How Old Inkjet Equipment Can Stall Bottom-Line Cash Flow

Ah, yes, vintage equipment: It’s comfortably bought and paid for—like that feeling of relief when making a final payment on a car loan. Believe it or not, in an office, somewhere, someone is still using a tractor-fed dot matrix printer! “Those things just keep going forever,” praises a Reddit commenter. (Readers of a certain age may need to Google the term if not familiar.) In Northern California, one retail merchandise exporter still prints thick vinyl with an HP Indigo s2000 Digital Press bought 15 years ago.

On the flip side, a direct-mail specialist added a high-speed envelope printer this past fall in its Midwest facility. The new technology can run full-color envelopes at speeds of 15,000 per hour. The 26-year-old firm also sports a pair of inkjet addressing lines (yield 15,000 to 25,000/hr.) installed in or before 2014. When asked about industrial inkjet (IJ) printing equipment in a weeklong survey*, the firm’s president is one of 227 respondents working in print production who willingly shared information about aging equipment:

  • 31% report that their IJ printers date back at least 10 years (bought before ’14).
  • 12% have systems that are 20 years old or more (pre-2004).
  • 56% report purchases made within the past five years (after 2018).

*Survey conducted via the LinkedIn business social-media platform.

If you invested in inkjet back in ’04 or even ’14, is that now inefficient, slow device still truly cost-effective? Or is it a strain on cash flow? Have you measured ROI (return on investment) and tracked the total cost of ownership (TCO) over that period since installation? By calculating true asset costs, TCO analyses force company owners and managers to think about running costs across a product’s lifespan.

The cost of using older technology increases over time and can create a false economy. Service, replacement parts, downtime, consumables (such as ink and ribbons) and energy usage all are part of the TCO equation. The servicing of “vintage” equipment can mean more frequent engineer call-outs, which cost money. (Consider measuring servicing costs per printer.) When mechanical parts need replacing and the printer is no longer covered under warranty, guess who’s footing the bill? And, replacement parts can become more expensive as manufacturers phase out support for aging equipment. Like a high-mileage, 15-year-old vehicle that breaks down a lot, the price of parts and labor for some older industrial machinery can “nickel-and-dime an operation to death.”

Also, when machines aren’t running due to scheduled preventative maintenance, production gets disrupted. Every idle minute adds up to profits lost on the P&L balance sheet. Finally, there’s unscheduled downtime when a printer breaks. That can be extremely costly, halting operations—sometimes for hours or even days—until an engineer can get it back up and running.

As original equipment manufacturers stay busy developing innovative alternatives, hanging on to old technology may not be the best move. Analyze this trio of questions:

  1. Is your inkjet solution ready for the more complex, personalized applications that customers are likely to request?
  2. How much longer will you be able to get parts and service?
  3. Is your current hybrid print workflow still the best way to run your jobs?

Why Upgrade IJ?

Speed, quality and versatility are three of the many benefits companies seek when upgrading to new equipment, such as the iDataPrint Freedom Series from Document Data Solutions (DDS). The FS-1200 model runs fast, up to 1,000 feet per minute (fpm), with 1200-dpi (dots per inch) resolution. The parallelogram design of the modules seamlessly stitches together to cover wide print areas, making the inkjet system highly scalable. Bar widths range from 1.7 inches up to 27 inches wide; the 17-inch setting is ideal for imaging two-up, 8½x11 (A4) pages. These flexible design configurations enable the reproduction of larger images and potential new product offerings, such as packaging, point-of-sale graphics, signage, and garment decoration.

The FS-1200 uses proprietary FUJIFILM Dimatix SAMBA print-head technology that features low running costs and near instant start/stop. DDS customers rave about the Auto-Clean option, which automatically washes the heads at the push of a button-no manual wiping is required. Less time spent manually fine-tuning the press means fewer registration problems and more time devoted to printing revenue-producing materials. And, unlike competing print heads, the iDataPrint FS-1200 never needs refurbishing, saving even more money.

Printing companies can save money by adding these units because they leverage investment in existing web presses and finishing equipment. Buyers of the print module do not pay click charges, and they love the flexibility of choosing their ink formulation: The printhead supports dye or pigment-based, UV-curable and latex inks, which are fed a continuous supply through the bulk-ink delivery system. Drop sizes can be varied depending on application and substrates in use. Overall ink costs are low when compared to continuous inkjet systems.

Some FS-1200 buyers retrofit their existing inkjet towers. DDS helps them repurpose their existing components, saving time and money. When companies prefer to make the modifications themselves, we offer technical recommendations and an FS-1200 Web Tower Print Module Rail Assembly that clients customize to fit their applications.

Uptime Optimization

For post-sales support, count on DDS’s new service program. Operating nationwide, our service team features over 75 years of combined technical experience in the printing and mailing industry. In addition to providing on-site service, Internet-enabled remote assistance is available through the “Service in Seconds” program that is built into all products. Some 98% of DDS customers are back into production with 60 minutes from initiating an online service request.

Time to Upgrade

Upgrading to new printers often is perceived to be an unnecessary hassle-especially in the absence of capital funds. But beware of taking the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” approach. Stubbornly sticking with old gear isn’t often the best choice for moving your business forward because of the hidden costs associated with aging IJ equipment.

So, don’t hope and pray before you spray. In the long haul, bottom lines show that investing in new inkjet technology doesn’t cost: It pays!