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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Office Printing Is Printing, Too

A close friend and associate sent me an article recently about Xerox’s work in minimizing needless printing. I had been so focused on commercial printing (offset lithography, digital printing, package printing, large-format printing, screen printing, and fabric printing) that I had missed the obvious. Office printing—all the printed materials produced across the world on office laser and inkjet equipment–is custom printing, too.

The article my friend sent me was entitled, “Xerox’s New Digital Alternatives Turns the Page On Paper; Redefines How Documents Are Used in the Enterprise,” presented in the 11/7/14 WhatTheyThink column online.

Ironically, the digital revolution has actually increased, rather than decreased, the amount of printed paper in offices. We can connect with vast sources of information online and share it with almost anyone, but we still love our paper copies. Xerox’s initiative to reduce paper consumption addresses this weighty issue head on.

The WhatTheyThink column notes that “Printing less isn’t just about using less paper – it’s about working smarter, improving productivity, connecting with clients faster and using data to bolster business,” (Mike Feldman, president, Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox, as quoted in the WhatTheyThink article).

Efficient Printing, Not Just Less Printing

The focus of Xerox’s Digital Alternatives seems to be less about reducing printing for purely ecological reasons and more about coordinating the multiple versions of documents spread across the diverse platforms of a business enterprise. (These would include the PDF, HTML, and epub versions read on desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.) The goal is to reduce needless printing.

According to Xerox (as quoted in the article), Digital Alternatives “automates paper-based workflows that exist within any large organization” such that “Digital Alternatives users can easily sign, annotate, share, save and read documents from one interface.”

This allows office workers and mobile workers to coordinate their paper-based data, their digital data, and their messaging within both the Windows and Macintosh computing environments, while at the same time providing analytics (applications that show exactly how data and content are used) to turn this data into meaningful, actionable information. This makes business more efficient, and from reading this article, I believe that efficiency is the goal to which Xerox/s Digital Alternatives really is striving.

Xerox makes it clear that printed marketing and sales materials are still essential in business and communications. However, linking the information in the printed product and the purely digital information actually enhances the entire business process, particularly when this information is accessible on all computer devices.

In short, connectivity and data integration facilitate communication while reducing waste.

And It’s Green, Too

Xerox’s Digital Alternatives initiative, and the whole concept of reducing unnecessary printing, will reduce the carbon footprint of businesses. This is true, and this is a major goal of Xerox as well. To encourage employees to participate, the Digital Alternatives application includes “gamification” software (software that makes a competitive game out of reducing waste). Employees in offices using Xerox Digital Alternatives can track their reduced printing as well as compare their print reduction to that of others.

Electronic Signatures

When you are handling paper-based documents and need to sign them (perhaps a contract or an office document), you reach for a pen (I have heard this referred to as a “wet signature”).

So what do you do with an electronic document?

In the 1980s, this question arose regarding faxed copies of documents that needed authentication, validation and/or security confirmation (that is, confirmation that the person who signed the document is the one who wrote it, and/or that the person who signed the document agrees to its intent and contents). Now, if you sign and fax back a document, the signature is accepted as valid (in most cases, just as valid as an original).

Three decades later, as paper is being replaced in some cases by a completely virtual workflow, technologies have been developed to electronically validate your identity and acceptance of a document. “DocuSign” is one such technology, but there are others.

This process replicates one’s actual signature with a click of the mouse, places the signature at end of the contract, and forwards the document to a corporate database. The catch here is that this becomes a binding legal document. And at present, in many countries including the United States, electronic validation has the same legal intent and consequences as the more traditional hand signature.

What You Can Learn from This Article

Putting ink or toner on paper really is about communicating. Knowing what the best venue is for a particular act of communication is prudent, whether or not it helps protect the planet. Coordinating the collection and dissemination of information in a thoughtful (rather than thoughtless, or wasteful) manner makes communication and collaboration more efficient and more effective. Printing piles of paper that never get read or that never promote effective, joint action is not just wasteful. It’s meaningless.

In your design work for commercial printing, this concept can be reframed in the following manner (for instance): As you design a print book or brochure (or any other printed product), ask yourself what the goal of the printed piece is, and whether this printed piece will be effective in achieving this goal. Ask yourself whether a different format might make more sense. Would it be more persuasive? Does this particular product fit into the overall communications initiative? Or is it redundant? And finally, is the commercial printing method efficient and effective, or is it wasteful?

Food for thought. It’s good for business and for the planet.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: Office Printing Is Printing, Too”

  1. Damian says:

    Great Thought “Efficient Printing, Not Just Less Printing” and loved article.


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