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Dickeson--Becoming a Model Student

May 1999
Lotta talk these days about the business "model." Entire industries and individual enterprises are being driven to reconsider their operations and to make major changes in their functions and methods.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than with those businesses directly confronting the Internet phenomenon, such as booksellers, travel agencies, auto dealers, stock brokerages and so on. And now printing companies, also, should review their long-standing business model.

Already, supply-chain linkage—where demands of the publisher pass to paper and ink suppliers, to printer, to color separation and to distribution list maintainers—is now under study by a few printers.

Demand/supply shortening via the Internet will alter the old supply chain model and promote the "just-in-time" model. Communication definitions and standards are developing that will enable publishers, mills, list houses and printers to anticipate their needs and requirements. Precision in communication is a first, positive step in changing the supply model.

Some printers are already moving away from emphasis on capital investment in press hardware to digital front-end equipment for receiving and processing art, copy and layouts to proofing. From proof approval, those printers proceed directly to plate preparation, without the use of silver-based film. This modification of the front-end process model has been gradually occurring over the past decade and gains momentum daily.

Need for Customization
With the proliferation of the shorter and shorter run lengths needed for customization of publications and catalogs, the prime emphasis of the older model is moving away from press. It's being diverted to the "back-end" of the process: binding and shipping.

Attention must now be directed to process manufacturing controls of makeready, unplanned stoppage delays and raw materials waste. Press-rated gross speeds, as an investment driver, are no longer the dominating consideration as they were in the past.

Thoughtful printers are also calling into question many facets of the time-honored financial model of the printing business, reconsidering the wisdom of investing capital and time resources in an industry with over-capacity, an environment that competitively drives pricing down to yields of 4 percent (and less) of profit on value-added after tax.

As the result of mergers and acquisitions, the old model of family entrepreneurial management is passing from the scene. "Family" is giving way to "corporate." But many are discovering that corporate model printing is a mixed blessing. Although decisions are more objectively (at least, less subjectively) made, decisions also get submerged in internal political games and personal power objectives.

 

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