Imaging channel dealers have evolved to provide capture, information workflow, IT management, security and many other types of business services to meet customer needs as digital transformation happens in the office. Yet putting print on pages and other media continues to provide a successful foundation for dealers; particularly for those bold enough to look outside the office and toward production print. Production printing can provide a growth opportunity that allows an imaging channel dealer to grow and thrive.
Increasingly, office equipment OEMs such as Konica Minolta, are advancing digital print technology and products to address the growing markets of production and commercial print, large format and industrial print, and label and packaging print. Digital production print represents a massive new market that imaging channel dealers now find accessible, and profitable, through the products, technologies and support these OEMs have introduced to the channel.
Konica Minolta, transforming to meet the needs of the office of the future, has also been busy transforming to take advantage of the growing digital production print market. Establishing a presence in the production, commercial and industrial print areas as well as expanding in the adjacent markets such as print embellishment has made them a strong competitor. They have experienced impressive growth in these areas over the last several years.
The Imaging Channel attended both the Konica Minolta Dealer Summit in Carlsbad and PRINTING United 2019 in Dallas and had a chance to see and hear what Konica Minolta now offers in these areas and how they are helping dealers evolve their businesses into these growing markets.
Digital Cut Sheet Production Print
Digital production print includes cut sheet, continuous feed, and large format printing. Konica Minolta’s cut sheet production offerings are a great place to start.
Konica Minolta has a range of toner-based cut-sheet black & white and color printers ranging from entry-level production print needs with bizhub PRO models meeting in-house and in-plant volume and application requirements, to more advanced digital presses designed for higher production print volumes and that offer more finishing options. These digital presses can be used by commercial print service providers (PSP) to move print from labor-intensive and costlier analog offset and litho presses.
At PRINTING United 2019, Konica Minolta held the worldwide debut of the AccurioPress C14000, their newest toner-based digital press. This digital press introduced new, innovative technologies and features that should make it stand out from its competitors’ products that are based on older technologies.
The AccurioPress C14000 can output sheets up to 51 inches in length and duplex sheets up to 35 inches long on media up to 450 grams per square meter (GSM). An intelligent media sensor senses the type of media being drawn into the printer and automatically adjusts printer settings. With the optional IQ-501 auto inspection system, which scans pages as they are printed, adjustments are made to ensure consistent color quality. The optional trimmer unit can be added to provide an inline creaser, for gatefold output, and for slitters to allow for four-side trimming to full-bleed output including business cards.
Konica Minolta appears to have listened closely to PSPs that use this type of printer and established the value proposition of this new press around higher and more consistent color quality and improved reliability. Kevin Kern, Senior Vice President of Product Planning, labeled the AccurioPress C14000 a “Color Output Factory” and we tend to agree.
Wide Format Equals Large Growth
Wide-format or large format digital printers for applications in technical drawings, maps, charts, etc. have been sold by the imaging channel for some time. A market that is becoming more accessible due to investments in large format digital print technologies by OEMs is in LED UV wide format printers for outdoor/indoor signage, large posters, and even textile printing applications. This segment can be a growth opportunity for the imaging channel.
At PRINTING United, Konica Minolta showed the AccurioWide 200. This hybrid inkjet wide format printer is the first Konica Minolta branded product in this area. Capable of printing on sheets, boards, roll-to-roll or roll-to-sheet, the AccurioWide 200 and its companion the AccurioWide 160, also shown at PRINTING United, can print in 6 color or 4 color plus white. This printer can print on flexible or rigid media, making it very good for signage, display and large banner applications.
Output from the AccurioJet KM-1 LED UV inkjet press was on display at PRINTING United while equipment demonstrations were held at Summit Direct /Texas Offset in Dallas. Capable of printing on media up to 23” x 29.5” and onto a variety of substrates, applications for this printer include variable direct mailers, books and book covers, flyers, menus, posters, calendars, labels, cartons and even ID cards.
On the show floor, the WEBjet 200D was demonstrated for application in the very high-volume continuous feed roll-fed printer segment. Focused on transactional, publishing, direct mail and in-plant applications, this printer utilizes Memjet Printhead Technology. With inline finishing available, this digital inkjet printer gives Konica Minolta a credible presence in this high-volume market.
Large format and continuous feed digital printing are not for every imaging channel dealer to consider. These print markets require large investments to meet service levels of customers, installation needs of the equipment and other support. These devices, however, strongly illustrate the breadth of Konica Minolta’s products that makes them well-positioned to take advantage of the growing digital production print market.
Efficiently handling production print workflow and automating much of the workflow is a key part of the overall package dealers and Konica Minolta delivers a portfolio of software and services to the PSP or customer using a digital production print solution. These software and services address production workflow solutions & automation, managed information systems (MIS), document verification, finishing automation, and even postage, shipping, optimization, and tracking.
