Pricing Questions


Digital Run Speeds


Posted: 2 March 2009

Hello Hal, I have just joined the forum, and this is my first post.

I have become fog bound with my Morning Flight. My problem relates to a characteristic of digital printers that was touched on in your correspondence with Clive Jaques, i.e. they handle different sizes and weights of paper at markedly different speeds. At least our Xerox Docucolor 250 does. This effects the hourly cost rate. In our case it would require five additional virtual presses to accomodate all the speed variables.

I have looked at building everything as special products but this does not seem to allow much control over run time or press speed. Is there something that I have missed or a work around that would help?

. . . . .  Robin

Welcome to the forum, Robin. As you pointed out, digital press speeds have only recently become a topic. That doesn't surprise me, considering how technology-driven this field really is.

There is currently no work around, which means you'll have to fly in the muck for at least a little while longer. Variable run times, on the Digital Product side, do sound like a good idea and would be relatively easy to implement. I'm always mindful of keeping Morning Flight lean and free of unnecessary complexity, but I think in this case, complexity would actually be reduced because the upgrade would align digital more closely with offset. You've made your first post a good one!

You mentioned the lack of control special products have over press speed. That's where the adjustment would have to be made, on the product side, which puts you precisely on the right heading. What I don't know is, how much variation in digital run time is there? For offset, the run factors are

WRN:IPHVeryEasy = 1.4
WRN:IPHEasy = 1.2
WRN:IPHDifficult = 0.8
WRN:IPHVeryDifficult = 0.6

This translates to 11, 12, 15, 18, and 24 minutes for 1,000 black letterheads (with 15 minutes for "Medium" corresponding to an IPH factor of 1.0). I suspect the variations would be more subtle for digital. If we do implement digital IPH factors, what should those factors be? Or, if that's difficult to pin down, what are your press speeds relative to size and weight?

Thanks for bringing this up, Robin. Let's see if we can get a consensus.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

First thing Hal, the latest improvements are great! I love that MF calculates cutting, includes the price and shows it on the ticket and the tracker. I noticed a couple of other improvements, but can't remember them.

Anyway, digital presses/copiers will run slower if it is anything but plain 8.5"x11" paper. GENERALLY, if you run 11"x17" or any size card stock, the speed is usually cut in half. My digital press is rated at 32 ppm, so 11x17 is 16 ppm. So running a flyer 2-up doesn't save any time. In fact it probably adds cost because now you have to cut it in half. It will save cost if you have the same click charge for all sizes (common on most Xerox machines). Now, if you have one of those big expensive production class machines (like a Canon ImagePress, or Xerox Igen etc.) they will run at rated speed on any size or weight stock. But those machines are like four color Heidelbergs, a lot of shops dream of having one.

I hope this helps,

. . . . .  Keith

It sure does, Keith. I'll walk a mile for one less keystroke (sorry, Camel), and so my first thought was, great, another button to push. But after tossing it around for a while, I think I've found a way to accommodate varying press speeds without "complexing up" the program.

On the press side, MF would now factor in press speeds when pricing is based on IPH and consumables, but ignore them when the press is set up for click charges. On the product side, we would add variable run times for digital, same as what's now available for offset. Except that with digital, the five settings on the slider would all be reductions. No increases in IPH to lower the cost for extra-easy runs. I'm guessing maybe

x 0.5
x 0.75
x 0.8
x 0.9

That's open for debate. With five settings, we'd have plenty of room to include increases. Not because there is such a thing, but to allow for downward price adjustments. It would also provide consistency, make everything work the same way. In that case, the range might be

x 0.5
x 0.75
x 1.2
x 1.5

Glad you like the refinements, Keith. Many have come from users, either by email or here on the forum, but some are actually the result of making the new screen casts. Surprising what you stumble over on your way to creating a demo.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Hal, all color printers and digital presses slow down to some extent or another. All devices are rated for 8-1/2 x 11 sheet. Mine happens to be 80 ppm Simplex. Cut it in half if you are Duplexing, or running 11 x 17 Simplex. Maybe this will be more understandable:

8-1/2 x 11 Simplex = 80 ppm
8-1/2 x 11 Duplex = 40 ppm
11 x 17 or 12 x 18 Simplex = 40 ppm
11 x 17 or 12 x 18 Duplex = 20 ppm

All digital boxes are like this. The next step back is what Robin pointed out and that is another drop in speed based on the gsm weight of the paper.

