers need to trust printers enough to hand over valuable data to them.

“”With variable print, to do that effectively, you have to be using somebody else’s database, and as you know, most businesses don’t like to give up their databases,”” he says. “”That’s like walking down the street without your clothes on. You have to have a lot of confidence with your supplier to let them play with your database.””

The software is much more complex than simple mail merge, says Ira Gold, the president of technology consulting firm Gold Associates Inc. in Rockaway, N.J.

The iGen3 is powered by one of three color servers — the Xerox DocuSP, one from Creo and one from EFI. The color server is a sophisticated software program that bridges the process from creation to the actual printing production.

Companies can, for instance, create “”personalized”” sales kits for individual sales people which includes demographic information for their region. This type of marketing can be quite rewarding, Gold says.

This is one of the main targets for the iGen3, says Xerox Canada president and CEO Doug Lord in Toronto.

One of the challenges of selling a digital printing press, however, is it requires a new set of skills that traditional offset printers don’t possess, he says.

Because the TPH already had digital equipment, the technology wasn’t completely foreign to it, O’Born says. However, it still required about six weeks of training for his staff because the equipment needs a lot of maintenance on a daily basis, he says. But Xerox will still handle the bulk of the maintenance if problems arise, he says. TPH also had to train staff on how to use the software.

The iGen3 also makes sense for short-run jobs that would once have been done through offset printing, O’Born says.

“”It really is in my mind targeted at taking work from offset machines on a short-run basis.””

With offset printing there’s an initial cost to set up the plates, but the bigger the print job, the lower the cost per page produced, he says. With digital printing, on the other hand, the cost per document remains more or less the same regardless of the size of the order. So the decision of what type of printing method to use will depend on the length of the job.

“”It opens up additional times in offset for longer-run jobs,”” Gold says.

Offset printing still offers better quality, but for 80 to 90 per cent of printing jobs, the difference is irrelevant, O’Born says. Companies producing catalogues for products such as fine jewelry or makeup may need the quality of offset printing, but for most other jobs, digital printing would more than suffice, he says.

“”For 80 or probably 90 per cent of customers, I don’t think they’ll see much of difference . . . this is more than adequate.””

O’Born hasn’t done cost savings projections for the digital printer because that’s not what matters to TPH, he says.

“”The cost savings side isn’t important to my line of work,”” says O’Born. “”I think most of my customers come to me for an on-demand service — an emergency service.””

Although TPH looked at other products such as the Heidelberg NexPress 2100, he ultimately went with the iGen3 because it is capable of running at 100 impressions per minute.

“”They’re all in the same sort of world, except I don’t think any of them are running at the speed of the iGen . . . The iGen is almost at the moment in a class of its own.””

If the iGen3, which costs $995,000, works as anticipated, O’Born hopes to eventually have one in each of TPH’s 14 locations across the country.

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