Inkjet production printing and the future of paper

Printing machine illustration
(Image credit: Shutterstock /

The print industry has been steadily evolving over many years in response to the fast-changing demands of customers. The rise of widespread remote and hybrid working as a result of the pandemic means that today, a large number of administrative processes are now ‘digital-first’. The positive of this is that it has reduced unnecessary paper waste, helping businesses meet their sustainability goals while keeping costs down.

About the author

Chris Matthews is Production Print Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions UK.

Despite this shift, there remains a clear need for printing, especially in sectors that require large volumes of personalized, high-quality content to be printed on demand. As businesses plan how their operations will look in the long term, production printing has a major role to play. In particular, inkjet brings something new to the table in terms of efficiency, cost control and sustainability.

The rise of inkjet production printing

The impact of the pandemic continues to influence daily office processes, with staff now using platforms such as unified communications, document management tools and digital signage solutions as a matter of course. Although this has helped to reduce our reliance on paper, many organizations still need high-volume print capabilities. There are three options to consider: laser toner, offset press and inkjet.

Laser printers tend to be designed for speed and convenience. Users will need to regularly replace the toner cartridges but these typically last slightly longer than their inkjet equivalent, making them more cost-effective in the short term. Offset printing is deemed the best solution for jobs that require a high standard of multicolored reproduction. It also gives users greater control over the ink flow on each job, so there are fewer wasted pages.

The inkjet print market was valued at $40.79 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $49.20 billion over the forecast period of 2021 - 2026. It combines the quick turnaround of variable data printing with the high-volume capabilities of an offset press, giving users the flexibility to produce large quantities of personalized content in a short timeframe.

Achieving speed, sustainability and security

Successful production printing requires a number of conditions to be met. These include the ability to produce documents at high speed, and to do so in a sustainable and secure manner. Toner-based production printing is convenient in many respects, but once output exceeds 1,000 prints, it can become expensive and inefficient. An offset press can produce very high-quality prints but requires a large initial investment in complex machinery and a high level of regular maintenance. Offset also has the limitation that it cannot produce personalized print.

Inkjet production printing has recently grown in popularity for high-volume print jobs, as it has many advantages over both laser and offset presses. It delivers the speed and convenience of laser printing without sacrificing on quality, or needing to make the large investments associated with offset printing.

Getting production printing right is a complex balancing act, and there is no one type of printer that will suit every single business requirement. However, inkjet has great potential to make a difference to many businesses.

Bringing something new to the table

The digital inkjet production printers available today can run at extremely high speeds with fast warmup times. They offer users a balance of high output and low-consumption printing by removing the need to fuse toner to the page, in contrast to laser devices which require very high temperatures to be maintained throughout the entire process.

Inkjet printers are also better for the environment as they draw less wattage, helping organizations to reduce their energy bills and improve sustainability. Further, many manufacturers now offer ink cartridge recycling initiatives and ‘green’ alternatives that use natural inks designed to be less harmful for the environment.

A better return on investment

Inkjet production printing is a sensible option for those with high-volume needs, but it does require an initial investment that may seem high when compared with outsourcing to an external print management provider.

However, this initial outlay is balanced by the overall return on investment in the long term. Once the equipment has been purchased and employees have received the necessary skills training, the overall production printing process will be streamlined, providing a healthy return through long-term cost savings and productivity improvements.

The power of personalization

Paper-based communications are seen as the most personal, professional and authoritative medium for communicating with customers or stakeholders. Consumers today are more likely to respond to paper communications than electronic ones – especially when it comes to personalized documentation such as itemized bills. Research by Consumer Action found that 66% of consumers prefer to receive their insurance bills on paper, with 63% saying the same for utility bills, and 56% for phone services.

This is where inkjet printers have a significant advantage over other devices. Inkjet produces vibrant content that can be easily integrated with multiple business systems and workflows to include variable data on separate pages. This means each document can be modified faster than an offset press to quickly produce high-quality, personalized content for the recipient.

Inkjet production printing: the new kid on the block

Despite the evolving role of print in the business, paper remains a critical part of the office environment, especially when a company needs to produce high volumes of documents. Those who are able to adopt a successful production print strategy will experience long-term financial and reputational benefits.

Inkjet production printing has created an opportunity for organizations to better balance their print requirements with their sustainability and cost reduction goals. As an alternative to laser printing and offset presses, inkjet is an option more than worthy of consideration.

Chris Matthews is Production Print Manager at Kyocera Document Solutions UK.