Beyond identifying the critical and opportunistic technologies that can help printers succeed in these changing times, what should they know about how to implement these technologies to ensure long-term survival? These are among the most pressing questions on the minds of graphic communications professionals who will attend GRAPH EXPO 2011, the year's largest graphic communications exhibition and conference in the Americas, September 11 - 14, 2011, in Chicago's McCormick Place.
In today's 'new era' of print, merely understanding applications for the most current technologies is not enough to insure profitable survival for the next few years. According to a review of MUST SEE 'EMS technology and products submissions-current and past-by the Selection Committee, there are two basic types of printing industry technologies: 1) those generally critical to the short and long term profitability and even survival of a printing company, and 2) those that, if implemented, can provide opportunities such as new products, diversification, differentiation, and new ways of doing business. Some technologies apply to both categories.
As today's printing business is more complex and competitive than ever, the strategic and tactical components of business, marketing, and production transition planning have become integral parts for the successful implementation and integration of a new technology into current operations. Attempts to implement a new technology without a plan often lead to failure and/or an increase in undesirable unintended consequences.
Although not a technology per se, full scope planning based on an in-depth knowledge of customer/prospect requirements was selected by the MUST SEE 'EMS Selection Committee as the foundation for successful implementation of the following critical and opportunistic technologies:
The top Critical Technologies are:
1. Computer/IT/MIS Capability and Utilization
Software correctly installed and utilized is becoming the backbone of printing companies. To utilize software and a host of production technologies, particularly digital printing-related, printing organizations must have computer and information technology skills.
New era printing companies run on information generated by the full utilization of Management Information Systems. The Selection Committee identified the combination of computer skills, information technology, and properly utilized full MIS as the most important capabilities for printing companies' profitable survival.
2. Production Automation
Automation of the print production process, starting with customer input and concluding with product in the box and semi-automatic invoicing, is the evolving profile of new era printers. This change starts with the use of standalone automated systems or equipment and evolves into integrated automation minimizing production touch points. The automation track includes but is not limited to incorporating CIP4 JDF/JMF methodology.
3. Digital Printing
A strong necessary contender for profitable survival. Digital printing was highly ranked in large part because of its automated approach to short run printing. Over the longer term, capability to produce personalized, individualized or versioned products will gain in differentiation importance. About half of all U.S. sheetfed printers also have digital printing equipment. Within five years the other half may have survival issues without digital printing capability.