Tuesday, 07 September 2010 21:50
In the new era of print, the best application of yesterday’s technologies is not enough to insure profitable survival for the next few years. Profitable survival depends upon a complex mix of: the state of a still-recovering economy, changing customer requirements, the extent that electronic alternatives impinge on print, and the printer’s ability to co-mingle print with
e-alternatives in a multi-media environment.
In a shrinking market for overall print volume, there will be print provider winners and losers. To be a winner, printers must be willing to invest and use new era technology. Printers who ignore the ramifications of these conditions are likely to fail unless they can compete in the limited low cost price competitive commodity print market by using up-to-date offset and/or digital technology to achieve a competitive edge.
A dozen technologies that have survival implications for most commercial printers were identified by the MUST SEE ‘EMS Selection Committee. Their implementation can be seen in the MUST SEE ‘EMS products throughout the exhibition floor.
The Technology Dozen are a part of the announcement of the MUST SEE ‘EMS, an annual roundup of the most intriguing and game-changing technologies and products exhibited across the show floor at GRAPH EXPO 2010. The much-anticipated MUST SEE ‘EMS are announced at the conclusion of the full-day EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK Conference, taking place in Chicago’s McCormick Place today, Saturday, October 2, the day before GRAPH EXPO 2010 opens.
The top technologies that are critical to printers’ survival are:
1. Computer – IT. Effective use of the computer with application of information technology (IT) in both the running of the business and production aspects of a printing company were voted as the most critical survival applications of technology.
2. Multiple Products. Acquiring and implementing the knowledge, skills, and technologies necessary to leverage print content and formats into a variety of multiple products/multiple media (including “e”) as the most important going-forward capability ranked second in the overall list.
3. Automation. The incorporation of automation into print production, starting with the use of stand-alone automated systems or equipment and evolving into integrated automation moving toward “lights-out or hands-off manufacturing.” The approach includes but is not limited to incorporating JDF/JMF dialog between and among production and management systems.
4. Unique Materials. To differentiate printers in the marketplace, creative use of unique materials and equipment and associated technologies to enhance the value and application of print. Included are technologies such as coating including digital dimensional coating, QR and similar systems, augmented reality, invisible printing, and security printing. Creative use of materials can differentiate printers in the marketplace. Included in this category are unusual die-cutting and folding to create a unique product.
5. Web-to-Print. Complete web-to-print capability slowly but surely reducing the amount of human intervention required to produce a printing job. It is more than just an up-to-date communication tool-it is the automation of print from customer inquiry to the pressroom and into distribution. The completeness and way in which web-to-print is implemented is becoming a competitive tool in many print markets.
6. Planning. Business planning and production planning with strategic and tactical direction including technology components ranked sixth in the overall list but several analyst members of the Selection Committee opined that comprehensive planning is fundamental to printers’ survival and should head up the list. It comes before and is also a part of technology selection, they noted.
7 and 8. Digital Printing. Production digital color printing (toner or ink jet), the primary printing industry growth process. Although a variety of products are printed digitally, short (but getting longer) run work and direct mail containing at least a minimum of variable data are the leading applications. An understanding of direct marketing requirements and mailing capability are important ingredients for production digital printing success and are ranked in seventh place almost in parallel with production digital color printing.
9. Market and Product Specialization. Customer market segment specialization with in-depth knowledge of the segment in conjunction with specialized technologies and equipment to produce special/unique print products for that segment.
10. Marketing Service Provider. Adopting the technology, skills and business approach to convert from being a conventional printer to a “marketing service provider.”
11 and 12. Up-to-Date Equipment. Up-to-date equipment for the pressroom, closely followed by binding and finishing, ranked eleventh and twelfth respectively, including the integration of binding and finishing into press production lines. Software upgrades and replacements for both the pressroom and postpress operations need to be monitored continuously and implemented for improvements and advantages, the Committee noted.
“As our industry knows too well, the challenges facing printers run the gamut, from an as-yet recovering economy to a decreasing emphasis on print due to e-competition, environmental concerns and more,” said Bill Lamparter, chair of the EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK Conference and 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.”
Recognized as the commercial printing, publishing, mailing and transactional exposition for the Americas, GRAPH EXPO 2010 themed, “The Next Generation of Print,” has been designed to offer a customized show-going experience for a diverse spectrum of attendees from eleven key market segments. The exhibition will offer the latest graphic communications technologies and live equipment demonstrations on the show floor, plus education on the most in-demand products and profit-making opportunities.
Attendees will find eight special interest sections on the show floor. Along with the debut of News Print-the newspaper pavilion, these include PackPrint, covering package printing; Future Print, featuring two of today’s hottest technologies Printed Electronics and RFID; the Mailing & Fulfillment Center, the industry’s largest mailing event anywhere in the Americas; the second annual GREENspace, a showcase on sustainability and eco-friendly products and services; the Prepress/Software-Design and Press/Finishing sections; and Education Main Street, for attendees seeking well-educated, talented industry newcomers to augment their company’s workforce.
For more information on MUST SEE ‘EMS, the EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK Conference, and GRAPH EXPO 2010, visit www.graphexpo.com.