Three tips for growing mid-sized commercial printers in a world of change

Vaughan Patterson.
Vaughan Patterson.

Here, Vaughan Patterson, Product Marketing Operations Manager for Production Print at Ricoh South Africa, examines how political, economic, social and digital changes are creating a complex environment for today’s print service providers to navigate their way to success.

Political, economic upheaval and digital disruption, as well as the skills gap, remain key issues around the world for commercial printers, as well as other businesses. But, while they’re ambitious and keen to meet the evolving needs of their customers, many medium-sized commercial printers face specific barriers that prevent them from reaching their potential. Stymied financial resources mean they have to pick their investments wisely. Digital technologies are evolving rapidly and escalating disruption at an unprecedented pace, resulting in increased pressure to respond quickly. And employees as well as customers expect them to be able to not just offer new products and services, but also to work in new, more efficient ways.

Digital workflows. Digital processes cut the costs of producing, distributing and managing critical documents, so you save money where it counts. Digitalizing processes, including production workflows, improves productivity, frees up employees’ time and can give more scope for responsiveness. And, when it comes to actual production, digital colour presses are flexible enough to manage most needs, including full integration with multichannel campaigns. Plus, they deliver exceptional quality. PrintWeek reports that Whitehall Printing, a Bristol, UK-based commercial printer, has weathered marketplace pressures by investing in web-to-print solutions. Its large clients make regular use of its Web-to-print portals. And it has invested in e-commerce to support more than 100 products via its website. A key benefit of workflow software is that it converts Adobe PDF, PostScript, and Metacode into native AFP for flexible, multi-threaded output management. The command centre, meanwhile, maximizes productivity by providing a combined view of all jobs and assets. And more advanced workflows can integrate third-party systems directly via the Web through improved Application Programming Interfaces (API).

Mobile-enabled workers. The workforce increasingly wants mobile solutions because of the many beneficial changes it brings to the ways they work. Cloud technologies help. Salespeople with remote access to management information systems (MIS) can produce accurate estimates while they’re in the field. Senior managers can then approve those estimates remotely. People can also send print jobs via Google Cloud Print, which improves employee mobility. And, production managers and operators can remotely monitor print jobs via workflow management programs with associated smartphone apps. App-based workflows can even enable third parties to automate job acceptance, job routing and even the preparation and final shipping arrangements.

Virtual Collaboration. Virtual collaboration helps employees from across your operation connect and share ideas, work together, and help customers quicker and better. It fosters a cohesive culture and innovative spirit. For example, virtual collaboration tools and technologies – anything from a smartphone and an app, to an electronic whiteboard with integrated artificial intelligence (AI) for translating meetings on-the-fly – help people to not only meet with other people, but to actually collaborate to complete work as well. Electronic whiteboards also help people collectively develop, share and record ideas and work. Compact short-throw projectors enhance visual impact in boardrooms, welcome rooms and other public areas.

Yes, digital disruption remains a key issue and affects the production printing realm in different ways. But the key to weathering it successfully is to overcome barriers that will leave printing companies in a much stronger position.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.