The printing industry is undergoing rapid changes due to customer expectations and technological advancement. As customers invest in workflow technologies, it is important that print manufacturers take notice and adapt to those trends.
The notion of a traditional “customer” buying equipment is rapidly being replaced by the notion of them being a “client” which connotes an ongoing relationship. Print partners are entering the digital workflow of their clients, and this will require IT expertise to compete effectively. It also provides opportunities for enhanced revenue streams. By learning your client’s business and offering solutions that strengthen it, you can help to secure your relationship with that client.
Data breaches and compromised networks have become common news topics. As the Internet-of-Things (IoT) expands, the risk to business enterprises also expands. Something as simple as a network connected printer can open the door to cyber attacks. Consequently, printers have become one more component of the IoTs and require expertise traditionally not found with print vendors. Print manufacturers must understand and ensure that their products meet the security threats facing them. Print vendors must identify vulnerabilities in their equipment before the client is effected in a harmful way.
Print partners without IT experience will need to gain expertise by partnering with companies that do, or they must develop the talent within their organizations. Product security will be key to happy clients, and quite frankly, to you as well.
As the IoT expands, the ability to manage your equipment at the Enterprise level will be expected. Print vendors offering fault detection, analytics, and remote monitoring, as well as asset management, will have additional opportunities for revenue. Again, these things require increasing levels of IT/software expertise.
Although advancing technology is exciting, we must realize that not all businesses can embrace change as rapidly as things advance. Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study noted that roughly 70% of businesses believe new technology will reduce paper usage via digital workflow, but realize roughly 30% of document workflow will remain paper. Thus printer vendors who are able to integrate digital workflow into their products while facilitating the need for printed documents will meet the preferences of their clients.
Although it is a bit unnerving, artificial intelligence (AI) has been introduced into some printers. Voice commands began to appear in 2018. As AI becomes more integrated, the ability to process things like voice commands may require partnering with companies like IBM, Google, or Amazon. The true capabilities that will emerge from the AI printing push are still a bit foggy, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t coming. Things like predictive maintenance and network intrusion detection do come to mind, however, and as AI becomes more compact even more will be done at the device level.
To meet the needs of the emerging technological trends and competitive market, print vendors should take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of their organization. This process should not be done to convey a warm fuzzy, but rather it should be a serious effort to find the strengths and weaknesses in your organization and product lines. This also means understanding how your clients may become vulnerable. As economic conditions change, so will the market place for your products. By knowing your assets, expertise, and margins, you can position yourself to adapt to those changing conditions.
Establishing metrics to monitor how you are doing is critical. Things like, profit metrics allow you to see trends early. As profit is a function of revenue minus cost, it is essential to have good tracking systems for manufacturing and sales. As labor accounts for roughly 40% of the cost, it becomes critical to manage your people effectively. Numerous studies have shown that companies that dominate their niche invest in the training of their workforce, whereas those who don’t become laggards in the industry. The ability to rethink your manufacturing process is also critical.
Rethinking how your manufacturing takes place can provide important cost savings. As printing technologies have become more capable, they can do more things. Old equipment is replaced by more efficient tools, and in some cases, multiple pieces of equipment can be replaced by just one tool. For example, in the highly competitive arena of the large/grand format digital finishing industry, MCT has the vision of ONE system to replace multiple systems – and the know-how to do so. The VersaTech2 is the only “all-in-one” digital finishing solution on the market – laser, routing, and knives. A tool like the VersaTech2 allows new efficiencies to be introduced into the manufacturing workflow… as they say, mileage may vary, but efficiency is good for the bottom line. When one tool can be adapted to twenty or more products, it isn’t just smart to consider it; it becomes a competitive necessity.