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  • Automated Colour Calibration

    , Product Marketing Manager, Production

    I wish I had a dime – alright, a dollar – for every time a digital press operator has asked: “How often should I calibrate my device?” I wouldn’t quite be a millionaire, but I’d certainly be buying a few more caffé lattes in place of my usual double-double.

     

    What is meant by “calibration”?

     

    When I talk about calibration, I’m referring to the process of linearizing, reading density and fine-tuning the printer to meet a particular specification – such as G7. Calibration should be performed a minimum of once per day before production starts, this much we can all agree on. However, many would argue that calibration should be performed throughout the day to ensure consistent print quality, while other times printers are simply forced to perform multiple calibrations to meet customer needs or as a result of exogenous factors. Scenarios that require recalibration vary but can include: a customer’s need for accurate colour reproduction, a device’s tendency to drift over the course of a shift or sometimes over the course of a single print run, or even just environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

    Despite the need for recalibration, the realities of life on the production floor often get in the way of or slow down this process – rush jobs, schedule crunches, operator capabilities, etc. – leading to inconsistencies and loss of standards.

    Simply put – calibration takes time, and time is precious. It can involve a lot of time-consuming steps and requires the attention and knowledge of a skilled operator to perform correctly.

     

    Isn’t one calibration good enough?

     

    You might be asking yourself: “If it’s such a difficult process, why should I calibrate more often than when it is absolutely necessary?” Well, there are a number of reasons. Repeat customers who may not demand totally accurate colour may still spot differences between a job you ran earlier for them, causing them to ask you to redo a job so that they match. Beyond just disappointing a customer, this costs you the time and money it takes to redo a job. And repeat customers who demand perfect colour may not accept a job until it is 100% accurate, leading to your shop missing a deadline and possibly losing that customer. In short – skipping calibration can have a direct effect on your bottom line.

     

    Is there a solution?

     

    Luckily, there is. Digital press manufacturers have made a concerted effort in recent years to simplify the entire calibration process. Some manufacturers offer a hybrid system – which requires moderate operator intervention – while others offer fully automated systems which require little to no operator involvement. Digital presses with these capabilities have internal spectrophotometers and/or scanners which constantly measure and feed information back to the device in real-time. Konica Minolta’s version of such a device, the Intelligent Quality Optimizer IQ-501, performs the entire calibration process automatically at the push of a button.

    In addition to an initial calibration, these systems often perform measurements through the length of a print run to ensure colour accuracy is maintained from sheet-to-sheet. For example, through a continuous feedback loop the IQ-501 measures each printed sheet, makes any necessary colour adjustments on the fly without operator intervention, and ensures every page is virtually identical – from the very first to the very last.

    Further, this technology has advanced to the point where front-to-back registration for 2-sided or duplex printing is also made easy. Scanners look for misalignment, skew or rotation issues and channel these readings back to the press instantly, and then make automatic corrections if any issues are spotted. Operators can view these automatic adjustments in real time as the job is printed.

    The next time you’re looking to purchase or upgrade a digital press, make sure to ask about options for automatic calibration. This technology has been designed to save you time and money, and it’s sure to keep your clients happy with consistent colour quality across every print.

    Production Print

    Telepresence Robots and the Future of Work

    , Product Marketing Manager

    When I was asked to write this blog post, I must admit I was hesitant at first. Writing a blog is an intensive process that often requires extensive research, multiple rounds of revision and, above all, collaboration with team members to pool knowledge to deliver a professional-looking final product.

    Key here is the part about working with team members. I’ve been a member of the Konica Minolta team for 7 years now but my position requires me to work remotely up to 90% of the time; while I call Montreal home, my colleagues in the marketing department are all based out of Mississauga, Ontario, making a daily commute to the office a bit of a hassle, to say the least.

    Telepresence Double 2 Robot

    However, remote work isn’t as strange or uncommon as it once was. A study conducted earlier this year found that 70% of professionals today work remotely at least once per week, while 53% of professionals work remotely half the week. This has been made possible thanks to the digital revolution and, more specifically, online webinar tools like Cisco WebEx.

    But sometimes, and despite the use of teleconferencing services, there’s something to be said for the more natural interactions that come from having a “physical” presence in the office. For employees like myself however, being physically present just isn’t an option 100% of the time.

    Thankfully, there is a solution – telepresence robots!

