Kodak showcases digital for high-speed direct mail printing

By David Ward, San Diego Thursday 08 December 2011

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Dismissing the recent gloom surrounding Kodak, executives in the company's Graphic Communications Group touted the growth of its commercial printing business, noting that its digital presses, printer heads and Stream inkjet technology are now being used in the field for a number of traditional printing jobs, including higher-speed direct mail runs that had been done by offset.

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"The growth engine around Kodak is printing, especially digital print," noted Greg Gresock, director of marketing for Digital Printers and Presses, at a media event this week in Rapid City, South Dakota. "When you look at the total number of pages that are being produced today, about 1% of that production is being done digital. Yet 9% of the value of those pages in on the digital side. This is what Kodak is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to help drive."

At the event held at Kodak customer Fenske Media Gresock highlighted the Nexpress Photo Platform with long sheet capability, noting that the use of longer sheets has helped boost productivity among its clients by 9-10%, boosting a 120-page per minute press to 131-page per minute. "That doesn't mean printers can print more pages per month," he added. "It means they can turn around jobs more quickly."

Gresock also said the Photo Platform enables printers to get into lucrative new businesses such as photo books, yearbooks, calendars, post cards and posters. He also touted several new smaller Versamark printers that feature the industry's smallest footprint while delivering improved image quality with Kodak's drop on demand imaging system.

Bill Schweinfurth, manager of market development for the Graphics Communications Group, said the Prosper S-series systems have seen a two-fold growth in terms of unit sales year over year. "This class of web inkjet this is where most of the placements are for," he added.

Schweinfurth said that while 58% of Prosper production is in the book publishing realm, 25% of the work done these presses is now direct mail, with 17% doing short-run commercial printing.
 
He added that next year Kodak will begin looking for partnerships - essentially OEM deals to build Kodak ink Stream heads inside other products - that will move inkjet technology into packaging as well as laminates, wall covering decoration, home goods and other products.

Kodak executives also reassured the industry that the legal dispute with Collins Ink will have minimal impact on the current supplies of ink to the current Versamark customer base, saying they have capacity to handle all the ink that will be required at the end of their contract with Collins and well into the future.
 
Collins had been making 90% of the inks used by commercial printers that have Versamark digital printing presses, with Kodak serving as reseller of those inks. That contract ends this month, but provisions within it require Collins to continue supply Kodak with ink through May, 2012, the officials said.

Kodak's choice of Fenske Media as the showcase for its digital presses was a good one as the more than 50-year old family-run business has bet heavily - and thus far successfully - on a transition to Kodak digital for its direct marketing business.

Fenske has about 50 workers, including 40 in production, at its state-of-the art 90,000sqft facility. It handles a variety of direct mail work for banks, financials and non-profits. But in a presentation, David Fenske, partner and one of four brothers currently running the business, noted, "The common element is data. We are providing data driven communications solutions."

Fenske recently added a Prosper 5000XL to a lineup that already included several different Versamark printers. The company produces calendars, photo card and greeting cards, but only as add-ins to its direct market mailings. David Fenske said 98% percent of the company's business is outside the state of South Dakota, adding that the smallest customers it deals with have lists of between 25,000 and 50,000 names.

As far as advice for commercial printers looking to migrate in marketing communications, Fenske said. "A lot of best things that we've done in our consumer marketing efforts center on a sensitivity to the data," he added. "The data has a trigger to it - either somebody bought something or did something and we're trying react to that constantly and figure out the logical next action."

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