With professional services and production specialists available for dealers, the company has built capabilities for dealers to leverage as they evolve into the production print space. Importantly, service level agreements are much more stringent in this market and Konica Minolta lets dealers rely on them to help support these SLAs. The dealer can rely on Konica Minolta until the dealer ramps up to meet the SLA or decide to let Konica Minolta support the SLA for the term.
Estimated number of UV LED wide format units
to be sold in 2023
representing a 17.6% growth rate from 2018
(Konica Minolta; IDC)
Enhance and Embellish
Digital print embellishment is an adjacent market opportunity that presents a revenue and profit growth path for Konica Minolta and the imaging channel. This market for embellishing equipment and supplies is in addition to the production print market. It can provide even more opportunity for new revenue and profits to an imaging channel dealer as they evolve into the digital production print market.
According to Konica Minolta here are some important data to consider:
- Embellished printed items are 2.5 times more attractive to consumers (FSEA)
- Packages with print enhancement are viewed as 46% higher in quality (FSEA)
- 69% of PSPs offer or plan to offer print embellishment to their customers (NAPCO)
- Only 50% of marketers and print buyers are aware of 3D textures on print (NAPCO)
- 40% of marketers are not aware that variable embossed foils are possible (NAPCO)
- PSPs can charge a premium of 17% – 39% for an embellished print product (Keypoint)
Add all these up and you have a market that will be hard at work generating demand from consumer to marketer to PSP to dealer.
Konica Minolta and MGI have had a solid alliance providing print embellishment solutions for quite some time. New print embellishment products announced at PRINTING United included:
MGI JETvarnish 3D One – Billed as the ultra-affordable entry-level embellishment press, the JETvarnish 3D One produces 2D and 3D textured varnish effects on media up to 14” x 30”. It adds to the MGI embellisher line to make it the widest range of digital embellishment presses on the market. It is expected to ship during the first quarter of 2020.
AccurioShine 101 – An affordable, small footprint, tabletop print embellishment solution. It provides foil, metallic color, laminate and spot gloss. A technology preview only at the show, this embellisher looks to be a very good solution for those customers who want to extend higher value-enhanced print service in-house.
Also on the show floor were:
- JETvarnish 3D WEB for roll-based embellishment applications
- JETvarnish 3D EVO 75 for B1 size and packaging applications
- JETvarnish 3DS designed for high volume, long-run commercial applications
We think the MGI alliance and the demonstration of these products is a good example of Konica Minolta living up to their show theme of “Rethink Print.” Konica Minolta has successfully entered this adjacent market to add value to their production print offerings and continued co-development between MGI and Konica Minolta R&D can only strengthen the integration between print and embellishment technologies.
Michael Perna, Marketing Manager for Konica Minolta told us “Embellished printed pieces become cherished and memorable.” That holds true for end customers and the dealers who move into this market.
The number of A4 sheets produced with
some form of decorative embellishment by 2022
representing 10.1% growth from 2017
(Konica Minolta; IDC)
Packaging – An Emerging Market for the Imaging Channel to Consider
The digital label printing and package printing market is another production print market that Konica Minolta is encouraging the channel to look at. A market-driven by a constant need to meet the ever-growing world of consumable goods is, as Konica Minolta told us “The promised land for businesses in the print business.”
Labels are everywhere, from goods in a grocery store to labeled packages from your favorite online retailer, or any of a million other items that require some form of labeling. Digital technology advances enable the imaging channel dealer another growing market path to new revenues and profits through the sales, service and supplying of digital label printers.
The use of digital labels by brand owners, converters and commercial printers is growing significantly over the use of conventionally printed labels on offset or litho presses because digital label printing delivers:
- Shorter delivery times
- Better print quality
- The ability to print shortest run lengths
- Less packaging obsolescence
- More promotional packaging options
Konica Minolta entered the digital label printer market in 2016 and has both toner and inkjet digital label printers. At PRINTING United they announced a new digital label printer the AccurioLabel 230 toner-based label press, which replaces the AccurioLabel 190.
Konica Minolta also showed the PLS-475i inkjet label printer. This is an entry-level production digital label press ideal as a tabletop label press for customers such as retail outlets, brand owners or commercial printers that want to bring label printing in-house. A finisher to contour-cut and remove the “matrix” waste was also shown.
Illustrating the tie-in to other adjacent markets, the digital labels can be moved to the MGI JETvarnish 3D Web for foil stamping, decorative varnishing, and embellishment – once again showing the “Rethink Print” mindset that provides more added value to customers, dealers and Konica Minolta.
When it comes to corrugated box packaging, the ability to use digital printing and VDP allows fast, on-the-fly customization of boxes. For this fast-growing market, Konica Minolta announced the Precision Packaging Series PKG-675i at the show.
Amount corrugated box package digital printing is expected to grow between 2018 and 2022
(Konica Minolta; Smithers Pira)
This printer uses Memjet Printhead Technology and Konica Minolta showed printing on brown kraft paper, white uncoated folding cartons, flats, and pre-die cut corrugated media.
