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The Future of the Printing Industry – Part 3

terryblogPrint is not going away. However, it will continue to evolve at an ever-increasing pace. Technology that is emerging in the marketplace will forever reshape the nature of print providers and their relationships with print buyers. For printers to survive they must also evolve, NOW!

Here’s what’s coming to reshape the print industry in much the same fashion as we witnessed with the change of the photo printing industry. (Remember it?)

First, fixed-array inkjet printers will increase print speeds exponentially in the next few years. They will have an impact on every print segment. This means that the ‘bottleneck’ in printing plants moves dramatically, and those print providers who can adapt quickly will grab market share. Printing plants will require nimble management who understand the ‘theory of constraints’, as they constantly rebalance their in-house resources to expand or expire.

Second, the software advances that I discussed in my last article are real and will change how clients interact with large-format printers. Order writing, file submission, preflighting, prepress, job queuing and job tracking can, and will, be automated. The result is that the front-end costs for doing short run is the same as doing long run.

PizzaVsPrintInnovators will shake up the number and size of print providers as did the handful of power players who reshaped the photo printing industry. I have said to anyone who will listen to me that Firehouse is a software development company that prints to pay the bills.

For any reader who is skeptical of my viewpoint, I offer up this article on technology and the pizza industry. Domino’s CEO is quoted as saying technology was at the heart of their turnaround. Their sales and profit growth is stunning. How Tech is Killing Off Independent Pizzerias

Technological advances and software development will take actual costs out of the print process, speed production time, increase the accuracy of print orders and provide clients with an online interface to monitor and track their jobs from anywhere. The most successful printers will implement and lead these advances.

This also means the print buyer will have to reshape much of how they go about their business to get these benefits. Early adopters will be more successful. This is where print vendors need to concentrate their efforts. They need to nurture a collaborative relationship with their customers to bring these advances to them and strengthen those relationships. Print buyers will cluster around print providers whose software technology best fits their requirements. Firehouse has a growing number of clients with whom we work in a highly collaborative structure, using software to reduce front-end costs and increase the speed from order placement to ship date.

SparkLogo300_RGBFirehouse’s automated client interface is named Spark. It allows 24/7 access and provides real-time info on your print projects. But it goes deeper than that. Spark is serving clients a customized version of our MIS system tailored specifically for their work. As Spark evolves, the level of integration and automation will make print buying as easy as ordering a pizza.

As we witnessed with the consolidation of the photo industry, all of this will put a burden on print vendors and print buyers who do not adapt to this new business model.

For the printing industry, as in every industry today, “What can be automated, will be automated.” and virtually everything in the printing business can be automated.

Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO

A Printer of a Different Color

RandyBlog2016Automation has been a focal point at Firehouse over the last few years. A decade ago, software automation at Firehouse entailed building macros in Excel, Photoshop or working with AppleScript. Fast forward, and this has evolved into true software development with a full-time team devoted to building applications that can automate the digital printing workflow like never before. CEO Terry Corman has stated many times that Firehouse is rapidly becoming a technology company that also prints. While Firehouse is first and foremost a printing company, software development has had a huge impact in how work flows through our facility.

The world has changed. It’s time for the printing industry to do the same.

Digital print clients want many things from their print vendors, but speed is always at the top of the list. As I’ve said many times, we live in an world. Firehouse won’t be adding drone delivery any time soon, FireDronebut the on-demand speed expectation can’t be ignored. Deadlines are not just shrinking, soon they will vanish altogether with same-day shipments. Lengthy print runs are also becoming a thing of the past with variable data and a transition to an on-demand print model, which makes sense; why buy 5,000 of a piece you may or may not use when you can have us print them on the fly?

With that shift, everything changes. Printing one file 5,000 times is one thing. Printing 5,000 files one time each is an entirely different beast, and requires a new way of thinking. While many companies want to cling to the old ways of doing business, Firehouse embraces technology and loves the challenge of working differently. The leader of our team in Europe has noted “Firehouse is a chameleon; it changes to what the industry needs us to be.”

And so, Firehouse changes its colors once again, as it has many times in the past.

Randy Baer
Firehouse COO

Case Study: Firehouse Wraps Butler Softball Field

PaulPicButlerSoftball01Terry and Sally Corman are Butler University fans. As alumni and long-time supporters of the Butler athletic program, it’s no surprise that when Butler has large signage projects for their athletic fields, Firehouse is eager to fill the need.

In 2014, Firehouse supplied large mesh banners and wall decor for the renovation of Butler’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Case Study – Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse This spring, Butler again turned to Firehouse for a new project. The University had recently updated their branding with revised logos and guidelines. The Butler Softball Stadium had numerous old banners in place that no longer matched the University’s brand. They were also becoming heavily worn from years in the elements. New banners were needed. Unlike the Hinkle project, the University did not have graphic files for new banners. But coach Scott Hall had a clear vision for the look of the stadium. It needed to reflect the new branding standards and he wanted to feature photos of the team. Scott consulted with Firehouse Marketing Director Jon Heilman on the new direction. Jon photographed the stadium and verified measurements for graphic installation and then created options for the new look.ButlerSoftballTemplate_v6

Jon combined Butler’s revised branding with 12 action photos of the team and unified everything with a textured gray background. Softball stitching was also used as a graphic divider element. Firehouse printed all graphics on a durable mesh banner for maximum outdoor longevity.

“We were looking for something that would really promote our team and university and Firehouse came through in a big way! They were very professional and easy to work with. They met all our needs in a very timely manner!”

Scott Hall
Head Coach – Butler Softball

The graphics were completed and installed before the beginning of the softball season and were a big hit with Butler staff and fans alike. Firehouse also carried the design to a new display banner for the baseball field. Scroll through this slideshow for a better look.

Stay tuned for a future post detailing graphics for the Butler Youth Soccer Camp.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations