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.
4. Cross Platform & Multimedia/Multi Product Capability
Also see Opportunistic Technologies Number 4
An increasing number of print buyers want to automate providing requests for quotes and job submissions-but may need to be trained for optimum cost-effective results.
Also see Opportunistic Technologies Number 1
The top Opportunistic Technologies are:
In the opinion of the Selection Committee, implementation of web-to-print capability offers the most immediate opportunity for printers not already offering this service. Web-to-Print integrated with complete sortation of postal discount, e-presentment, and possible e-payment can enhance this opportunity. Several caveats for this selection: a) make sure that this approach fits with key opportunity applications; it is not suitable or necessary for all; b) for efficient use, it may be necessary to demonstrate how to write a printing specification; and, c) consider how this approach meshes with or impacts the sales force.
2. Value-Added Printing
Value can be added to printed products making them unique and marketplace differentiated with dimensional printing (often requiring unique die cutting), UV coating to create special effects, embossing, foiling, lenticular, security/anti-counterfeiting, the use of unique materials and unusual folds, full turnkey QR codes, including web material. A committee suggestion is for every printer to have someone responsible for creating unique value-added.
3. Marketing Services Provider
Morph into a Marketing Services Provider. However, before attempting to make this move, be sure to understand what it entails. To become a Marketing Services Provider, the changing company must have the knowledge, resources, inclination, drive, the right personnel, and a detailed plan. The addition of a few products does not make a printer a Marketing Services Provider-it requires a conversion from being print-centric to becoming full marketing-centric without prime allegiance to any specific media.
4. Cross-Platform and Multimedia/Multi Product Capability
Offering a wider range of products can provide a traditional printer with new opportunities. In today's marketplace, it has become impossible to reach any specific audience with a single media. Being able to offer media versatility provides opportunity with a caveat-to expand media offerings requires knowledge, resources, inclination, drive and a detailed plan similar to that of a Marketing Services Provider. Today's multimedia opportunity may become tomorrow's expectation in as soon as five years.
5. Vertical Specialization
Specializing in a limited number of customer (not printing process) vertical markets can provide printer opportunities, if the specialization requires a combination of customer market knowledge and specialized production capability to produce unique products for the selected end market.
"As our industry knows too well, the challenges facing printers run the gamut, from a recovering economy to a decreasing emphasis on print due to e-competition, environmental concerns and more," said Bill Lamparter, Chair of the MUST SEE 'EMS program, and President of PrintCom Consulting Group. "In large part, how successfully a graphic communications service provider fares in this changing era of print will depend upon how, and how well, they implement and integrate technology across their operations."
In addition to the MUST SEE 'EMS program and the EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK Conference, GRAPH EXPO 2011 will offer the latest graphic communications technologies, equipment running live on the show floor, and education on the most in-demand products and profit-making opportunities in graphic communications. To help attendees navigate the vast spectrum of products, technologies and production areas covered at GRAPH EXPO 2011, the show features nine special interest pavilions and sections. Along with the 2011 debut of the Marketing Pavilion-dedicated exclusively to marketing professionals and marketing service providers-these include the News Print pavilion, which returns by attendee demand for a second year at GRAPH EXPO and answers the call from newspaper printers and production executives for a dedicated show floor section; PackPrint, covering package printing; Future Print, featuring new and emerging technologies including Printed Electronics and RFID; the Mailing & Fulfillment Center, the industry's largest mailing event anywhere in the Americas; the third annual GREENspace, a showcase dedicated to sustainability and eco-friendly products and services; the cornerstone Prepress/Software/Workflow and Press/Finishing sections; and, Education Main Street for attendees seeking well-educated, talented industry newcomers to augment their company's workforce.