What about a combination of BHR and clicks? I know for a fact that my box cost me $32.00 per hour sitting idle 8 hours a day (thank God it doesn't sit idle). Would it make sense to use a combination like a modified press? For digital presses labor may be less a factor because it can run a job unattended for longer periods of time unlike an offset press. Saying that you still need to account for setting up a job, calibrating, aligning paper, loading and unloading paper, oh and don't forget that little thing called a lease payment.

. . . . .  Craig

The picture of how IPH should affect digital pricing has gotten more clear and more cloudy at the same time. What is coming into focus are the numbers, how weight and size relate to press speed. I appreciate everyone's input on this. Underneath, the answer is less straightforward. Your comment, Craig, that "for digital presses, labor may be less a factor because it can run a job unattended for longer periods of time" gets to the heart of it. I totally agree with that, but now we're back to Budgeted Hourly Rates, and if anyone doesn't know how I feel about BHRs, please read my post on PrintPlanet.

To recap, Morning Flight currently relies on a single, static press speed for pricing digital. The question came up whether we should allow for varying press speeds, factored by weight and size. The heavy iron, like Craig's press, doesn't slow down for weight, but does for size. Smaller machines, like Robin's Xerox DC250, slow down for both. The question is, do we want to account for IPH when pricing digital, as we do for offset, and if so, how?

If we go strictly by the numbers, the law of Cost-Plus and BHRs says we should. Of course, that same law also tells us to raise our prices when business is bad, and lower them when we have jobs coming out of our ears, but that's a story for another day. On the flip side, if you surf the internet and find out that the big mail-order houses are charging the same for printing on cover as they do for printing on text (with the only difference being the cost of the paper), the answer is, we probably shouldn't. But that's a marketing decision, your marketing decision. And Morning Flight should support you in that, either way.

As I see it, unless my press is running eight hours a day, and I generally have jobs waiting for it in the pipeline (or worse, have to turn jobs away), the only real difference between text and cover is more kilowatt-hours and more stops for loading paper. Which is what Craig is alluding to when he says digital presses, unlike their offset counterparts, can run virtually unattended. If it were my shop, would I charge more for running 11x17? Absolutely, by increasing the click charge. For running cover weight? Probably, but by a small margin. In either case, the price increase would be based on what the market will bear, not on my BHR.

So, where do we go from here? More than likely, we'll need to come up with separate solutions for weight and size. That's because weight, on some machines, doesn't matter. The weight issue can easily be resolved by installing an IPH factor for digital products, as I suggested earlier. That factor would be applied regardless of whether pricing is based on consumables or click charges, contrary to what I proposed in the beginning. When set to "Normal," the adjustment would always be nil.

Not sure what to do about size. Since size affects all digital presses, and apparently by the same ratio, the obvious answer is to cut the run speed in half for 11x17. And in half again for duplexing. The size factor would apply only to the hourly rate. Click charges are already adjustable for size (the line in the Press Update window that says "Click > 8-1/2x11").

The obvious answer is not always the right answer. My thought would be to split the difference, the way we're currently pricing duplexing: charge half the hourly front rate. For the 1C default in the attachment below, that would make the hourly rate $135 for 11x17, printed front only, and $180 for 11x17, printed front and back. That solution would have the added benefit of making the rate user-adjustable.

Sound like a plan?

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Good morning! I'm making a quick reply before I jump in the shower...