     

    In Two Places at Once

     

    Telepresence robots foster closer collaboration between remote and non-remote workers by giving you an artificial physical presence in the workplace. Essentially, telepresence robots allow you to be in two places at once – Newton be damned!

    Konica Minolta currently has access to 10 telepresence robots which are scattered across the country in various branch locations. The tool is easy to use and can best be thought of as an iPad on wheels. A user attaches a tablet to the top of a 15-lb mono-wheel unit and then, using the device’s corresponding mobile application or web browser interface, the remote worker controls the movement of the device right from their phone, tablet or computer. The iPad “head” serves as the device’s eyes and ears, live-streaming audio and video to the remote user, while also displaying the face and projecting audio to those who interact with the device. Finally, all the telepresence robots are managed from an online fleet management tool which allows for 24/7 tracking and visibility of the robots’ performance, functionality, and geo-location.

    Here are some of the potential benefits for businesses:

    • Eliminate travel costs for remote workers entirely;
    • Gain access to talent and human capital from around the globe, without the immense financial and temporal costs of relocation;
    • Retain talent who relocate to other parts of the country or to international destinations;
    • Remote workers can remain in the loop on day-to-day activities around the office.

     

    What Are My Options?

     

    There are several options on the market today for telepresence robots, but Konica Minolta uses the Double 2 from Double Robotics. This unit is one of the more advanced offerings in this space, and includes features like:

    • Remotely-available height controls, allowing the user to always remain at eye level;
    • Lateral Stability Control (LSC) maintains stability while traversing common office or classroom obstacles like cords, thresholds between rooms, etc.;
    • Power Drive capabilities allow Double 2 to go 80% faster when traversing long distances;
    • An optional camera kit with a 150-degree wide-angle lens that increases the field of view by 70% on each side and allows users to take 5-megapixel photos;
    • Optional audio kit amplifies speaker and directional microphone for noisier, or louder environments;
    • Optional wireless charging dock ensures the Double 2 is always online and available for use.

    In the end, it comes down to whether you value being physically present in the office. I can tell you, as an almost full-time remote-worker, the Double 2 has made interaction and collaboration with my coworkers much easier, ultimately improving my productivity as an employee. After all, work is not where you are – it’s what you get done!

    Welcome to the workplace of the future. It’s happening today at Konica Minolta!

     

    Workplace of the Future

    The Benefits of Printer Leasing

    , Director of Leasing, Konica Minolta Premier Finance

    As the Director of Leasing for Konica Minolta Premier Finance for the past five and a half years, I’ve witnessed a steady stream of new and existing customers choose printer leasing instead of making an outright purchase. In fact, today I can safely say that lease financing is the most common method by which customers acquire their new professional print equipment. Despite this being a common occurrence, I’m still frequently asked “Rob, why should I lease, rather than buy, my office equipment?” Well, lucky for you, I’ve compiled a shortlist of the key benefits that come from leasing.

    Much of my time is spent working closely with our representatives in the field to find the financing solutions that work best for our clients. The firsthand experience I’ve acquired working on the Konica Minolta frontlines, in combination with my 22 years of working in the leasing industry more broadly, has informed the benefits I’m about to outline. While each customer’s reasoning varies, these are the four most commonly cited reasons a customer chooses printer leasing:

     

    1. Fixed payments which often reflect lower monthly costs than loans.

    Purchasing one or, as is often the case, a fleet of new MFDs can be cost prohibitive, especially if you are a small business. This leaves you with two options: take out a loan to buy the equipment upfront or lease the equipment. It’s often the case that monthly lease payments – which are fixed and do not change based on interest rate fluctuations – are lower than comparable loan payments. This makes budgeting easier and more predictable than making an outright purchase.

     

    2. Free up your credit for other business needs.

    Leasing equipment does not count towards business loans or lines of credit, meaning you can direct those resources to other business-related expenses. Further, it is often easier to arrange a lease agreement than it is to arrange a loan. Konica Minolta Premier Finance typically makes credit decision within a 4-hour turnaround time, meaning you’ll be able to assess your financing situation faster than you would with a financial institution.

     

    3. Tax saving opportunities.

    In most cases, lease payments are deductible as business expenses on your tax return. Equipment purchases are typically not eligible for deduction because they are considered capital items. This is a major advantage to printer leasing and one which many small businesses choose to take advantage of.

