An Interview with thINK sponsor – Midland Paper

Submitted by vbohnert on August 08, 2016

Midland Paper is a thINK founding partner and a Platinum sponsor of thINK 2016. We sat down with Mike Ratcliff, Midland’s Vice-President and General Manager for Specialty Paper and Film to hear their inkjet perspectives.

Tell us about Midland Paper, Packaging + Supplies
Headquartered out of Chicago, IL,  Midland Paper is over 100 years old with annual sales volumes over $1.1 billion. The company is independently owned and is one of North America’s largest independent merchant distributors with resources dedicated specifically to the high-speed continuous inkjet market. Our Quick Jet! Line of Inkjet Media consists of products compatible with leading production inkjet digital presses.

How important is the inkjet market for Midland Paper?
Extremely important. It’s a growth market and a market in which we can use our unique talent, knowledge and resources to provide value to our customers who are investing in inkjet technology. Our ultimate goal is to help them maximize their return on investment in this technology and grow their business. Paper plays a huge role in the production inkjet market.  Due to the aqueous nature of inkjet inks and the inkjet press technology, selecting the right paper is incredibly important factor to optimizing the end result. Our inkjet print media specialists work with paper mills and the OEMs to understand how their papers best interact with various inks and press technologies to best meet our customers’ application requirements. This is a huge advantage to our customers as there is a lot of misinformation out there and the choices are evolving as we speak.

Why are you such a strong supporter of thINK?
Canon Solutions America is clearly an industry leader in the inkjet market. The creation of an independent user community like thINK that brings production inkjet customers together with the paper mills and merchant distributors creates an exciting, dynamic forum. The energy that we saw at the first Canon thINK event in New York was palpable. We enjoy participating, collaborating and adding value to help customers be successful in their transition and adoption of inkjet press technology.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for printers starting out in inkjet?
From what we see, the print service providers facing the biggest challenges are those that didn’t do their homework upfront before transitioning to inkjet. Those that did do their homework tend to avoid being surprised by “big challenges” – that’s why we support forums like thINK where print service providers can get the information they need.

What are the biggest paper challenges you’re hearing from customers?
Paper plays a critical role and not every paper works the same on all inkjet presses. Printers often experience a culture shock when they transition from conventional offset paste inks to inkjet inks – where the primary vehicle is comprised of water in order to disperse the colorants onto the paper. Paper selection plays a critical role in the entire inkjet printing process for several reasons including managing ink cost, color control, paper drying capacity, post press finishing, etc. There are many different types of inkjet papers, manufactured by multiple paper mills. All of the papers will interact differently from one another based on the OEM press, OEM ink, press drying capability, printer’s ink density setting, press speed, etc. Midland Paper’s inkjet team stays up to speed on the interaction and compatibility of all of the paper options in order to match the best paper for the intended end use application and the printer’s price point. The biggest challenge we are hearing from customers is sifting through all of the papers that are out there to determine the best match for their application and the end users requirements. That’s where we can help; our role is to help the printer sort through what papers work and what papers don’t with an agnostic viewpoint from a paper mill point standpoint. 

What is your best advice for production printers contemplating the transition to inkjet?
If you are thinking field of dreams – “if you build it they will come”, you’re probably not ready to invest yet. For printers entering the inkjet market for the first time, it’s important to do your homework. Take a hard look at your current core business and where you have the opportunity to produce existing applications with inkjet more cost-effectively. The thINK 2016 conference is a great forum to interact with industry experts, inkjet customers, industry analysts and partners to get smart on inkjet and learn what it can do for your business.

About Midland Paper: Over the past 30+ years, Midland Paper, Packaging + Supplies has grown from three stocking divisions and a dozen employees to one of the largest independently-owned fine paper and packaging distributors in the country with ten stocking divisions, a thriving brokerage business and more than 550 employees. Midland has evolved rapidly over the years. Despite its rapid growth, Midland has always remained dedicated to its partners, customers, employees and suppliers. These values are Midland’s highest priorities. Each value shapes how we do business and helps guide Midland. For more information visit MidlandPaper.com