Hard Times Ahead for Corporate Printers
Tremendous changes are ahead for the printing industry. Production of printed material will be a small part of a printer's business in the future. Printers who want to survive will have to begin diversifying.
That's according to a recent study conducted by TrendWatch Graphic Arts, in New York, which looks at seven years of data.
"Printers have to shift to a value-added, customer-centered business model, instead of a manufacturing business model, where they define themselves by the products they create," says Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, a TrendWatch analyst.
That's partly because of the weak economy, and partly because new technology, such as the Internet and new media, Tolliver-Nigro says. Printers are scrambling for work in the current economy. And new technologies, such as print-on-demand and digital printing, are changing how corporations publish.
"Most people don't go out and order a 50,000 run for anything anymore," she says. "They order a 5,000 or a 10,000 run instead, and order more as needed."
Some printers are adopting digital workflows order to cope with the changes. But going digital isn't a panacea. "It isn't simply a matter of going digital," Tolliver-Nigro says. "It's about developing applications that make sense to customers, and doing business the way customers want things done. It's not about productivity any more. It's about applications."
Ron Davis, chief economist at Printing Industries of America Inc. (PIA), Alexandria, Va., says application development is "a path for some printers," but not for all. One such application is dubbed "online pick-and-pack." In this scenario, a printer provides customer files online, often with customizable templates.
Customers go online to design what they want, and save results to the printer's server. Then they place their order online for however many copies they need. Or customers can order five of one product, 20 of another and 50 of a third. That business model is "dynamic and customized, and not just printing any more," Tolliver-Nigro says.