Dealers--Changing Distribution Models
"The channel is being driven by its customers [and is] using the Internet to develop more intimacy between dealer and customer to mutually reduce costs and provide more usable information," states Robert FitzPatrick, co-editor and publisher of The Eagle, a quarterly journal for manufacturers and distributors.
But the channel is not the only one initiating digital connectivity. Commercial printers are seizing opportunities—such as Printeralliance.com—to initiate new connected relationships. The brainchild of President and CEO Joe Lyons, Printeralliance.com is an aptly named group of independent printers that have banded together in pursuit of savings on their purchases of equipment and consumables. Stressing a deep respect for the relationship between printer and dealer/distributor, Lyons states that "We are very distributor neutral. We allow the printer to buy from whomever he wants." The benefit to printers is manufacturer rebates that are issued by the alliance.
An additional benefit is that the whole transaction will soon be as easy as a few mouse clicks.
April is the organization's target for launch of its Internet functionality. By July, Lyons reports that through the site, Printeralliance.com will set up members' dealers with digital storefronts, enabling printers to submit electronic orders and both parties to communicate via e-mail. The Web-based solution uses EnTrade technology, developed by the alliance's parent company, which Lyons describes as "a New York Stock Exchange, business-to-business Internet incubator, with transaction- and auction-type software."
That is the long way of explaining that, this summer, Printeralliance.com "will be able to lower the cost of doing business for the distributor and make it much easier for the printer to order his products," Lyons concludes.
The reality of digital business transactions is only the latest in a long line of technology innovations for the graphic arts industry—and it is far from the last. Such developments as computer-to-plate and on-demand printing are among a host of manufacturing processes that require not only new equipment, but new knowledge and new business strategies. Instead of requiring super-human juggling abilities from their sales representatives, distributors are finding innovative ways to keep pace with technology without exhausting resources.