Digital Q & A
Michael Murphy talks about Japs-Olson's digital printing strategy.
Michael Murphy, director of production, Japs-Olson, St. Louis Park, MN, recently shared his thoughts on digital printing with the editors of P&PE. In a candid discussion, he talks about his company's digital printing strategy to enter the exciting world of on-demand and how digital printing technologies have enabled Japs-Olson to compete in the one-to-one marketing arena.
PPE: Digital printing is not new to Japs-Olson, right?
Murphy: We're a direct-mail production house, so we've been working with black-and-white variable-data printing for a number of years. We run Océ presses. Our most popular job is very traditional for direct mailers, preprinted shells with a variable-data inserts.
PPE: What about the digital color market? How does that factor into your future plans?
Murphy: We're in love with the concept of a full-color, variable piece. That is truly the next natural evolution of direct marketing.
PPE: So Japs-Olson will move beyond black and white to color?
Murphy: We've always been pleased with the potential of doing four-color digital printing. But we waited to bring in the equipment because we felt that the technology hadn't yet evolved. For several years, a lot of equipment manufacturers, I believe, were throwing around false promises about quality—that's on the color side. … There's been a shift in recent years, however. We now have two Xeikon DCP/50Ds, and we've incorporated VariScript [a variable-data software application developed for the digital print-on-demand market by Varis Corp., Mason, OH] on the front end. … Digital, full-color printing is a natural fit for us.
PPE: And for your customers? What has been the reaction to your Xeikon investments?
Murphy: Our customers are quite sophisticated in their knowledge of digital printing capabilities, since they have experience in black and white. Now it's up to [Japs-Olson] to show them the capabilities of the new technology. We have been in beta testing with VariScript throughout 1999. When we came out of beta in November, we began selling our color capabilities. … The majority of our customers are interested in the really high-end markets … [such as] personalized customer-retention pieces.
PPE: So, it's an easy sell to Japs-Olson clientele? Has demand flourished?
Murphy: The challenge that we're finding is that reception has not been as promising as what we'd anticipated. That's because we're in an early adoption stage. Customers are struggling with the database issues, and they have grown accustomed to the low-per-piece cost [afforded by web printing]. It's been tough getting people to understand that they may be spending a little more up front, but in the long run, what they're providing to their customers will offer better rewards.
PPE: In terms of technological innovation, what do you foresee in the future of digital press technologies?
Murphy: The big application that people are having a hard time grasping is the Internet integration component. … This is very interesting stuff. It truly gives a consumer the ability to get what they've asked for. We're talking about self-reported demographics; you can't go wrong with these. …Now, a person can go on a Web site and request information that will be printed specifically for that individual. … We're dealing with a customer right now [for whom] we are printing customized wrapping paper. … They visit the Web site, type in the message they'd like printed on it. We download the information from the site nightly, and they receive a personalized product days later. That type of product is a really nice fit for digital printing.
-Gretchen A. Kirby