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Focus On

Print Mailing Equipment

As the demand for everything from simple direct mail pieces to variable data driven products increases, Brendan Perring considers why it could be worth your while to purchase new kit

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CMC Equipment recently exhibited at The Print Show’s first ever edition, where it showcased solutions that ran from entry-level solutions right up to highly intelligent systems capable of handling complex variable data driven mail projects

Get in while the going’s good

There can be no doubt that one of the most important trends in today’s commercial print market is the ongoing swell in demand for printed mail. Who would have thought that it was possible? Indeed, less than a decade ago the death knell of the promotional mailer was sounded, as pundits predicted that e-mail and internet marketing would destroy the sector. And while it did take a good battering, e-mail marketing and its kin have become victims of their own success—consumers now spurn the battery of spam and flashing gifs that harass their daily lives.
 
This has meant that today, assuming that the printers concerned undertake sound market research and have the appropriate sales skills available, choosing cost-effective mailing equipment has become a high priority for many.

Indeed, the benefits of having truly high-speed mailing equipment in today’s print market has perhaps never been more important. And it follows that the faster work is produced, the more competitive a mailing operation is likely to be. When enhanced capacity is factored into the equation, stemming from fast work throughput, it can also be seen that fast return on investment is achievable.

John Bates, sales director of CMC Equipment (UK), agrees with this point of view and expands on it: “The comparatively recent increase in demand for comprehensively refurbished CMC envelope inserters and polywrapping systems is a reflection of printing companies and mailing house start-ups keeping their investment modest, whilst acquiring reliable, proven and warranted equipment. This is undoubtedly a way forward for many enterprising companies.”

He continues, explaining the worth of looking into purchasing refurbished equipment: “CMC Equipment’s systems are eminently reliable and capable of fast production speeds. So, when CMC mailing machines are professionally refurbished by the skilled engineers at our UK engineering centre, we are able market them with a full major parts and labour warranty.”

Personalisation bonanza
 
This statement from Bates is interesting, because there was a time when the likes of CMC were thought to be a dying breed. In contrast today they are experiencing growth—evidenced by their excellent sales performance at the recent Print Show.

It is undoubtedly true that today’s marketing practices have changed much commercial printing and direct mail. Ever-closer targeting of data-proven purchasing profiles—followed by highly refined media-value analysis—have enabled lots of marketers to be sure that assigning more of their campaign budgets to printed and personalised direct mail will provide better response rates and higher retention values than some other publicity options. Although there are a few reasons why some organisations still use door-drop mailing, today the emphasis is very much on personalised, highly-targeted mailings.

This trend is something Victoria Christen, marketing manager of Addressing and Mailing Solutions, has also seen: “Traditionally our mono-chrome envelope printers provide a solution for mail that just needed to be addressed, over recent years AMS has seen a huge demand for equipment and software that can print variable data and images accurately. Our range now includes new colour print technology to meet these increasing personalisation demands while keeping ongoing print costs down and producing high quality print.”


“Clients need to be able to trust their printer with the data they give them so it is advisable to start by offering new mailing service to existing clients,” says Victoria Christen, marketing manager of Addressing and Mailing Solutions. Pictured: The supplier brought a full range of its technology to The Print Show



The latest printer from AMS is the M1 envelope printer, which reportedly enables printers and mailing houses to print full colour at high speed and low cost—ideally for personalised mailings and variable data printing, even window envelopes can be printed on.


The latest printer from AMS is the M1 envelope printer, which reportedly enables printers and mailing houses to print full colour at high speed and low cost—ideally for personalised mailings and variable data printing, even window envelopes can be printed on
 


Christen also advises that a growth area is the need to digitally print quality postage paid impressions such as the Royal Mail’s Mailmark barcode. “The M1 printer is perfect for this,” she says, adding: “The Royal Mail is also trialling a new digital stamp indicia which is likely to be rolled out UK wide next year. With this in mind it is essential for printers to be ready for this change so they don’t miss out on potential new work.”

It is essential for printers to be ready for this change so they don’t miss out on potential new work



Intelligent control

The aforementioned CMC has been a supplier to the UK mailing and print industries for ver 25 years and stocks mailing systems and allied ancillary kit, predominantly from world famous Italian manufacturer CMC Machine.

Bates likewise has a depth of experience in this field, and points to some other trends that are shaping this market: “For some time it has been quite usual for our envelope inserters to incorporate matching of various inserts and a cover document, whilst we have sold many more machines with selective inserting capabilities.

“It is selective inserting that allows various and different, personalised, inserts to be placed in the personalised mailing packs of a production run. These ‘intelligent’ machines harness camera systems, inkjet printing and often line controllers, like the CMC PC ADD, to achieve high-speed production of personalised, tracked and verified direct mail. Larger mailing organisations often use a production controller like the CMC Regia, to over-see operations using this technology.”

Bates explains that another key trend he has witnessed is growing sales of entry-level envelope inserters and polywrapping systems. These sales reflect the need for mailing companies, especially start-up enterprises and SMEs, to operate with minimum outlay and competitive production speeds.
 
Bates gives an outline of his own technology in this field: “With all features mounted on a single module, the CMC Easy and CMC 150 envelope inserters have fast production speeds and small footprints. The same qualities are shared by the CMC Pratica entry-level polywrapping system.
 
