Meanwhile, the TrendWatch Graphic Arts (TWGA) Printing Forecast 2004 report on How the Printing Industry Can Survive the Economic Recovery says optimism is returning. According to their findings, 39% of all print and prepress firms expect “excellent” conditions in 2004, up 13% from the spring of 2003. According to TWGA’s website, printers who have seen volumes decline in the past few years might be tempted to blame the poor economy but there are other factors afoot: namely, the proliferation of non-print media that replace ink with pixels. This is where print work is heading. According to this report, the hottest technologies are all pixel-oriented – digital printing, personalization, cross-media, CIM, CIP4 and JDF. The economy is rebounding, as are our expectations, but that’s only half the battle. The question really is, how can printers survive the recovery?
TWGA announced their Business Conditions Index for printers has exceeded 30.00 for the first time since Spring 2001 when it was a negative -2.4, a historical sign that the industry is in the early phases of a recovery. But many printers are still linking their fortunes to the national economy. According to TWGA, the top challenge for printers remains economic conditions (82%), up 25% from Spring 2003, which is by far the highest ever charted.
“Many printers are waiting for the economy to turn around and fix their business,” notes TWGA director Vince Naselli. “Trend after trend shows that the economy rebound is not going to significantly help printing companies turn sales around. Simply stated, the numbers indicate that an economic upturn will not translate into an upturn for printing demand. Instead, printers and vendors need to change their business models to reflect the needs of today’s new business environment. Our analysis indicates that printers need to become more familiar with digital printing, short-run color, personalization, value-added services, cross media, CIM, JDF and CIP4.”
Additionally, the recent GATF/PIA Tech Alert 2004 conference (Pittsburgh, February 2004) unveiled a host of technological marvels that can give you the cost-effective edge in creating value-added service. For instance, Dr. Daniel Gamota, senior manager of organic and molecular new products at Motorola Advanced Technology Center, presented a future niche printing application where printers would be a key resource integrating organic transistors manufactured into a variety of traditional printing products. This nanotechnology of sub-micron size will be applied inexpensively by “soft” lithography into printed items, such as for inventory control.
Rick Wagner, GATF Production Coordinator, defined the many acronyms related to computer-integrated manufacturing — CIP4, JDF, CIM, PPF, XML — and their purpose. He listed questions printers must ask about their operation to determine what level of automation is right for their printing plant. Julie Shaffer, Director of the Robert Howard Center for Imaging Excellence, discussed problems with digital files submitted for print production. Studies show that problems with PDF files (the top file format now used for digital submission) are essentially the same problems found in native digital files since the advent of desktop publishing! Shaffer reviewed tools that can help “mistake-proof” customers’ digital file submission process by eliminating errors before they become defects.