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Inkjet Innovators in Direct Mail: North American Communications

December 03, 2019

For a company focused on providing high-quality direct mail quickly and cost effectively, North American Communications (NAC) faced a challenge when its customers began to request more variable color on high volume direct mail. As the market evolved to include more targeted mail, NAC realized that it needed a solution that would meet its customers’ needs and expectations for the high quality product they had grown to expect from the nearly 90-year-old company. In December 2016, NAC made a solution reality when it installed an Océ ColorStreaminkjet press at its Duncanville, Pa. facility.

Although it began in 1929 as a greeting card and envelope manufacturer, NAC has expanded far beyond its humble roots. As direct mail began to grow in the 1970s and 1980s, NAC discovered a gap in the industry. There were envelope manufacturers, printers, binderies and letter shops, but there weren’t any companies manufacturing complete direct mail all under one roof. That’s when NAC transitioned to become a one-stop solution for direct mail needs.

Now, NAC prints approximately 100 million linear feet of lithographic forms, but it needed to be able to accommodate high volume, variable work for its customers.

“Our customers started to come to us with higher volumes for variable color that we were producing for them in the sheetfed space, but we were bumping up against the edge of our capacity and capabilities in that environment,” Nick Robinson, CEO of NAC, explains. INKJET INNOVATORS NORTH AMERICAN COMMUNICATIONS “[The ColorStream 3900] has a superior interface … it is more reliable and much more highly developed.”

At first, the company looked at a variety of technologies to try and meet its customers growing demands, but it was ultimately NAC’s trust in Canon Solutions America and confidence in its abilities as an organization that lead to NAC’s decision to proceed with the ColorStream… well, that and the ColorStream’s superior performance.

“We found that the Canon product was more developed,” Robert Herman, president of NAC, says. “It has a superior interface and from the people we’ve spoken with, it is more reliable and much more highly developed. … It was based on our confidence, as well as the integrity and quality of the product.”

And above all else, Robinson says that NAC’s commitment to its reputation was integral in its final decision to install the ColorStream. NAC was built on a reputation that it gets the job done, never misses mail dates, and that it will only take on jobs that it knows it can complete with success. The company just needed a piece of equipment that would complement its mission.

“It was all about coming to market with a product that we felt that we could stand behind and that we knew the manufacturer could stand behind,” Robinson says.

Even though the technology was only installed at the end of 2016, Robinson explains that the ColorStream has already impacted the company’s bottom line. It produces a lot of high color work that traditionally results in paper waste and a significant amount of time dedicated to perfecting the final print run. However, as NAC transitions its customers to inkjet, less waste will be generated and it will give customers more time to make final decisions, including more up-to-date data analysis, while still providing speed to market.

In addition to transitioning its higher versioning work to the ColorStream, NAC is also transitioning some of its high volume, traditionally sheetfed work to the new technology, resulting in lower costs.

Robinson points to one example in particular involving a nonprofit customer who needed to send out a quarterly newsletter. NAC was able to produce a dynamic and affordable newsletter with a highly personalized message for the customer’s audience.

Along with its installation of the ColorStream, NAC required a workflow solution that would support its high production and mailing volume, so it opted to add the Océ PRISMAproduction output management system as well as Océ TrueProof software for prepress proofing. Robinson explains that TrueProof has enabled NAC to sell appropriately to its customers by providing more accurate cost estimates.

“It allows us to educate our customers who are developing the pieces,” Herman says, “to give them parameters as to what’s driving the particular cost of their piece, and to help them work within a target Nick Robinson CEO Robert Herman President SPOTLIGHT budget. We help guide them in terms of what graphic components should look like and how the decisions that they make at the creative stage have significant impacts on costs.”

Robinson agrees with Herman and continues, “In a lot of cases, we could very easily have misquoted a job and not made any revenue on it. In the inkjet world, the perception of coverage and the reality can be very different.”

In all, Herman and Robinson agree that the new technology has opened doors and given them access to customers and business that they may not have had otherwise.

“Everything is moving at a faster pace and mail is no exception,” Robinson says. “Customers who are mailing want to mail with fresher data closer to their drop date. They want to accelerate the production process so they can be more responsive and reactive to market conditions.”

And something that sets NAC apart from its competitors is its clear commitment to technology and its customers by meeting their demands on a variety of levels.

“We’re not just manufacturers,” Herman says. “We’re innovators.”

Content provided by thINK, an independent community of Canon Solutions America Production Print customers, solution partners, and print industry experts, and Canon Solutions America is a proud executive sponsor. Led by some of the most successful inkjet service providers in the country, it provides a forum for members to network, gain knowledge, discuss common challenges, and share best practices.

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