“Most entry-level envelope inserters are installed with 6 product feeders and the envelope feeder. However, the standard version of the CMC Pratica polywrapping system has four product feeders and a first page opener.
  
“Although the entry-level systems are popular with start-ups and SMEs, some larger organisations use them for supplementing existing production capacity at peak times. In common with other systems, we have recently seen greater than ever demand for refurbished equipment at entry-level.”

Another strong market requirement is for complete verification of an entire manufacturing cycle according to Bates. Tracking of mailing pack content and every filled envelope is achieved by monitoring, with camera systems, and various forms of coding on the documents concerned. Cameras read codes or text on the inserts and cover documents at production speed, with intelligent controllers ensuring that every issued product pack has exactly the correct, personalised, selected content. Verification data relating to a completed production run is also readily available for the mailing organisation’s end customer.
 
Bates continues: “A number of our larger clients have adopted super high-speed systems that, with the addition of some variable printing capability, produce a complete personalised mailing pack.”

O Factoid: Royal Mail is continuing to trial its Indicia system. Used to identify a Royal Mail ‘Wholesale’, within the digital stamp is an Access licence number that is unique to each customer. The Access Indicia also helps the Royal Mail to resolve billing, presentation, and other important issues like repatriating damaged items, missorts, and identifying fraud. O


Indeed, the CMC JWR has been installed at some of the leading mailing organisations in the UK, allowing them to produce complete mailing packs with personalised inserts. Personalised envelopes are also manufactured on the machine and the completed mail packs are achieved in a single machine pass at speeds up to 40,000 packs per hour.

Clearly, being able to offer personalised marketing messages on an envelope that contains lots of personalised material for the recipient, is a major benefit for printers and the marketers that are their customers.

Made in the UK

Another key player in this regard is Dunstable-based KAS Paper Systems, which has built up an enviable reputation over the years for industrial build quality and rock solid customer support. Steve Jarvis is the firm’s UK sales manager, and he has witnessed some systemic ground shifts in this market place over the last decade.


“Offering an all-in-one and internal solution is key. Marketeers have become mailing houses and mailing houses have become printers and vice-versa,” says Steve Jarvis, UK sales manager for KAS Paper Systems
 


“Printers used to send out their reprographics, but falling margins helped force them to bring this in-house,” he explains, adding: “The same is true of print finishing and gradually with mailing. Offering an all-in-one and internal solution is key. Marketeers have become mailing houses and mailing houses have become printers and vice-versa.
 
“With the unfortunate but necessary culling in the print industry creating a much healthier environment and less over-capacity, those that have survived are looking to invest in ways to expand. Mailing, particularly as part of an added-value and multi-channel marketing service, may seem outside of the comfort zone for traditional litho or digital printers. This is often because they may be unfamiliar with terms such as Mailsort, machine-readability, down-stream access providers, Mailmark and OCR/OMR. But are they really any more daunting than ctp, dot gain, UV-LED, cmyk, bleed, and halftone?”

Jarvis is emphatic that the days of simply putting ink or toner on paper, folding it, stuffing it into an envelope and mailing this to all and sundry, are long gone. Rather he emphasises that the growth is in personalised covering letters, inserts and envelopes. These need to carry eye-catching and bespoke designs and colours, data manipulation, and a feeling in the recipient that someone has made an effort to attract their attention, not just composed one email to thousands of prospects and pressed ‘send’.

Jarvis concludes: “The other growth area seems to be in hybrid mail, in both the private and public sectors. Here organisations outsource the printing and mailing of letters to a third party, such as a mailing house or printer, which pass on the cost benefit of high-volume printing and postage. We have customers where part of the justification for a new mailing machine has been through offering this service as well as a conventional direct mail service.”

KAS Paper Systems has a breadth and depth of technology on offer. For printing companies who currently hand-enclose in-house or outsource their mailing, the ideal machine is the entry level Mailmaster Compact, enclosing up to four inserts into C4, C5 and DL at up to 5,000 envelopes per hour. A major advantage is that each insert feeder can handle anything from a single sheet of 80gsm up to a 7mm thick booklet and pre-folded items.

The KAS flagship machine is the recently launched Mailmaster Eclipse. Inserting into C4/C5/DL at 8,000 envelopes per hour, it offers not only increased output but also other features.

The KAS Mailmaster Eclipse inserts C4/C5/DL at 8,000 envelopes per hour and boasts an array of clever bells and whistles to cater for highly complex jobs



Jumping barriers

Cost and quality have historically been key issues for printers to expand into mailing. But by adopting a strategic approach to postal mailing processes it can be straight forward, as AMS’ Christen explains: “With an entry level mail folder inserter and envelope printer printers are good to go, however, clients need to be able to trust their printer with the data they give them so it is advisable to start by offering new mailing service.”

Bates agrres, adding: “We have extremely fast mailing systems that can, sometimes with the addition of ancillary equipment, produce mailings in amazingly short periods of time. Moreover, with today’s extensive personalisation of mailings, marketers and advertising agencies are already ensuring the steady growth of direct mail.”

So, it seems soon we will see even more sophisticated and variable codes printed on documents and envelopes—with such advances making direct mail even more attractive to marketers and their clients. Indeed, some of the larger printing and mailing organisations in the UK are venturing into undertaking downstream activities and this has the potential to be beneficial for those organisations concerned and their clients alike.

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