Last year, C&C Offset celebrated its 40th anniversary by embarking in earnest on a path toward transforming its printing floor. “We have been adding digital printing capabilities to our services since 2012,” says assistant general manager Kit Wong. “But last year, we found that inkjet printing technology, quality, speed, and automated workflow had finally met the expectations and requirements that we set out for our print projects.”

C&C Offset’s digital transformation path is in line with Industry 4.0 (i4.0). “This is the way forward for the printing industry, where the use of IoT [Internet of Things], artificial intelligence, and big data come together to eliminate manual processes while allowing human resources to be reallocated to more value-added tasks,” Wong says. “We are working toward this goal not just by installing digital presses but also by replacing conventional printing equipment with those that are i4.0-enabled. This ‘connected-and-smart transformation’ concept is ultimately aimed at enhancing customer experience using a digital-based operating model.”

Its two new digital presses (Canon Oce ProStream 1000 and Fujifilm Jet Press 750S) now run at 1200-dpi level, which produce a print quality that is comparable to offset. “It meets the requirements of high-end customers on photo albums and art-based printing,” Wong says. “These presses also further reduce the turnaround time for short runs, thus providing even more flexibility for customers in terms of warehousing costs, inventory management, and time to market.”

Previously, the company’s digital presses worked mostly within its silo. “Now our goal is to build an ecosystem of information and processes and not just a production line,” says deputy general manager Francis Ho, who finds that most digital finishing equipment on the market for foil-stamping or spot-varnishing, for instance, do not yet offer a cost-effective solution for most publications. “So while we wait for such equipment to ‘mature,’ our immediate task is to further enhance our existing finishing processes to make it more efficient to match shorter runs,” Ho says. “We want publishers to be able to deploy different finishing effects at an affordable cost even for small order quantities.”

Short runs are the reality in today’s printing and publishing businesses. “This means,” Ho says, “that we need different sets of equipment and processes to make our services competitive and cost-effective. It also means having shorter turnaround times for inventory management. This changes the whole production process—and we believe that an automatic digital platform linking all our resources is the only sustainable solution forward.”

This digital transformation, Ho says, “will exert a much greater impact on C&C Offset’s printing business than the computer-to-plate technology that was implemented 20-plus years ago.”