In-plant print centers – four trends to address for success in 2011 and beyond

By Tim Kelly, SVP, and Elisha Kasinskas, Marketing Director

In our four-article series: “Corporate in-plant print centers – four trends to address for success in 2011 and beyond,” the first article reviewed marketing the print center as a necessity.  Printer capabilities and the work that is physically produced in the print center have changed, due to changes in technology and methods of communication (both with customers and internally). The result is print center convergence – the consolidation of data center printing and the traditional in-plant/CRD printing.  This article focuses on print center convergence.

In-plant and corporate print center convergence

At RSA, we’ve seen the trend of print center “convergence” continue, and in fact, accelerate.   Convergence has actually been the result of several underlying trends, fueled by technology changes and a new budget-driven, efficiency-focused approach to printing inside enterprises.

Let’s look at the individual trends and their impact on convergence on an in-plant print center.

Data centers getting “out of the print business”

Many in-plants have been the beneficiary of data centers deciding to “get out of the print business” and have the in-plant handle all enterprise printing.  The result has been a consolidated print center that now handles ALL of the print for an enterprise, saving organizations critical budget dollars and streamlining the print process.

This convergence has worked because the workload is often complementary, lending itself to a two-shift operation and creating better asset utilization. Workflow and data stream conversion software have enabled data center printing to mid-range and production printers or conversion to PDF format for archiving and viewing.

Data Center Printing requirements are specific, and sometimes specialized

Data centers have specific requirements for printing:

  • Print legacy data streams, such as LCDS, Metacode, and IPDS.
  • Smooth transition from channel-connected printers to TCP/IP from the mainframe.
  • Security, as print jobs often have sensitive account or customer information.
  • Controlled re-printing or subset printing of print jobs, driven by either security needs or production efficiencies.
  • Stringent up-time requirements both for hardware and software, driving printer design toward equipment with longer service cycles and useful life, and development of software that runs on reliable software platforms.
  • 100% printing fidelity—converted documents need to look exactly as they do when printed in the data center.
  • Splitting, indexing and document management integration to both protect and re-purpose proprietary documents for sharing, viewing, and reprinting.

Corporate and In-Plant Print Center adaption for data center printing

In order to accommodate these needs, production print centers have adapted their printers and workflow software to incorporate these requirements.  For example, production printers now often have the ability to run data stream conversion software, such as RSA’s M.I.S. Print™, co-resident as a background task. There is minimal operator intervention and print jobs are run at full rated printer speeds.  Other adaptations of software to transform data center printing might include: conversion and printing of LCDS and IPDS data simultaneously, highlight or full color support, a number of different connectivity types (TCP/IP, Channel and ESCON), resource management with automatic distribution to multiple printers, and integration with workflow software.

Offset to digital convergence

The trend of offset jobs moving to digital print continues as customers demand shorter runs, faster turn-around time and variable data within jobs.  A drive to increase efficiency and decrease “touches” in the production area has also had a large impact on the consolidation of print centers.  With every new technology, existing processes and workflows have been revisited, presenting the opportunity to further efficiencies brought about by the new technology and changes occurring in both the industry and customer companies.  In our fourth article, we’ll discuss in greater detail the trend of continual workflow improvements.

Organizations like American Fidelity Insurance run transactional, data center applications, along with catalogs and color brochures, every day in their print center.  RSA’s workflow software manages the diverse jobs from different sources. The workflow efficiencies enable them to handle more volume on production printers without adding staff.

Re-purposing transactional data

New customer demands for information contained in transactional and data center printing have required “unlocking” and re-purposing this data so that it can be used in new ways.  By transforming transactional data into formats such as PDF, TIFF, or PostScript, this data becomes more accessible and even more useful to an organization.

The City of Baltimore combined a green initiative with document re-purposing, using RSA’s PDF Pro™ to convert data center output to PDF and distribute it electronically. The Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT) reduced monthly print volume and made city documents more accessible and easier for customers to use.  Converting documents to PDFs made the information viewable and printable, maintained the required document fidelity for MICR characters and scan-lines, and identical official signatures both on-screen and in print ensured legal validity.   All this was accomplished without needing to rewrite any legacy applications.  The results have been impressive—users have less paper, less storage is needed for archives, there has been a 60% reduction in paper and forms costs, and a 30% improvement in the job printing time.

Impact of these trends

The new consolidated printer centers have taken the following actions to successfully make the transition:

1)      Increasing flexibility. The variety and sources of print jobs continue to increase as printing converges.  In-plants have had to adapt and learn how to best take these new sources of jobs into the print center, while remaining efficient and providing excellent customer service.

2)      Operating in a mixed hardware and software environment.  Most important are vendor-neutral solutions or those that support a wide range of hardware and software workflows to reduce operating complexities and deliver continued efficiencies.

3)      Handle more volume without increasing staff.  Our customers have often seen their in-plant volume increase as a result of these trends, using workflow software to effectively handle more jobs without additional staff.

In our next article we’ll review the third trend, how print centers are making it easier for customers to work with them than as they face more competition from commercial printers and major office supply super stores. Our final article will discuss continually improving workflow to meet ever-increasing customer demands for shorter print runs and faster turn-around.

To learn more about this trend, listen to the webinar “Super-Efficient In-Plants: Stimulate Your Print Center! – with American Fidelity Insurance.”

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American Fidelity saved over $7 million dollars converging its printing, now manages the fleet, and is an outsourcer for other businesses who send them their print work.

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