Tower of Babel
Thanks to print-on-demand technology, Volvo's truck manuals are as customized as the vehicles coming off its production lines.
For global automakers, every car or truck they sell must include printed documentation and paperwork that's in the customer's mother tongue. Given that over 20 languages are spoken among the 25 member states of the European Union, that's a mouthful.
But for some innovative printers, such as Elanders AB in Sweden, this complexity is also a business opportunity worth its weight in Euros—but one that can be seized only by leveraging digital on-demand printing technology that can produce short-run custom print jobs quickly and cheaply.
Indeed, when Swedish automaker Volvo, now a division of Ford Motor Company, needed to rapidly produce 23 internationalized versions of a new 45-chapter manual, Elanders' purchase of IBM Infoprint 4100 digital presses helped it clinch the deal.
Surprisingly, Elanders' embrace of digital printing wasn't the result of technological trends. "It was customer demand," says Jimmy Lundbeck, regional managing director at Elanders overseeing five of 20 subsidiary companies.
Volvo was launching a new truck model, and they needed a driver's information book in 23 languages. Each language edition can contain up to 45 chapters.
Producing that using conventional offset printing would have required a warehouse of manuals with over 100 cargo pallets. "There just wasn't that much room left in the warehouse," Lundbeck says.
Elanders executives suggested that Volvo produce the job digitally. Each manual would be printed 'dynamically', in sync with each truck coming off the assembly line. It was a completely new just-in-time custom printing process that both Elanders and Volvo had never done before.
The reason: Before Elanders' purchase of IBM Infoprint 4100s, producing manuals in sync and on-demand simply wasn't possible.