At Your Service
Printers don't just put ink on paper anymore. From design consulting and pre-press before the print job, to mailing and fulfillment after a publication is built, printers are evolving into one stop shops.
It's the strategy of choice for leading printers facing evolving technology, expanding customer requirements, and the raw economics of a tough market. But are publishers well-served by this trend?
It was inevitable, perhaps, that printers would add services beyond applying ink to paper. Technological advances continue to render certain craft skills obsolete, or less important.
At the same time, many publishers want to streamline operations by focusing on core business processes. This inspires publishers to outsource printing-related tasks to external vendors.
But managing these service providers is work, too. Indeed, it's an art form unto itself. And the more service providers there are to manage, the more time and energy publishers must devote to the task.
When a single printer can handle the lion's share of a job, it simplifies the workflow by reducing management overhead, and relieving publishers of staff and equipment burdens.
This can increase cycle time and cut costs—the Holy Grails of the publishing world today. It's no wonder printers of all shapes, sizes, and geographic locations are scrambling to offer a broad array of application services.
But the rush to embrace application services could cause some printers to overreach.
"The trend is growing," says Dr. Ron Davis, chief economist at the Printing Industries of America (PIA), an industry trade group in Alexandria, Va. "Printers are looking to get into these activities, but there's a problem. You can be a very good printer, understand the business model, and have all the skills. But some of these new additions to the business, such as database management or inventory fulfillment, require different skill sets. Printers can't just hang their shingle out, and expect that will deliver good service."