Should You be Considering RICOH TotalFlow Prep?

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by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company

TotalFlow PrepI recently did a PODi Product Briefing on Ricoh’s TotalFlow Prep and was very impressed. Ricoh’s developers have done an incredible job at bringing their solution’s capabilities up to and, perhaps exceeding, other make-ready solutions on the market. The user interface is well organized and provides pretty much all the make-ready tools that most general commercial printer prepress departments need. It also seamlessly links into Ultimate ImpoStrip and allows operators to save automation templates for often-performed tasks or job types. I’ve looked at earlier versions of this solution and, as I say in the videos, comparing this release to those is like comparing Windows 10 to DOS.

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Retail value of color digital printing grows again

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The retail value of digital pages was up 3% in 2016 to $34.7 billion. The increase was driven by color page volumes, which were up by 15%, however, just like in 2015, most of the increase in print volume was from transactional and direct mail inkjet pages, which have a lower price per page than the pages produced in prior years. And finally the growth in value of color pages was partially offset by a 1% decline in the value of monochrome pages and some price pressure. The chart shows 78% of the retail value is coming from color pages.

retail value  2016

Direct Mail is now the most valuable digital, followed by sales collaterals. Revenue from color transactional print and books are also growing more quickly as digital color adoption via high speed continuous form inkjet presses occurs.

The retail value is represents the revenue derived by print service providers when they sell their printed output. Since 2004 the retail value of color digital printing has increased each year and remains a bright spot in the overall printing market.


VDP Software Adoption Rates are High

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Caslon has surveyed the marketplace to learn about adoption rates of VDP software for direct mail. Except for the In-Plant segment, adoption rates in North America can’t get much higher. Most of the larger companies have multiple VDP software packages.

The data from the survey is sorted by 4 segments in the production digital printing market: Commercial printers with more than 10 employees, Quick/Small Commercial printers, Digital Printers, and In-Plants. In our research we find that the profile of Quick printers and Commercial printers with 10 or less employees is very similar, so we group them together into one segment. Companies that we call Digital Printers are companies that focus on creating business based on digital printing technology and they generally have little or no offset capabilities in house. The often provide solutions, especially marketing solutions.

VDP adoption

The results show adoption rates of VPD software at over 90% in the three print-for-pay categories. Adoption rates for In-Plants have edged up to about 50%. Traditionally In-Plants have not been big producers of direct mail as that work, if done in their organization, was typically outsourced. Savvy In-Plants looking to add more value are starting to take on that work.

Next we asked about personalization beyond just name and salutation as this is where response rates jump and real value is added. As expected Digital Printers are leading the pack with roughly 30% of their direct mail volume being highly personalized and In-Plants have the lowest percentage at ~10%. Almost by definition, Digital Printers are the companies that led the charge to become marketing service providers and really take advantage of personalization.

Personalization QR codes

Another aspect of personalization that is growing for high volume operations is the use of color image personalization. The adoption of high speed color inkjet presses for high volume direct mail is enabling color image personalization and the early, anecdotal results indicate recipients are responding well.

Looking at barriers to personalization the main barrier has always been access to data. However, there is another significant barrier as well and that is managing the workflow for large scale personalized campaigns. Managing offers, data, compliance, and production schedules gets immensely more complicated when deeper personalization is used.

Finally we thought we’d see what is going on with QR codes as this technology has been pretty quiet lately. Survey results show levels of usage below 10% in all segments, ranging from 0.5% for In-Plants up to 9% for Digital Printers. While the QR code is ubiquitous on packaging its value in direct mail campaigns seems to be limited.

Over 250 case studies highlighting the use of personalization in direct mail can be found at



Direct Mail Volume Up in 2016

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USPS data shows that the volume of Standard A mail rose by 2.3% in 2016 vs 2015.  Volumes rose from 79.4 billion to 81.2 billion pieces. This compares to no change from 2015 to 2016. (Note this is data for the calendar year and not the USPS fiscal year).

Each year Target Marketing does a survey of marketers and they ask how marketers plan to increase, decrease, or keep consistent their spending on long list of marketing methods. It’s interesting to note that will regard to direct mail, more marketers are planning on increasing spending in 2017 vs 2016 (31% vs 25%) but also more marketers are decreasing spending on direct mail (9% vs 6%).  The net is that 3% more marketers are planning on increasing spending on DM, which should bode well for 2017 (that’s assuming the change in spending is comparable in either direction.)

The survey also notes that direct mail spending is 15% of the marketing acquisition budget and 14% of the retention budget. Spending on direct mail is exceeded only by email which has the largest share of both budgets at 25% and 46% respectively.

Direct mail remains an integral part of many marketing campaigns. Recently with the adoption of high speed color inkjet presses marketers are now able to produce campaigns with variable color images and the anecdotal evidence is that response rates are up, driving more revenue for both the marketer and the service provider.  Expect to see greater adoption of personalized direct mail as these new presses get installed throughout the industry.

For anyone interested in learning more about personalized direct mail they can join PODi, which has over 300 case studies on successful examples of personalized direct mail campaigns.

Remember to tell your friends and family to keep opening their mail and buy something.

