What are some new products (prepress, production, or postpress) which will make short-run printing better and more profitable?
Hunt: Truthfully, the product is the same and the labor effort is not all that different. The difference is the more sophisticated equipment and the fact that prep work now done automatically has certainly cut time and cost.
Evans: Software that creates personalized pieces easily is responsible for the large growth in variable printing, including RIP software, which makes this process faster and faster. Costs are still high for the top end software packages, but it is coming down and I can see vendors offering products for under $1,000 soon. In addition, equipment will continue to drop in cost, while also offering faster output, better quality, and ease of use.
Bolte: The future is already staring us in the face. Web2Print (W2P) software has been a proven, off-the-shelf reality for the entire decade, and yet too many printers either develop their own or have yet to invest and adopt.
What are the challenges today for a printer in trying to sell short-run production to individuals and companies who now have their own capability to print higher quality items in-house?
Bolte: In-plants are every bit as slow at adopting a W2P mentality and associated resources as are general commercial printers. The printers who have been at this for only a few months can spout chapter and verse of features and capabilities of their W2P that most competitors have yet to understand. When the print CEO learns and uses his own W2P, the business will truly take off.
Hunt: It’s important to establish pricing that is competitive to both attract this business and make it profitable. NAQP publishes an in-depth pricing study for all types of printing, while I produce an annual survey with 20 different bellwether numbers of industry norms to give printers some idea of pricing trends.
Evans: The key is to find jobs that are more complicated, a bit larger in volume, time sensitive, and also need to be mailed or distributed. Another opportunity is to position your printing company to do the overload work.
Doug Harbach is a veteran consultant and writer in the printing industry. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.