Inkjet and Books: Kodak Prosper Technology at OPM Arvato

Jim Hamilton
Nov 16, 2010

Last week about fifteen industry analysts and members of the press went to Laflin, Pennsylvania at Kodak’s invitation to see Prosper technology in action at a Bertelsmann Arvato company called OPM (Offset Paperback Manufacturers). Since early this year OPM Arvato has had a Prosper 1000 that it has been using for monochrome book printing. In August it added the color version of Prosper, the 5000XL. This is the first installation of Kodak’s Prosper 5000XL. Also of note is the fact that the 5000XL is configured with a Muller Martini Sigma line finisher that can also take sheets from offline sources.

Kodak Prosper 5000XL at OPM Arvato

Kodak Prosper 5000XL at OPM Arvato

In a world in which book publishers are moving to shorter print runs and smaller warehouse inventories, OPM Arvato has added monochrome and color inkjet technologies to meet those needs. With the introduction of their inkjet book production program for the trade book market, OPM’s goals were to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, reduce waste, and provide a comprehensive supply chain. OPM is working with its customers who see a digital printing device as a virtual warehouse. Publishers like the ability to limit waste, and see this as a key environmental benefit. At the same time, for OPM the increase in shorter runs has translated into more orders and lower transaction values, which meant that they had to have a flexible ordering system, which they developed on their own. Even with shorter run lengths in the range of 500 to 3,000 books OPM Arvato is still looking at very significant print volumes overall. They expect to produce between a billion and a billion and a half pages per Prosper machine. This is around 80 to 125 million book page impressions per month.

OPM had seven toner-based monochrome continuous feed digital printers prior to the arrival of the Prosper 1000. It now has four. Three were taken out of service when the Prosper arrived. Kodak said that OPM could drive this level of monochrome volume on the Prosper 1000 and this has proven to be true. The remaining monochrome products are mainly redundant today and are held in reserve because they have been paid off and are very economic to run since OPM buys third party supplies and services those devices itself.

Kodak Prosper 1000 at OPM Arvato

Kodak Prosper 1000 at OPM Arvato

At OPM Arvato, monochrome inkjet not only is replacing toner, it’s also opening up new higher volume opportunities versus offset. OPM Arvato is looking toward new color opportunities that are facilitated by the speed and cost economics of color inkjet. They note that the four-color book printing market went offshore years ago, but now they feel they have the opportunity to win some of that work back by combining strong cost economics with shorter run lengths and reduced warehousing. OPM Arvato also sees other book opportunities in applications typically outside their scope such as literature fulfillment applications in healthcare, education enrollment, and journals.

OPM Arvato notes that today publishers are still producing books with the same mindset of printing and warehousing. Though they aren’t yet ready to change their big distribution infrastructure, the day is coming when third-party warehouses combined with on-demand printing as a virtual warehouse could fundamentally change the market.

Digital printing is a relatively small part of OPM Arvato’s business, perhaps 5%, but the high volumes that Kodak’s Prosper technology is capable of will assure that the digital part of their business will grow over the coming years.

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