Short-Run Four-color Envelopes and Digital Printing
Guest post by Brian Segnit, Versant Product Marketing Manager, @xrxphoto
If you ask Lynn Perry about Rockford Litho Center and its amazing clients, the story will be similar in many ways to other commercial printers. But there are several areas where Rockford Litho Center pushes the envelope a little further than the competition.
As CEO and Owner of Rockford Litho Center, Perry describes the business as the kind of place where “a variety of things are always done short and fast.” Armed with both offset and digital presses, Rockford Litho Center specializes in mostly short-run, quick turn jobs, and work gets especially intense around political elections, holidays and charitable appeals seasons. Citing an example, he relates that for at least one week during the election season, “The only thing we printed was political flyers – three and four different ones a day!”
Continuous Improvement. Continuous Growth: A Story of Print Business Evolution
When you already do pretty much everything, where do you go from there? For Rockford Litho Center, you do what you already do even better. For some customers, that might mean RLC becomes the one source for all their printing needs. “We do a lot for one group for their music events,” says Perry. “We produce the programs, posters and other marketing materials used to promote season tickets.”
For the past eight years or so, they’ve also done a lot of books at Rockford Litho Center. They started with the best tools available at the time, but now they’ve found ways to be even more efficient with short-run digital books that better serve customers’ needs. “We just did a stunning, award-winning annual report as a landscape 8”x11” book. With the Versant 180, we can do larger sheets for economical short-run books,” he explained.
From Offset Envelopes to Digital: It’s All About Turnaround
Another area where Rockford Litho Center has transformed over the years is how they produce envelopes. They offered offset envelopes “for a long time, but now all are printed digitally – no more offset envelopes,” he explains. “12 years ago when we got our first digital envelope printer with a feeder, it was also one of the first in the country. Usually jobs were one or two color then, not a lot of four color.”
As envelope volume grew, something else had to be done. “We got into digital because runs were coming in at 500 to 1,000 each, but we still had all the set up for offset envelopes for each of those shorter runs. When digital became available, that’s when we moved because of less waste, shorter set up and better turnaround.”
For Perry and RLC, it’s more about turnaround time than anything. “We couldn’t do those schedules if the work wasn’t digitally printed. It’s still cheaper than offset to print 500 to 1,000 envelopes on digital, and we don’t waste a lot of envelopes to get them done.” Printing four-color, short-run envelopes using a digital press cuts down on waste, moves jobs fast, and simplifies everything.
Four-color, Short-run Envelopes Lock in Customers
Four-color printing and personalization give clients added value for their envelopes, but that wasn’t part of the original reason for moving envelopes to digital. “Being able to offer four-color envelopes and personalization were bonuses,” declares Perry. “That wasn’t what we were thinking about, but once we were doing digital, we could tell customers we do four-color anyway, and you can do more with it. Bonus!”
Perry notes that, “Once marketers start doing four-color work, they don’t want to give it up. We can add graphics to envelopes that weren’t being used that way before, and now clients won’t go back to offset. Those customers are locked in.”
Grow Marketing Volume With Four-Color, Short-Run Envelopes
Envelopes have become a selling point, but not everyone buys into it yet. Some marketers see the value of the enhanced envelope right away and how it catches the consumer’s eye, even with millennials. Others just see the envelope as a vehicle for what’s inside.
“We used to sell envelopes that way,” admits Perry. “We’d just do one color that didn’t matter much, and now we moved in the other direction. Now we have a capability that others don’t, and it doesn’t cost any more to do it.”
What’s the Market for High-impact, Four-color Envelopes?
How did Rockford Litho Center decide there was a market for this application? What tipped the decision to move envelope orders to the digital Versant press? When they looked at what they were already doing, the team saw a certain type of business was growing, and envelopes were part of it. From there, they figured out how to get more work for existing applications and capabilities.
“Political campaigns use envelopes. So do other clients who also use lots of postcards, especially for fund raising. The appeals market fits this model, and having the ability to do envelopes helped us.” When RLC goes through the annual appeals season, the long sheets on the Versant press capture multiple pieces of the appeals campaigns, with the digital press ready to maximize every inch of the materials.
