It is no secret that the past year has seen one of the worst economic downturns in history. Businesses are failing, unemployment rates are soaring, and hardly anybody has money to spend. So, if you’re a manufacturer, the question becomes “How do I keep my clients happy and profitable while the economy around us is collapsing?” Luckily for manufacturers of wide-format flatbed printers, the versatility of the product and some emerging markets are helping the cause. But add-ons such as incentive programs, financing options, and educational courses may be the ticket to success.
With the slowdown in the overall market, Chris Howard, vice president of sales and marketing, Durst, said the printing volume demand has not grown at the rate over previous years, which of course has an effect on the need for additional printing capacity in total. Howard said the company has found that a number of clients have still invested over the past months in order to meet new customers’ needs for printing capacity and capability. “Overall, the market that we serve is still finding demand,” he said.
While many companies have tightened their budgets and decided not to invest in new equipment, it has become imperative for manufacturers to find ways to keep their customers happy. One of those ways is to offer incentives and/or assistance to their clients. “Our focus has continued to be on discussing production efficiency that the Rho platforms offer, which some customers find to be the right incentive to match their business needs during this economic cycle,” said Howard. “We think the primary goal is to make sure that the equipment matches the business need so that it becomes a long-term, positive investment.”
Another key is making sure that your clients are running their equipment as efficiently as possible. “By doing this, they cannot only lower production costs, but increase capacity for additional growth,” explained Howard. “We spend time on this subject with our customers to help them maximize the investment that they have made.”
One positive side effect of a down economy is that it forces companies to search for new business opportunities. “The longer print run space is a market segment that is now being tapped into with flatbed technology,” said Howard. “This offers the digital print providers new growth.”
Terry Mitchell, marketing director, Fujifilm Sericol USA said the current economy has reduced the demand for print, and therefore many printers who have adequate capacity, and can produce the quality expectations of their customers, are simply delaying purchases of new equipment.
“Some customers are reluctant to invest in new equipment without the assurance of having a contract for work already in hand,” said Mitchell. “Although this reduces the risk related to making new payments, printers that continue to ‘get by’ with equipment that does not deliver the quality, or lacks the capability to produce what print buyers demand, or does not enable the printer to be price competitive, may lose jobs to competitors that do invest in new equipment.” Mitchell pointed out that some customers who need to replace older, outdated equipment with new equipment are also having difficulty in securing local bank financing.
To help their customers, Fujifilm is offering delayed payments, or reduced payments for the initial finance period (first six months) to help provide an incentive to invest. “We have an in-house finance group who organize long-term financing options with external lenders at very competitive lease rates, and we also offer trade-ins where the older equipment serves as the down-payment on the new equipment and reduces the capital cost of the new equipment,” explained Mitchell. “We also have the capability to bundle a customer’s ink volumes into the purchase of a printer so they can best leverage their overall purchase dollars.” Mitchell said several presses are bundled with software or extended contracts on ink as a “package” that offers price discounts as an incentive to invest in new equipment.