Trevecca Nazarene University In-plant Pulls Off Major Turnaround with Xerox and EFI

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by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company

TreveccaI recently interviewed Kelly Huebscher, who runs print services at Trevecca Nazarene University, for a PODi Video Case Study. Trevecca University is a liberal arts school in Nashville, Tennessee with about 3,000 students. It is best known for their teaching and music programs, but my interest is in their in-plant printing operation. Their print shop went from an offset shop at risk of being closed to an organization which manages the fleet of 55 to 60 printers across campus with a central digital print shop. Their shop has a Xerox Color 1000i digital press driven by EFI’s Digital Storefront and Fiery Command Workstation.

I love hearing turnaround stories like this. PODi members can download the full, six-video case study from the PODi website, but here’s an excerpt from our interview.

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Workflow Automation in a Job Shop Produces Unexpected Benefits

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In PODi’s webinar, Workflow Automation – What Every Printer Needs to Know, sponsored by Xerox, Chris Bradshaw, GM of the AlphaGraphics franchise in Layton, Utah, took us through his journey to put workflow automation into his shop. You can watch a recording of the webinar by clicking on the webinar link

What makes Chris’ story so interesting to me is that he has successfully applied workflow software (Xerox FreeFlow Core) to his job shop environment. I often hear about the large volume shops applying workflow software and it works because they run a large number of jobs or have a large number of repeat jobs, making the ROI easy to justify.

But smaller volume shops often have an issue with the ROI calculation. And Chris will admit it took a lot of persuading and persistence to get the owner of the shop to invest.  What is interesting is that in addition to time savings per job (which Chris values at $5 per job) there was another round of benefits that were hard to quantify initially. Had he known the investment would have been a quick “no-brainer” for the owner.

Turns out that implementing automation reduced a large number of human touch points, which in turn eliminated a good percentage of the errors that they were dealing with on a daily basis. The brunt of these errors was handled by the CSR staff.  What Chris found out (through attrition) was that as the errors went away he could reduce his CSR staff by 2.  This savings was on top of the $5 per job savings mentioned earlier.


Another benefit that was a nice surprise was they can turn jobs faster, which is great for situations where the customer is in a big rush. This allows AlphaGraphics to provide improved service levels and offers a chance to secure additional margin on rush jobs.

Another tip from Chris is to make sure you have a solid champion for the new processes. Chris did note that implementing the changes to the workflow was harder than he thought it would be. Originally he thought that everyone would quickly see the value in the new way, but what he learned is that his team didn’t like change and change is scary. So he had to insist that everyone (no exceptions) use the new workflows and then overtime his team has come around.

Successfully Implementing Workflow Automation in a Job Shop

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When it comes to justifying workflow automation, especially in small to mid-size print shops, getting a good fix on the ROI can be elusive. That’s because labor savings on each job might not translate to immediate dollar savings. And the added benefits of fewer errors has compounding benefits downstream, from the bindery through to customer service, that are often hard to calculate in advance.

Even if you can get the funds to buy the necessary software, you aren’t guaranteed success. That’s because change is hard. “This is the way we’ve always done it around here” is a line often heard in shops everywhere. The resistance to change can be a huge barrier to implementing workflow improvements. It can be really frustrating for the person who can see the end benefit of change way before the other team members. “Why doesn’t everyone see the benefit?” can be expressed. It often takes persuasion and persistence to implement the desired changes.

Case in point: Chris Bradshaw’s story of implementing Xerox FreeFlow Core in the AlphaGraphics shop in Layton, Utah.  AlphaGraphics Layton UT  Chris joined the franchise about 18 months ago as General Manager, working directly for the owner. Chris’ tenured background included production experience and IT experience, along with a passion for using technology to improve business results. Even before his first day on the job Chris knew he wanted to add automation to the shop, but it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. It turned out that implementing the technology was the easy part. Read the rest of this entry »

How Does a Worth Higgins get Hundreds of Jobs a Day with MarcomCentral?

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by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company

Worth HigginsI recently interviewed a commercial printer with over 70 active online portals servicing tens of thousands of end users, delivering hundreds of jobs per day, and driving 65 percent of their digital business. Brian Losch, VP of Sales, shared some of what they learned on the way.

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Would you like some foil with your digital printing?

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Print Enhancement is not a new concept.  Printers generate over $5 billion annually by adding foil, spot gloss or raised print to printed documents via traditional analog methods. The market drivers for print enhancement are well documented:

digital print enhancement

  • Adds a luxury look & feel
  • Increases perceived value
  • Makes materials stand out
  • Can increase security
  • Increases profitability for vendors


We see print enhancement being used for packaging and marketing communication documents in two segments of the market: luxury goods and what we call the personal brand market.  According to an analysis by BCG, spending on luxury goods exceeds $1 trillion globally. Key sub-segments include: fashion & clothing, watches & jewelry, leather goods and accessories, cosmetics & fragrances, alcohol & food, travel & hotels, technology, furniture, and automobiles. Read the rest of this entry »

Manageable and Effective Marketing – Pacesetter Did It and You Can Too

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Remember that saying, “the cobbler’s children go unshod”? I would be lying if I said that our company, Pacesetter Enterprises, never suffered from something similar. We often get so busy working on our clients’ needs that we lose focus on our own marketing efforts. Many times, we would go weeks, even months, without sending out a single marketing piece.

With increased competition and reduced budgets, losing sight of your marketing can be detrimental to your overall sales. We are competing, in many cases, on a larger scale. Our systems need to be streamlined, our branding needs to be on point, and our daily tasks need to directly contribute to the overall goal of the company.

How do we do that on a shoestring budget? How do we do that if our resources are limited? How do we even figure out how we’re different from our competitors? Read the rest of this entry »