Print 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.
Innovators 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.
Firehouse’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.