Hal, I have been thinking a lot about this but got slammed with work at my shop (THANK GOD! Because February was brutal!) before I could reply. I read what Robin and Craig said and agree. Here is what my press (Xante Ilumina) looks like:

8-1/2 x 11 Simplex = 32 ppm
8-1/2 x 11 Duplex = 16 ppm
11 x 17 or 12 x 18 Simplex = 16 ppm
11 x 17 or 12 x 18 Duplex = 8 ppm

I love the idea of maintaining the status quo but adding a user adjustment. That way it won't confuse someone with less experience (it's not like we'll lose our shirts if they forget the adjustment for 11x17). I also love the idea of making digital more offset-like. The copy prices I use just for that - copies (when someone walks in the door with a piece of paper to be copied). Although, sometimes when I use my copier (Canon Imagerunner 3220) as a digital press I still price it under digital in MF.

I did realize another issue concerning digital press pricing. I think Robin touched on this. It's concerning consumables. When you don't have a click rate like I do (I buy all my toner, drums, belts and fusers) your cost of consumables goes up when running heavy stock because it's harder on items like the drums. But I found the obvious solution by simply bumping-up the coverage (even though there is not an actual increase in toner).

. . . . .  Keith

Hi Keith, I see we're both early risers! Glad to hear business is booming.

Thanks for submitting the page rates for your Xante. That part of it is falling into place. Seems the ratio between 8.5x11 and 11x17 is universal (50% for your Ilumina, Robin's DC250, and Craig's big-ticket Xerox), so tying it to the hourly rate for duplexing looks like the way to go.

On the weight issue, I've decided to go ahead and add the run factor, same as we do for offset. The only question still open is whether to have "Normal" in the middle of the slider or at the bottom. Technically, having normal (aka medium) at mid-range, though consistent with offset, doesn't make a whole lot of sense for digital. Maybe the settings should be labeled by paper weight rather than by complexity. Such as

Heavy Cover
Medium Cover
Light Cover

Adding the run factor would also let us account for different paper weights when calculating consumables. I had forgotten about that, thanks for bringing it up. I suspect there the cost increase should be modest, and should disengage when pricing is based on click charges. Any suggestions? If the multiplier for consumables is 1 for Bond, how much should it be for Heavy Cover? 1.04, 1.06, 1.08, 1.12, or more?

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Since things got busy all of the sudden at the shop, I went in early. Normally, I like to get up early and exercise and enjoy some quiet time.

I'm glad to hear that the hourly rates are falling into place. If you look deep enough into some manufacturer's website, you can find the print speeds. As for the run factor, I think you should definitely have "normal" at the bottom. Most machines specifications are based on 8.5x11 at 5% coverage. For instance, the imaging drums on my Ilumina are rated at 42,000 impressions at 5% coverage on plain 8.5x11 20lb. bond. So of course, everything else goes up from there. I like that your program uses a much more realistic 30% coverage.

I agree that the cost increase should be modest. It would be difficult to explain to the customer why you have to charge double when compared to another print shop. Usually its just the cost difference of the paper that increases the price but that is not enough to cover the longer press time and increased wear-and-tear. As for what the factors should be? I have no idea. But let me do some calculations at my shop and I'll see if I can figure something out. I also like the idea of all the rates being user adjustable (did I say that already?).

Oh and labeling the run factor? Maybe something similar to the digital presses?

Plain / Gloss / Heavy 1 / Heavy 2

I'll have to look at my machines tomorrow.

. . . . .  Keith

Thanks, Keith. I like the labeling you suggested. We'd have to add "Heavy 3" to make that slider consistent with the others. But, yeah, sounds intuitive, especially if some digital presses use the same terminology.

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Hal, I never got a chance to look at my machines today to see exactly how they are labeled. And neither did I get a chance to crunch some numbers to figure out exactly how much more it costs me to run card stocks. But after some thought, maybe something like this would be simple, universal and self-explanatory:

Normal / Heavy 1 / Heavy 2 / Heavy 3 / Heavy 4

. . . . .  Keith

Keith, does your Xante slow down for Gloss? Robin happened to mentioned it when writing about the Xerox DC250. Originally Posted by Robin "SRA3 is marginally slower and gloss finish, which we don't use, is half speed again."