     

    4. Keep up to date with the latest technology.

    One of, if not the most commonly cited reason for choosing to lease over purchase is having the ability to upgrade your technology at any point during your lease term. Konica Minolta’s lease program, unlike other competitors’, allows you to upgrade obsolete, or out-of-date technology at any point during your term. This is a major benefit to clients who want to keep up with major technology changes, and who always want access to the most advanced product offerings available.

     

    Hopefully, the benefits outlined above help inform your decision-making process the next time you’re considering an office equipment purchase or upgrade. Speaking on behalf of Konica Minolta Premier Finance, we always strive to ensure our customers not only have access to the right technology for their business needs but also that they have the financial resources to conduct their primary business operations without interruption or hassle. Our team works hard to find the solution that works best for you and, if the benefits outlined above sound appealing to you, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call.

     

    Office Printing

    Print Industry Trends: The Only Constant is Change

    , National Manager, Production Print, Professional Services and Solutions

    After thirty plus years in the print supply business, there is one thing I know for sure – I don’t know it all. Change has been constant since 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg first invented the printing press, and since then there have always been new print industry trends to keep up with.

    Printers, who were once content with black and white text on paper, are now printing on banners, signs, box packaging, vehicles, and fabric. Ink used to be ink, with slight variations in pigmentation. Today, we can choose between latex, dye-sub, pigmented, UV LED curable or solvent-based ink systems. Diversified businesses must deal with the added stress of deciding how far to stretch one technology before purchasing another. Being a printer has never been easy, and this is still true today.

    At a recent industry event, a question was asked: “when will we return to the boom days of print?” The answer is never – at least not using the same technology we once did. As it always has, the printing paradigm has evolved and changed. Print industry trends still point towards change, the difference today is the rate at which that change is taking place. What previously took 100 years is now happening in 10 years or less. In a climate such as this, it’s worth asking: how does one adapt and survive?

    I can say one thing for sure – change for the sake of change is not the answer. Simply making an expensive equipment upgrade and hoping this will result in increased revenue for your business is the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket. To keep up with the most recent trends in the print industry, one should instead refer to fundamental principles which have stood the test of time:

    1. If it can go digital, it will go digital.
      Benny Landa made this prediction at Drupa 2012 and every year he continues to be proven right. Most analog processes will become digital as time goes on, and there is no better example of this than in the world of print. Lead typesetters gave way to film strippers, which in turn gave way to fully digital prepress departments. Conventional presses became digital sheet-fed copiers and then evolved into inkjet sheet and web technology. As the print industry trends toward digital, we should remember this represents a major opportunity for the industry as we move, albeit slowly, towards full automation.
    2. Add value to your printed material.
      In a world of cutthroat commodity offerings, adding value to your print is fundamental to survival. Consider, for example, new technologies like spot coating, foiling varnish, and printing on unconventional media. A specialist of ours recently went into a print shop where groups of artists paint original pieces of artwork in one section of the shop, and then take those originals, scan them and print limited runs on a wood surface. The end product is so compelling that a piece of wood which costs a few dollars now sells for over $100. Keep margin in mind, and turn everyday objects into collectible items.
    3. Do what you do best, better.
      It is harder to procure a new client than to make an existing client happier. To this end, make sure your current customers know about your premium print offerings. Take the time, while your customer waits for their job to print, to give them a “one-off” embellished print. It could be foiled, spot varnished or folded into a carton. All these offerings come at a premium which is great for your bottom line.
    4. Disruptive print always starts with short-run.
      Consider the market disruption that business card printing via photocopier technology caused. Before digital, large offset sheets were cut down into small cards, and quantity requirements were in the thousands. Today, consumers can pick up smaller quantities of business cards from their local copy shop, and small printers can offer short-runs on everything from labels for local breweries and bottlers, to securitized-foil for coupon printing. The list goes on, but the principle remains the same – when ROI on a short-run exceeds that of a long-run, one should view this as an opportunity.
    5. Outsourcing
      Is the best low-risk strategy for market testing. Consider using a print finisher to embellish your work for a client before investing in expensive equipment. Once you’ve established some volume, and you have a proven ROI, then invest in the new technology knowing you can sustain the new business model. Many printers work under the mantra “never say no to a job,” but this is only possible because they are networked with trade finishers.

    So, don’t fear a print industry which trends toward change – embrace it! There’s a Van Morrison song lyric that goes: “ain’t nothing new under the sun,” and this is true for the print industry – print will always be around, the technology may just look a little different than it once did.

    Industrial Print