“For an appeals client, we can do a 20” sheet piece. Every appeal has two envelopes, sometimes a reply card, and the whole job could be done on one machine because of the long sheet.” When a job involves envelopes and can leverage the long sheet capability, one machine suffices for all that client’s work.
It goes back to Rockford Litho Center’s theme of continually improving through adopting and adapting digital printing.
Rugged Dependability and Versatility for Growing Envelope Volumes
The company went through its envelope evolution with a clear idea of where they wanted to go. “We had another machine and wore it out, so we needed to replace it. However, we didn’t want that same kind again because it didn’t handle everything. We wanted to upgrade.”
That search led them to the Xerox Versant digital press. Out of the drawer or top tray, the press handled envelopes better and at the same price point than others they looked at. “We tested the Versant for three weeks running 80,000 envelopes. Other systems and envelope feeders couldn’t keep up.” He calls it “the most versatile machine on the market because of being able to work digitally, the versatility and color.”
Optimize Envelope Workflow for Productivity
How could a robust, reliable envelope feeder help your print business? Productivity? Speed? Economics? Something else?
For Perry, the answer meant satisfying the need for fast turnaround of really good envelopes. With older methods, “Operators needed lots of patience, because they would put 50 envelopes in a drawer, sometimes 150, and every time we have to refill, there’s a pause. So it took a long time.” Sometimes the envelopes wouldn’t feed, adding to the downtime.
“With the feeder we have now on the Versant, we can load without having to stop the machine. The Versant 180 has a finishing stacker and can handle 200 envelopes at the end.” The operator just removes the finished envelopes. “The productivity is important, because it allows you to print more. We can do a lot in a day if we have to.”
500 Envelopes in 11 Minutes Out of the Feeder
“We can print 500 envelopes in 11 minutes out of the feeder, something we could never have done before. It would take 20 minutes if we did envelopes the other way and assuming it all went smoothly. Whenever there was a misfeed, it was at least two minutes before the print job started up again,” says Perry.
Now they do things differently. “One day we printed 12,000 envelopes, which we couldn’t do out of a drawer or top tray.” He finds the Versant quick to set up, even going from one size to the next. “We had three different sizes on those 12,000 envelopes, but it took just a few minutes. That’s the value.” If you’re doing 500 envelopes a month, you don’t need it, he says, but his shop does 30,000 to 100,000 a month, so a robust, versatile press was the best option.
Digital Print Production Is Within Your Reach
Based on conversations with his peers at the Print 18 Conference, Perry thinks “people are afraid to evolve to more digital output, but they shouldn’t be, because it’s so simple to do. If you’ve run an envelope feeder before, or if you did some envelopes some other way like offset, it’s (the Versant digital press) very simple to operate.
“With digital, you can offer customers color at a competitive price, with quick turnaround. That’s a big selling point,” he declares. “Now we bring turnaround and value-add to every job, because we can design better envelopes without costing any more money.”
Customized Envelope Feeder and Conveyer for Digital Press
Historically, printing and finishing envelopes has been nearly impossible on a digital production press, but that’s changed. As this story about Rockford Litho Center shows, affordable innovation now makes envelopes as efficient and simple as standard print jobs. The customized Envelope Feeder and Conveyor for the Xerox Versant Press simplifies envelope production by ensuring uninterrupted printing and unloading.
A top-loading friction feeder uploads to the press from the bottom of the stack to ensure reloads don’t stop or slow the press. This results in extended, uninterrupted runs – nearly doubling printing productivity for some envelope sizes.
The Customized Envelope Feeder and Conveyor has been recognized for best-in-class envelope printing in the Production Digital Press space. The envelope printing innovation received a Red Hot Technology Award at Print18.
Some of the Versant innovation for envelope applications includes:
- Conveyor unloads envelopes from output tray to keep the press running
- Requires no fuser change or fuser swap like some competitive presses
- Imaging system designed to handle envelopes and robust media
- Many options for pick-points of feeding envelopes come standard –
- From the MSI / By-Pass trays
- Oversized High Capacity Feeder using a supplied bracket
- Optional Envelope Support Kit for greater stacking height
- Roll-up simple, easy size adjustment, and reliable operation
The elegant but affordable ensemble of Xerox Versant Press, Envelope Feeder and Conveyer migrates smaller offset envelope runs profitably to digital, while delivering matched print quality for both envelopes and contents.