Half-speed is quite a drop, more than the proposed new slider for Digital Products could handle. I noticed you removed "Gloss" from your original list. If there is a significant reduction in ppm for gloss-coated paper on even some presses, we should probably keep it in and move it to the top of the list:

Gloss (2x)
Heavy 3 (x1.6)
Heavy 2 (x1.3)
Heavy 1 (x1.1)
Normal (1x)

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Hello Hal, I've been following this thread with much interest. There's been a lot happening and plenty of lateral thinking. As regards the gloss setting that I mentioned: It is just a gloss finish that this machine can apply (for clients who don't like the more matte toners used these days!). We don't use it as it doesn't seem to make much difference and halves the speed. Also it's possibly just a Xerox "thing" and not worth worrying about. It's not a setting for gloss coated paper (which this machine does not handle well anyway).

When selecting papers it's a choice of plain, heavy weight 1, 2, etc as you've already suggested. I hope this helps. Things are certainly looking good. Cheers,

. . . . .  Robin

Hello Robin, Thanks for clearing that up. I'll post the final ratios before putting the modifications into effect.

I can't help but wonder, is anyone in this industry not working Saturdays?

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

I normally don't work Saturdays, I spend the day with my daughter. But she spent the night at her Aunt's house and I had some catch-up to do at the shop. Which also meant that I got a chance to sneak out on my motorcyle (it was 70 today!).

Anyway, my press does have a gloss setting that runs incredibly slow but I rarely use it. Turning up the media weight a notch or two and leaving the media type on plain usually works fine and doesn't run as slow. There have been some jobs that I feel like I'm not charging enough for so I am excited and look forward to the changes!

Quick question: Is it possible to have the job name/keyword appear in the email when you send a customer an acknowledgment? Sometimes a customer will request several quotes, approve one and when I acknowledge it, they don't know what job I'm referring to. Or I'll get multiple jobs from a single customer with different due dates.

. . . . .  Keith

Not only possible, Keith, but an excellent idea. In version 2009.3, uploaded yesterday, the keyword is now integrated into the product description.


On the digital upgrade, I decided to go with the actual run factors instead of labeling the slider settings Heavy 1, Heavy 2, and so on. The newly installed slider starts at "Normal" (fastest press speed, as entered in the Press Update window) and slows to 90, 75, 60, and 40% of that speed as the slider is moved up the scale. Those ratios are the best compromise I could come up with, based on the speed variations reported by you, Craig, and Robin. Thanks to all for your help on this latest upgrade.


As usual, the output view can be changed from minutes to IPH by simply waving the cursor over the display pointed to by the arrow. The preferred view can be locked in by clicking.

The second revision to digital pricing involves sheet size. Unlike the run factor that's individually adjusted for each product (and would be left at "Normal" for the heavy iron such as Craig's Xerox), IPH is now proportionally reduced for sheets larger than 8-1/2x11 / A4, regardless of the digital press used. That means prices will increase for larger sheet sizes, and you may want to take a fresh look at your hourly rates to make sure your 11x17 / A3 pricing is still competitive.

If the digital run factors don't work for your equipment, please let me know. The factors are dynamically retrieved by Morning Flight from the WRNFile.TPS, meaning they will at some point be user-adjustable.

The size factor is hard-wired, mathematically arrived at, and currently uses the standard hourly rate as a base. I'm still debating whether to split the difference and use the duplexing rate for the extra charge instead. In other words, use the standard hourly rate for the base price, then add the oversize charge at the duplexing rate.

The polls won't close for another couple of months!

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

WOO-HOOOOOO! I can't wait to get to work tomorrow and download the update! I don't care what needs to get done tomorrow, I'm putting those updates through the ringer first thing in the morning! Now I'm too excited to sleep. It's like Christmas.

. . . . .  Keith