Are You Impressed With My Press?

Buying a new press shouldn't be a competition.

April 12, 2021

I just bought a press! Pretty exciting, eh? Can you guess exactly what I bought?

Perhaps it was a 40-inch 6-color + UV offset press such as my competitor down the street just bought. We serve some of the same markets, but with different products. The 40” press of which he is so proud would be a white elephant in my all-digital shop.

Maybe it was a roll-fed inkjet press like the direct-mail house up the road uses. No, guess again. Our workflow bears no resemblance to my mailing competitor. 

Well, you are thinking, if not roll-fed, Steve must have bought one of those new sheetfed production inkjet monstrosities that every equipment vendor seems to be unveiling. Everyone says all print is going inkjet.

Guess what? The “everyones” who are telling you to go inkjet are the ones who sell inkjet presses, and their consultants. That doesn’t mean inkjet isn’t right for you, but it doesn’t mean it is, either. In my case we haven’t yet found the inkjet press that fits ideally into our workflow.

No inkjet? No offset? Steve bought a toner device? How boring! I know what you are thinking: it must be full color printer with fifth-color and dimensional printing capabilities. Salespeople assure us that these special effects will transform razor-thin margins into wheelbarrows full of profit.

No, I didn’t buy a color press. My current fleet is doing a great job for us.

What I bought was a monochrome (black-only) toner printer. Why add something so basic to my equipment lineup? Simple: because it does what I want it to do, which is to say it helps me do what my customers need me to do. That is the only reason to buy any piece of equipment.

Notice that several times I mentioned my competitors’ equipment. I really shouldn’t call them competitors because all of us are specialists. We aren’t doing the same thing. Yes, we earn our bread and butter by affixing images to paper, but our clients aren’t buying ink on paper. They are buying books or stationary or envelopes full of important information.

By focusing on our clients’ needs we achieve dominance in market niches. If you know what niches you serve you can easily evaluate any piece of iron. 

On the other hand, if you subscribe to the “one-stop-shop” philosophy you could buy just about anything, hoping that the next special effect or printing process will somehow be a game-changer. 

Whenever I talk about new equipment I receive quite a few follow-up emails from readers asking what exactly I bought and how do I like it? Folks, it doesn’t matter what I bought. What is perfect for us very likely is not ideal for you, and visa versa.

I’m happy to reply to your inquires, but how about asking your cost accountant instead? Don’t ask what press to buy but ask what speed bumps in your workflow are sapping profits. What can you do better? What features are needed in new equipment that will improve efficiency and profitability?

Instead of comparing dot patterns between presses perhaps you should examine electricity consumption, to give one example. 

Contrary to advertisements, no press will magically make you more money, but wisely chosen, a new machine can be a useful tool on your carefully planned roadmap to increased profitability.