The idea seems logical and the subject has been talked about for years, but the addition of wide-format offerings to existing commercial printing operations has been much more talk than action. In fact, the 2012 QP Top 100 survey found that only 5.79 percent of group sales came from wide-format. With digital workflow the norm, increasing interest in becoming marketing service providers, and decreasing price points, why aren’t more printers jumping on the wide-format bandwagon?
We asked that question of three major wide-format vendors and solicited their advice on the potential benefits and pitfalls of getting into the wide-format game. (Their answers have been edited for space.)
QP: Are you seeing increased interest in adding wide-format capabilities to existing commercial printing operations?
Randy Paar, senior marketing specialist, Canon Solutions America (www.myprintresource.com/10006967): Yes, still largely investigative on the whole, but some early adopters have already become successful, which causes others to explore wide-format as a potential new opportunity.
Eric Zimmerman, product manager, Roland DGA Corp. (www.myprintresource.com/10007761): Like so many industries, quick printers live and breathe in a digital environment. And since the introduction of digital presses, the quick printing industry has changed dramatically. Quick printers, to date, have been somewhat under-represented in the wide-format market. But they actually are very well positioned for it.
Terry Mitchell, vice president marketing for Fujifilm North America (www.myprintresource.com/10013800): Yes, in fact, Fujifilm has made a concerted effort to respond to this interest during the last year by holding Tech Summits on wide-format printing specifically for commercial print operators. We have presented statistics on the wide-format market including market size, market growth, and profit opportunities.
QP: What is the typical starting point?
Fujifilm: The starting point for a commercial printer really depends on the individual business. As a general rule, most commercial printers start with a 64-inch roll press or a 4x8-foot UV flatbed press. Many show interest in hybrid platforms that can print both flexible roll materials and rigid stocks.
The choice depends on what segment of the wide-format business is being served and the type of materials that will be printed. Once we know the customers’ needs, we can offer the appropriate recommendation to meet those business needs.
Canon: First, ask yourself questions about your business, as well as learn about wide-format printing technology and the marketplace. What’s the most popular, versatile device? What sort of budget should be considered? What will it take in training and staffing to make it work? How do you market these new services? Where do you find the business? Can I leverage my existing client base? How much business do I need to make my ROI?
Being thorough and constructing a solid plan based on good information is very important.
Roland: Most businesses looking at a significant capital expenditure start by analyzing their market and then by identifying how they expect to benefit from the investment. For example, they take inventory of their existing business with questions like “Who are my customers?” and “What are they asking for?” From there, most look at the types of products they want to sell and at their budget for the equipment. This type of analysis can take a quick printer in a number of different directions. Once they have made the investment in a print device, the most successful shops make sure they have plenty of samples on hand to show what their new device can do.
QP: How vital are finishing capabilities to profitable wide-format printing?