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What to look for when buying a digital press

According to Leon Minnie, product manager – production solutions at Bidvest company, Konica Minolta South Africa, there are several key points that must be considered when it comes to purchasing a digital press.

Thus, the first question any print shop looking to procure a digital press must ask is what their specific requirements are – both currently and in future - as this will determine the type of machine to be purchased.
“There are so many different solutions on offer in the marketplace, that it is key to narrow the selection down by looking at points such as quality requirement, machines’ standard features, volumes produced and speed versus productivity,” explains Minnie. “It is important to remember that different types of media affect productivity especially when it comes to finishing equipment, such as perfect binding, stapling and folding and so on. In order to calculate productivity, the entire process must be taken into consideration.”

Next, the print controller must be investigated. “People have different preferences, some favour Fiery over CREO, but they must also look at what is currently being used at the facility and how easily a new controller can be integrated into the current workflow,” he says. For instance, CREO is usually a better option when it comes to variable data printing (VDP), but Fiery is preferable for some businesses as it is far more user friendly.

In addition, not only must the colour management ability of devices be assessed, but also the solutions the supplier can offer to make all the different printing processes work in harmony to produce either the same colour or conform to a specific colour standard like ISO or FOGRA.

Finishing requirements should also be investigated. For instance, inline finishing provides a one-stop process with no human intervention necessary, greater productivity and no need for additional equipment. Unfortunately, certain finishing requirements cannot be done inline, such as hard cover books, embossing and lamination, without a third party finisher at a huge premium. For this reason, it is important too look at the requirements and business plan for your digital press in order to make the correct decision on whether to use inline or off-line finishing.

The next consideration is ROI – the outright purchase cost must be weighed up against the print volume in order to be justified. On this note, Minnie points out that companies must remember that service charges for maintenance must be all inclusive otherwise they could end up paying much more than planned. “A three year investment is recommended, provided that the machine will be fully utilised, but with the fast pace of technology change, future growth must also be taken into consideration due to the reduction in service charges with every new technology being released. Unlike litho printing, digital technology has a very short life span making it expensive to keep old technology alive, which results in print providers being less competitive in the market.”

Minnie also states that quite often, solution providers try to sell high end office machines into the production market, but these devices are not designed for this sector. “Only ten percent of volume can be done on thick stock and the office machines are not geared for this process, ultimately resulting in the ability of the machine being affected, missed deadlines and lower productivity becoming a frustration for both supplier and print provider.

“Finally, one of the most important factors to be considered is the technical support received,” he adds. “Questions to ask include: does the solution provider offer standby for after hours support, remote monitoring and fault diagnosis, qualified, trained technicians, software support specialists, training for users and, most importantly, do they have the necessary spares available? As one of the leading digital production suppliers to the South African industry, Konica Minolta South Africa’s award winning digital presses combined with our focus on this market will give print providers the competitive edge in the market.”

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