Let's face it ... the printing
business is going digital.
The front end of the printing
industry has already been replaced by digitally driven processes and the press
room is not far behind. Graphic Arts Dealers need to recognize the changes
around them and learn how to capitalize on digital printing.
The trends are clear. Small
offset presses have already gone the way of dedicated typesetting, color
separation and film based proofing systems. All have been replaced by digital
technologies. The narrow width digital presses have taken over the duplicator
market and slowly but surely are moving to the 4 or 6 page market encroaching
on half-size offset press.
Offset printing continues to be
more flexible and have a lower cost point for even runs of 2,000 especially
with the efficiencies added to the presses to shorten makeready times and
increase run speeds, but when you add inline finishing operations and front end
automation into the mix along with a more appealing work environment to attract
electronically biased young employees savvy printers are going digital.
Future For Dealers Is Unfolding Another trend that will affect
dealers is the growing interest in hybrid equipment that marries offset presses
with digital inkjet heads to provide variable imaging or versioning. Then there
is the promise of Benny Landa's Nanographic printing which is digital printing
using highly automated printing press hardware and lower than current cost
digital inks. Why is this of interest to Dealers? Because these emerging
changes require distribution, support, implementation and supplies. These are
the same services as in the past but with different products.
Going digital also opens the
doors for print providers to add to their bag of tricks of related services
like variable imaging, web to print services, improved automation and other
services to meet their changing market. While the volume printers still find
offset printing the optimum process it is a fact that digital quality is
getting better while the cost per copy is lowering.
While the multi-million dollar
cost of a high speed ink jet web press is out of the reach of small to medium
size printers it is expected that over time the cost of the high speed digital
presses will become competitive to higher end offset sheetfed and even web
presses. A glimpse at what is coming is represented in Landa's presses that are
both web and sheetfed with an ink cost that promises to be closer to offset
inks per impression. While we will not see this press for a few years what has
been seen will influence the development by other digital and offset press
manufacturers to meet this future competition.
While we often think about
digital printing in the context of being used for direct mail, books, documents
and commercial printing, a growing interest and adaptation of digital
technology is being applied to the label and packaging industries. This is not
new since the Xeikon, HP Indigo and EFI Jetrion have been addressing this
market for a while.
At the Drupa and GraphExpo many
digital press exhibitors promoted their products for these industries. But,
since most package printing is long runs today, digital technologies are not
cost effective. But add a hybrid tower to the presses and things can change.
There are plenty of profitable opportunities
for graphic arts dealers in the selling of equipment, supplies and
services to digital printers. Where commercial offset printers are a slowly
eroding market the growth of the digital market is significant. One reason is
that there is no hard fast definition tied to the users of digital printing
equipment. We know offset presses are located in printing companies or inplant
printing departments while digital presses can be located anywhere from the
press room to the office to a manufacturing line.
Global Channel Dealer Summit
Dealer Communicator, partnering with Print Media Partners and the Grapic Arts
Show Company, co-sponsored an important conference at Graph Expo 2012. The
object of this program was to enlighten dealers on changes in the channels they
sell in. Included were sessions from methods of selling and promoting to the
evolution of the products they sell. The "Summit" served as a
networking hub for channel partners to meet with peers from around the world.
Dealers were able to convene with manufacturers and customers to explore new
In an opening presentation at
the Summit, Dr. Joe Webb dynamically outlined the state of the industry. Some
trends in commercial printing are obvious: fewer and smaller print businesses;
fewer suppliers (can be good news); increased digital base replacing offset;
and mainstream print is disappearing. To illustrate these points a chart
showing the pattern of commercial printing sales per capita peaked in 1995 and
then started dropping until it is predicted that by 2020 this consumption of
print will be more than 25% its peak. The number of commercial printing
establishments will be down by a third by 2020 with the biggest drop in the
next 8 years.
An interesting fact is that Ad
Agency and Graphic Design firms now employ more people than commercial
printers. When you consider that digital equipment fits these types of creative
and content generating organizations, it is easy to see dealers getting
seriously involved in these growing markets.
It was pointed out how digital
printing and prepress has changed purchasing habits. In the good old days of
printing when heavy iron equipment was purchased to last and the dealers fed
the printers with consumables. In the digital world upgrades and integration is
prevalent while the consumables sold are proportionally lower. The role of the
dealers is to find and bring new equipment, software and services that will
help printers find new revenue streams.
Gerry Giuliano, Worldwide
Channel Support Manager of Kodak, asked the audience: "Is your
organization ready for success?" He pointed out that everybody is feeling
the competition and businesses need to streamline their organizations, reduce
operating costs and have a plan to transition to new technology seeing it as a
way to grow the business.
Successful Dealers Are Those That Know Their Customers' Needs
And Partner In Helping Them Change Dealer Communicator observes that
the most successful surviving dealers are those that watch how their customers
are changing and partner in helping them change. They also help their customers
find opportunities to expand their businesses by using the new technologies
instead of sticking with the traditional and familiar ones.
Carl Joachim, Senior Partner of Caslon and Co., talked about The
Digital Engine Opportunity. He emphasized that dealers need to look at
themselves and determine what is different about their organization and their
competitors. Differences can be measured on how a dealer can make a difference
to their customer by bringing solutions that help them grow their business.
In the narrow sized digital
printing business it can be selling and training to do variable imaging or how
to create web to print solutions. Like Giuliano, Joachim feels that dealers
need to be sensitive to their customer's changing needs. He emphasizes that
having a good service organization with good response times is mission
critical. From the observations of Dealer Communicator that the dealer service
organization can be a good profit center. Especially if the dealer is selling
digital equipment and supplies to organizations like corporations, creative
agencies and other non-traditional printers.
Giuliano (Kodak) agreed in the
"must haves" for success, and to meet the challenge of adjusting to
the changing printing industry, dealers need to invest into training both
technical and sales. He pointed out that a way for a dealer to differentiate
themselves in the marketplace is with knowledgeable service people and a good
spare parts inventory or at least a way to expedite parts as needed.
Carl Joachim also advised that
when selling digital solutions an asset to the sales team is to have a solution
analyst type of individual available. Now, this may be a technically savvy
sales rep or a person on the team that can plan and otherwise be involved in
the site survey, demo, configuration and statement of work. He pointed out that
selling digital equipment is not a short sales cycle. Knowing what is needed
and matching the need to the solution is part of the sales process if you want
to be successful.
This editorial probably sounds
like selling narrow format digital equipment is hard work. It really depends. A
dealer can get one customer that knows what they want and has done all their
homework comparing different products, workflows and has done a ROI cost
analysis. However, it is more likely that a customer needs help in making a
transition into digital printing. And, if they are a creative organization or
marketing group they will need help from specifications to installation.
In a series of interviews done
by PRIMIR (Graphic Arts Show Company market study organization) in a study of
successful printers and inplants that have transformed their organizations, one
of the largest issues was getting vendor and supplier help. In most cases the
customer ended up doing it themselves. In some cases where the vendor was
helpful they stayed with that vendor. We are in the age of consultative
Is Hard but it is evident that if dealers don't change they will
disappear like the typographers and prepress trade shops. Fighting change is a
losing proposition with many casualties. The products you sold yesterday are
going away or gone - long live the new products including the narrow format
digital press package with the front end workflow and backend finishing along
with the supply business. Those that recognize that the change is going to
happen and that it is not a fad, will learn how to cope and adjust. Hopefully
that is you. DC