For customers looking for short-run printing on folding cartons or corrugated boxes, this printer is a very good alternative to acquiring larger, more expensive digital printers.
Packaging is considered one of the next frontiers of digital printing and Konica Minolta appears to be positioning dealers with equipment to settle into that frontier.
Support and Programs
The addition of production print to the business presents different challenges than office print. Understanding what is required and aligning with a partner that has experience in this business is critical to success in these new markets. It’s important that OEMs such as Konica Minolta help and support dealers through these challenges and ultimate evolution. The partner a dealer chooses to make this evolution with must have the infrastructure and experience that supports these changes successfully. Konica Minolta has positioned itself to be a very good choice as a partner in production print.
According to Konica Minolta, about one-third of their dealers are in production print in various stages of conversion. To support those efforts, Konica Minolta has acquired and built the tools and training that are necessary to make these transitions and transformations.
Production print offers unique challenges in product investments, space needs, marketing efforts, and sales skills. Especially important is the ability for a dealer to live up to much more stringent SLAs than office print. Availability frequently needs to be 24/7 to prevent costly downtime to a PSP, and much more. Dealers require new skills to understand the language of designers and PSPs, knowing different color spaces, certifications in printing standards and more.
Konica Minolta has marshaled the resources to have the training and support necessary to address those needs of dealers. They offer technical training, sales training, marketing programs, production print specialists that work directly with dealers, and professional services that can be leveraged by the dealer or called on the meet SLAs as needed.
PROKOM is Konica Minolta’s user community of graphic professionals that enables customers to learn and share best practices that help them build their business. Dealer customers can take advantage of this as an added benefit.
A multi-million dollar investment Konica Minolta has made is creating a Customer Experience Center in Ramsey, NJ. Dealers can schedule customer visits to the CEC to show, and have Konica Minolta demonstrate, the range of production, commercial and industrial printing solutions they have available. This support is a large investment by Konica Minolta to again show their commitment to support dealers who choose to make the evolution and transformation to production print.
BPO Media’s View
The production print market is an ever-enticing market area for imaging channel dealers to enter. Growth is happening and adjacent markets are available that add real value to final output.
Konica Minolta’s goal at PRINTING United was to make sure attendees realized the opportunities in color production print, decorative print embellishment, and packaging. We, along with other attendees, came away with a clear view of Konica Minolta’s commitment to technologies that address those areas and more. Dino Pagliarelli, VP, Product Management and Planning, told us, “Everything we are doing from label, carton printing, embellishment, and wide format, we come to market with products that can do something unique or more.”
Konica Minolta is asking the channel to “Rethink Print” and is stepping up and making investments to offer dealers new avenues of growth in the growing production print market. With their broad vision of the new opportunities that exist for the imaging channel, there’s no doubt they will continue to be an encouraging leader in the evolution of the channel that extends the imaging business into new and different environments, now and into the future.
Production Print Technologies
Target Markets and Sample Applications
Are you asking yourself what the difference is between the terms “production print,” “commercial print” and “industrial print”? Here are some helpful definitions:
Production: A printer (usually cut sheet) having a high output speed of 60 ppm to 150 ppm or more that is normally found in corporate repro departments and in-plants, or for-profit print service providers (PSPs) producing volume printing of manuals, booklets, and forms. Some finishing is used. Examples of Konica Minolta printers in this area are:
- bizhub PRO 1100
- bizhub PRESS C1100
- AccurioPress C3080
- AccurioPress C14000
Commercial: Commercial printing is mostly done by for-profit PSPs and those who work with customers or client designers to use digital files to create brochures, cards, books, magazines, and advertising or marketing materials. Digital commercial printers can be cut sheet, roll-fed or large format and use toner or inkjet printing technology. Advanced finishing is used extensively in creating the finished commercial print product. Some Konica Minolta printers designed for this are:
- AccurioPress C14000
- WEBJet 200D Digital Inkjet Printing Press
- AccurioWide 200
- AccurioJet KM-1
Industrial: Industrial printing is considered printing applied to manufactured goods or to make manufactured goods. Industrial print applications include labels, packaging print, textiles, floor coverings, printed electronics and even 3D print. Outside of 3D printing, the machines that print industrial print applications can be cut sheet, roll-fed, toner or inkjet-based. They are specialized and, in some instances, print directly onto the item being labeled. Finishing in this segment can be required to separate the label from the substrate, or to “cut out” the finished product from the substrate. Konica Minolta printers that are examples:
- AccurioLabel 230
- Precision Label Series, PLS-475i
- Precision Packaging Series PKG-675i
- AccurioWide 200
- AccurioJet KM-1
By understanding the market segment terms and the applicable technologies used in those areas, a dealer can more comfortably decide on how best to enter the production print markets.