Datamail produces a large amount of critical mail, including bills for utilities and telephone companies and all the personal mail-outs sent by the Inland Revenue Department.
“We have a significant investment in large laser printers,” with Xerox, says David Allen, Datamail’s general manager business and customer management.
Printer reliability at Datamail, he says, is “no longer a problem. As part of a service-level agreement (SLA) with Xerox, we have Xerox engineers and Xerox parts on site.”
Even with such precautions, and regular maintenance and replacement of printers, “there will always be some issues when you’re feeding 180 sheets a minute of paper stock of varying thickness and quality over a heated drum.”
Most of the problems he characterises as shortcomings in “flexibility” rather than reliability. The whole printing system has to be capable of dealing with different grades of paper of varying weights, which often already have letterheads and logos offset-printed onto them. “Some inks are not laser-friendly,” he says. In extreme cases, the heat of the fuser drum takes the preprinted header off the paper and transfers impressions of it further down the page.
The approach to such problems, he says, is to work closely with printer manufacturers, ink suppliers and printer broking firms. Datamail acquired 35% of print broker Communications Arts 15 months ago, and last month raised its shareholding to 70%.
Laser printers are definitely more reliable than they used to be. “They’ve become more reliable, like photocopiers. Remember the days when you used to stand over the photocopier, dreading a paper jam? That just doesn’t happen any more, and it’s the same with printers.”
It is necessary to “keep on investing,” he says. “Every three to five years, we replace the whole platform, to take advantage of new technologies and to ensure we are not running printers that have passed the limit of their useful life.”