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Trends: DIY printer maintenance and spare part replacement

The internet is making it much easier for individuals

to challenge old practices, learn new skills and apply these to their own businesses. 

We are in a period of intense disruption. The last decade has seen the pace of technological change outstrip anything that has been seen in history thus far. In its wake, the established way of doing things is being shaken up, and this shows no sign of abating. Shock waves are being felt across all industries both in the way business is being conducted, and in the way customers are responding. 

One company that has fully embraced the significance of the digital revolution is the Belgium-based DIGIPRINT-SUPPLIES. Set up eight years ago, the company has doggedly followed a single message: to empower its customers by giving them access to information that will help them run their wide format/superwide format businesses more profitably. 

“At DIGIPRINT SUPPLIES we have created a whole series of firsts in the wide format print industry. We were the first online to make it easy for wide/superwide format printers to source, buy and install the parts they needed for their machines,” says DIGIPRINT SUPPLIES Executive Vice President, Albano Masino.

“We have worked so hard at this because when we started out printer manufacturers were actually preventing their customers from having technical information – they were protecting their revenues at the cost of the customers

They didn’t want customers to have the knowledge to go out and buy their own spare parts and tools because it interfered with their maintenance contracts and archaic distribution channels.  

Streamer 1“It was almost impossible for customers to act independently from the manufacturers, and as a result they were spending much more money than they needed and waiting longer than they should have had when their printers were down. “We were unpopular with the manufacturers because we revolutionised this, but our reputation has grown by word of mouth.  We have a significant market share in every continent and we are the leading supplier of parts in Europe by far. For us, our business is all about putting customers in charge and giving them the choice.” 

However, DIGIPRINT SUPPLIES is much more than just a provider of spare parts and tools, it realised that by giving customers the opportunity to free themselves from their OEM suppliers through knowledge, it had to give support, guidance and reassurance. 

“We made sure we got our customer service right,” continues Masino. “As we’re a global company, we made sure customers could actually communicate with our expert engineers, so we employed multilingual experts available 24/7 both on the phone or on live chat to help customers diagnose their problem, identify the right parts needed, and help them install the parts. 

“We also provided our own educational materials such as schematics of printers, webinars, installation guides, step by step replacement part videos, maintenance manuals. We set out to give information and confidence, and to be there if any help was required. 

“Also we sell OEM parts, all with original warranties, which is a must for European clients and something that cheap Asian suppliers can’t match. Our prices are very competitive and we offer next day delivery with the largest stock of wide format printer spare parts in the world. 

“We have loyalty schemes for customers, the majority of which are engineers, so the more frequently they purchase from us, the more discounts and special rewards they can access.” 

In 2016, as part of its on-going commitment to empowerment, the company founded DIGIPRINT UNIVERSITY, a free online certified training programme designed to take customer knowledge and confidence to the next level. 

DGPU LogoThis year’s inaugural syllabus was written and delivered by DIGIPRINT’s in-house printing experts and engineers. Running from February to July, each month registered delegates would attend online webinars on specific topics such as printheads: cleaning and maintenance; bad prints: troubleshooting; motion systems; printhead replacement; pumps and capping stations; printer electronics and maintenance cycles. 

The course has seen over 200 students graduate.

“It’s another first for us,” says Masino. “It really has been very successful. We’ll be running the course again in September 2017 but of course, will be updating it. This time we ran the course in English only, but next time we will run it in other languages as well. It was very much a pan European activity, and because of the timing issues our US customers were not able to partake, but we are opening an office in the States, and I expect our engineers to run online courses from there to our growing American base.”

In addition to this tier one offering, the company will be running an advanced course, which it expects its first wave of graduates to sign up to. This course will run from this September to Christmas including sessions such as the Printhead alignment master class: the quest for perfection; Advanced print quality troubleshooting; Advanced colour management and the very topical How to hack your printer. 

“We really understood that the internet created an information democracy, giving customers a freedom from established practices. We encouraged our customers to be independent, and helped them in their journey to realise this. For so many maintenance tasks on a wide format printer, you do not need to call a service company in. There are so many simple parts that you can change yourself at a fraction of what manufacturers have been charging. 

“We’re not saying customers don’t need engineers, they do when they have a serious problem but there are also many things they can do themselves with basic training. We are giving them own-skill set knowledge to maintain their printer and prevent breakdown, to diagnose when things are going wrong, and in many cases replace what has worn out or what may have been damaged. 

“We’ve got a regular customer base of over 50, 000, a third of which are engineers, because we can source and distribute parts quicker than the manufacturers themselves at prices that are more competitive. “

In focus: DIGIPRINT University graduate 2016 Paul Crosby, Gigworx Design

Paul Crosby evolved into digital printing by necessity. Originally a merchandiser for the entertainment industry, he found it very difficult to source digitally printed goods at a quality that both he and the acts he represented were happy with. So, he purchased a Roland SP-300 printer and started outputting what he needed himself. 

Within no time, Paul realised he had an aptitude for the job, and when the entertainment side of the business came to a close, he carried on with digital printing. That was three years ago, and he has never looked back. 

Paul first came into contact with DIGIPRINT SUPPLIES through a Roland engineer when his Roland SP-300 printer blew up! The printer that was purchased second hand had a major head failure that blew all the circuit boards throughout the machine, and as a result was going to cost as much to repair as its purchase price. At this point the engineer suggested that Paul open an account with DIGIPRINT and source all the parts needed for the repair and anything that he needed for the future. 

“My machine was virtually rebuilt with all parts coming from DIGIPRINT,” says Paul. “That’s why I’m so attached to it as I’ve put so much into it,” he adds. Since that time Paul has been a repeat customer and has bought larger pieces of equipment from the company such as a hydraulic heat press. As well as the entertainment business, Paul has a background in IT, and naturally has a hunger to understand how things work, and what is involved to get to the final output. 

When his machine blew up, he became very interested in its inner workings and signed up for the DIGIPRINT regular webinars. “I found them really, really useful and helpful. I asked quite a few questions to the man who runs the webinars {Filip Degryse}. I found his approach very open and very clear. He was willing to go back over things a number of times if we didn’t understand,” says Paul. 

When an email came though informing Paul about the DIGIPRINT University course, Paul jumped at the chance. 

Says Paul, “I thought it sounded like great idea. I found it very, very useful and I’ve learnt lots of good tips. I now apply those to the maintenance programme of my machine. My printer is probably running better than it ever has done.  It’s been beneficial for me in that respect and it means I’ve not needed to spend money on another machine, whereas other people would have dumped this machine along time ago.”

While Paul has found all parts of the course genuinely useful, it was the maintenance session that he says was the best for him – particularly when it came to learning how to change frequently used parts. 

“Like anything, sometimes the parts you have to change can be the real awkward things,” says Paul.  “Through watching the demonstrations and listening to the explanations I realised its not that awkward. If I’d have tried to fumble my way through – by a discovery process what would have taken an hour now takes 10 minutes. My investment in watching the webinars for an hour and absorbing the information has saved me far more than an hour in maintenance time, and time as we know is money.” 

So, after graduating from here, is Paul likely to be signing up for the advanced course in September. 

“Absolutely,” he says without a hint of hesitation. “The more I can learn, the better.”