Quality Print-On-Demand – 3 Questions to Ask
I talk to a lot of customers about how to manage print production for training and educational manuals.
Most of the time the discussion centers around production run lengths, inventory control and content changes. I can’t help but feel sorry for association and institute staff members who are trying to manage this decision-making process on their own. Here at Omnipress, we have a whole division dedicated to these services, and it has taken us a long time to understand the complexity of balancing per unit production cost, with inventory expense and timing of content changes.
Modern Printing = Less Inventory = More Flexibility
With current digital print technology this decision-making process may be a lot simpler than you think. It’s certainly a lot simpler then it was five years ago. The new production-level digital print engines now make it possible to print short runs (less than 100 units) at a very reasonable per unit cost. This means less inventory, greater content flexibility, and if you’re working with the right production house, high quality print.
When I talk to publication managers, they sometimes tell me they’re skeptical about digital print quality. Many managers still feel if they move to short run digital print engines and away from offset production that they will sacrifice quality in order to get to cost-effective short-run production. This does not have to be the case. With today’s technology there is no reason why short-run digital print quality cannot be as good as or better than longer run offset print quality. You no longer have to trade print quality when going to shorter run lengths. The key is finding the right vendor with the right equipment.
Without the right production house, their fears may be justified. Many print houses do not use production-quality digital print engines for print-on-demand production, and this has given short-run digital print production a bad name. Quality issue may come in the form of tracking marks, missing pages, poor page orientation, curled paper and poor resolution. These problems are all symptom of not using a production-quality digital print engine. If you’re working with a true production house and not a quick-print shop, most of these problems and quickly be eliminated.
The true production-quality digital print engines avoid many of the above problems by allowing you to insert covers, tabs and color pages inline without disrupting the production cycle. With inline insertion, you eliminate the need for collators and manual insertion where many of the quality issues arise.
Questions You Should be Asking
When looking for a print on-demand company to print high-quality publications, be sure to ask these three questions:
- Is the print engine a duplex printer? Duplex printers print on both sides of the paper at the same time, , thus improving print consistency and preventing paper curl.
- Can paper can be loaded and unloaded without disrupting the production process? If print engines stop and start during the production cycle, you’re introducing print quality variation into your project.
- Will special pages, tabs or colored dividers be inserted inline or collated offline?
Just remember that you don’t have to give up quality to get cost-effective short-run production, but you do need to work with the right vendor. It’s worth your time to check around and find the right vendor for your job.