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The Successful Integration of Digital Imaging Technology, Part II

In Part I of this two-part series, we discussed equipment options, inks and media choices. In this second part, we will address how to make digital imaging work for you including supplies, color management, marketing and strategies.

By Dan Marx, Director of Communications & Service Development, DPI

In Part I of this two-part series, we discussed equipment options, inks and media choices. In this second part, we will address how to make digital imaging work for you including supplies, color management, marketing and strategies.

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  • Make Digital Imaging Work for You
    Digital imaging requires more than acquiring equipment and supplies. To successfully integrate digital imaging, you must be able to fulfill certain logistical needs ranging from creating sufficient work space and ordering enough of the correct materials, to profitable marketing and pricing strategies.

    Creating the Digital Imaging Workspace
    Set aside a suitable amount of space for equipment and the storage of materials. Keep in mind that while many roll-based output devices are small enough to be used in a rather small area, other tools of trade, such as laminators, cutting tables and safe storage areas for rolled or rigid substrate can require significant space.

    Cleanliness matters in digital imaging. Any spaces where printing, finishing or laminating will take place should be kept as clean as possible, because dust and other particles can contribute to a less than favorable product, sometimes requiring the job to be redone, costing you time, money and possibly reputation.

    Your digital operation will also need staff, and you will need to decide how many. In a very small shop, one person may be able to manage the operation. For most operations, however, a digital production manager will be required. This individual would be highly skilled in digital imaging, holding knowledge of output devices and graphics applications for PC and Mac including PhotoShop, Illustrator, Freehand, Quark, InDesign, Corel and all file types supported by these applications. The person would also have knowledge of RIP and front-end software for output devices and should possess a strong commitment to quality and accurate color. These duties would include managing the printing device, and finishing prints by mounting or laminating. In a larger operation, several people would be required to see the process through. The digital production manager would also be responsible for training and managing digital production staff.

    Supplies Needed Vary by Project
    Keep a reasonable range of products on hand to allow for variation within your product mix, remembering that the materials you use for one project may not be appropriate for another. For example, a sign shop may stock three types of mounting board and offer a choice of matte or glossy lamination.

    The materials used in digital imaging operations really do define the possibilities and the parameters of the job. As with other types of printing, the end goal is to have everything you need, without keeping a supply of expensive, unused inventory.

    Color Management is a Top Priority
    Effective color management is highly important in digital imaging, because one of the end goals of the process is to meet the customer’s expectations for the print. Color management requires calibration of tools such as monitors and scanners, in addition to developing color profiles for your output devices. For quality printing, color management is a necessity.

    Start Marketing with Current Clients
    Your first step into digital imaging may best be made through your existing client base. For instance, a small litho printer may find success in offering signage as an add-on to customers having brochures printed for an upcoming event. Or, a company producing decals may find success in accepting the short run work they once had to refuse. Last, a framing shop may find additional revenue by offering output and then framing of digital files. A family photo is a good example. The point is you currently have customers. Don’t let them go down the street when you could easily keep their business for your company.

    Simply put, those companies entering digital imaging should decide what they will do and then do it well.

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    Pricing & Strategies Similar to Other Print Markets
    If you are accustomed to pricing for print, digital imaging may not seem much different. You will allow for payments on the equipment, the cost of materials, the cost of labor, overhead and a margin for profit. Carefully managed, digital imaging can be a lucrative, though competitive, business and a strong add-on to an existing business.

    For companies using digital to supplement an existing business, it is important to train sales staff to appropriately sell digital imaging as an end product. If a salesperson does not fully understand the capabilities of digital imaging, jobs could be based on promises that are difficult, expensive, or perhaps even impossible to keep.

    Again, if digital imaging is being used to supplement an existing business, remember that you can create “packages” that allow you to sell multiple products from more than one imaging technology. A good example of this is the litho printer, mentioned earlier, who can digitally print signage for an event in addition to printing the event’s promotional materials.

    Educate Your Customers
    When selling digital imaging to your customers, it is important to remember that all imaging technologies, including digital imaging, have limitations. Some output devices print using four colors, some have six, or even eight colors, which results in a wider range of producible colors. Even with an eight-color system, however, some colors will not be reproduced accurately, and the presence of spot colors for certain printing applications has not yet come to fruition. Therefore, “Coca-Cola red” and “National Geographic yellow” may be hard to create. Educating your customers about these realities at the start of the process can help you avoid having disappointed customers later on.

    On the other hand, digital imaging opens up a wide range of possibilities, such as short runs, singles, inexpensive color and size beyond the capabilities of other printing processes. You should make your customers aware of these possibilities.

    See the Possibilities
    Digital imaging is more than an opportunity to do the same work with a different type of machine. Instead, digital imaging should be viewed as a way to expand your reach, as you expand the possibilities for profitability in your business, and the diversity of your product mix. Those who fully embrace the possibilities of digital imaging will be those who innovate, expand and grow.

    Take the opportunity now to expand into the fastest-growing segment of the graphic communications industry. Take the opportunity to move your company into the future.

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