COMMERCIAL PRINTING -- Running Lean and Mean
Further analysis is provided in a new PIA report—"Keys to Profitability: Lessons from Ratios Profit Leaders"—available through the "Bookstore and Products" section of the association's Website (www.gain.net).
Along with being chairman and CEO of Branch-Smith Inc., David Branch brings to this discussion the added perspective of serving as NAPL chairman. Speaking as a printer, Branch says he has seen indications that business is firming up. "We're looking for business to be better in 2004 than it has been the last couple of years . . .thankfully," he remarks.
"Our sense is that business has been creeping toward getting better for some time. Our sales didn't really fall through the floor like they did for many other companies. The pricing has been abysmal, though."
Boom in Business
In fact, Branch-Smith was able to continue growing its sales during the downturn, doubling in size since 1998, its chief executive notes. "Our business has always been a value play," he adds.
The company has strived to build efficiencies into its process, with adoption of CTP-based production making a "tremendous difference," and has expanded the range of solutions it offers. The goal is to provide turnkey service on par with web-based publication printing operations, but using all sheetfed equipment to support shorter runs, he explains.
Developing turnkey solutions that truly solve problems for customers should help printers avoid suffering quite the same price resistance in the future, Branch advises. "In order for this approach to work, you've got to really know who your customer is," he adds.
The printing exec sees potential in offering design services, mailing and fulfillment, but believes there will be a new wave of innovation centered around on-demand, digital production. Since they are not bogged down by the same paradigms as many traditional print providers, Branch thinks standalone, smaller organizations that can start from "a fresh sheet of paper" may be in a better position to capitalize on this opportunity.