As wide-format PSPs seek ways to improve efficiency and profitability, automation is growing increasingly important. Cutting systems and routers have become critical elements in the profitability equation.These systems provide growth-oriented PSPs with benefits including flexibility, material savings, and far greater control. The equipment allows shops to grow and evolve as market opportunities appear. Aided by marketing strategies that trumpet a wider range of capabilities, they can serve a broader market and begin enjoying all the profit potential that entails.
Swiss Precision, Wide Variety
Given the new breed of printers that can print on virtually any type of substrate, the need for finishing products is growing exponentially, said Reto Woodtli, general manager of Franklin, WI-based Zund America.
“All those materials, on which you can print all kinds of graphics, provide opportunities undreamt of 10 years ago,” Woodtli said. “But you can only reach the full potential of all these capabilities if you keep up on the finishing side, and acquire finishing equipment that can keep up with all the printers and is flexible and modular enough to handle all these different materials.”
That’s important in an industry where too many PSPs buy equipment based on what they’re producing now, rather than looking out three years or even one year, Woodtli said. They fail to consider whether their new equipment can quickly adapt to growing productivity needs, or to new solutions the house may want to provide its customers.
That’s one of the biggest changes impacting the printing industry today, Woodtli said. “You’re not buying a specific machine for a specific job. What you’re buying is equipment that is able to grow together with your company.”
The bottom line, Woodtli noted, is the tendency of PSPs to invest in the output on the printing side, without taking the crucial issue of finishing into consideration. That creates a bottleneck in the workflow that limits the return on investment in printers. “Whenever you buy equipment, you’re investing in the future, so think out of the box,” he said. “Choose a system flexible enough to grow with you.”
Multi-Purpose Digital Finishing
With the growth of digital printing directly to materials, PSPs need a machine that can digitally finish the process. “You’re out of the square-foot commodity business and selling a product by the piece, not by the square foot,” said Steve Bennett, vice-president of the sign display business of EskoArtwork. “And you’re selling a solution. We’re trying to get sign shops to deliver solutions rather than commodities.”
With the tools now available to them, digital printers and digital finishers in combination can provide products to many markets. They can go from producing simple commodity signs to high-end POP materials. That can result in a margin improvement of two to 10 times the margin obtainable in commodity signs. “But to earn that, we have to caution, requires more than simply buying the hardware,” Bennett said. “You need to use the 3D tab software, and decorate it with beautiful graphics. Then you’re out of two-dimensional signs and into three-dimensional displays.”
Using a digital finisher and better layout, shops can garner better material yields than they could with no finisher and a sloppy layout. Bennett reported hearing clients tout improvements of 20 or even 30 percent, which “goes directly to the bottom line.”
It is important, he added, to invest in operator training, as well as in efforts to go out, knock on doors, and show clients and prospects what you can do.
“Many shops have the financial resources to buy equipment. But who’s going to run it? A sign shop that doesn’t have a proactive marketing plan, as opposed to a reactive marketing plan, isn’t going to reap as much benefit. The operator training cannot be stressed enough, and a proactive marketing plan to market their services to new and prospective clients is critical.”