The Finishing Salesperson's Guide to Survival - Part 2
Everyone needs to really examine where their industry is going at certain intervals. A fact that literally hits you in the face is that half of all the printers that were in business in 1995 are gone. If you're in finishing, you need to really examine which other sectors or industries offer growth opportunities for your technology.
I can think of two right off the bat. The first is converting and packaging. The second is digital. While print may flag, consumer packaging never does. A well-known finishing systems vendor recently introduced a really nicely designed servo-driven diecutter. It was perfect for high-quality, short-run diecutting, creasing, scoring, etc. Though it was not a bargain-priced unit, they sold more than a dozen of these machines in short order, and it certainly contributed mightily to their bottom line for the year.
Jumping into packaging is not easy, since it's a mature and well-defined segment. But lots of commercial finishing technology can be re-designed or re-purposed to add value here, especially for short-run work. An "old-line" bindery systems manufacturer that I know developed a cartoning system for Amazon some years ago that was successful. They are currently offering a more advanced module using RFID tags. An Italian mailing machine manufacturer just unveiled a system for E-commerce that creates the shipping carton around the contents. The machine uses board from rolls, eliminating the need to stock various carton sizes.
As for digital, I know I've beaten this horse many times, but it remains the fastest growing part of print. Inkjet technology will continue to displace offset for may years to come, offering continuing opportunities for finishing systems. The many finishing machine vendors that remain successful and profitable throughout all have one thing in common. They have created value-added machines that serve the digital short-run market. All bindery machine manufacturers have core technologies that can be used for other applications. You can fold paper, but you can also fold cartons, and mailing pieces. The key is to "re-purpose" your company's unique knowledge to serve a wider variety of markets.