Marchand--Now's Your Chance to Integrate Operations
These technologies eventually speeded up and eased a complex process at a time when buyers were under unrelenting time pressure.
Short-run conventional and fully digital presses pose a different kind of challenge. To realize their benefits, customers must develop a new approach to marketing their products and services. Print buyers perceive the opportunities only dimly, if at all. They are not empowered to address such questions and, if they were, are likely to resist what may appear to be a threatening change.
Put simply, the applications of digital technology in this aspect of the print manufacturing process have outrun not merely customer utilization but their understanding too. Hence the difficult breathing in commercial printing companies that have adopted the technology but find it difficult to sell.
The difficulty verges on asphyxiation in more than a few smaller companies that have opened with plant and equipment built almost entirely around short-run digital. Many of them have been forced to depend on small business and consumers while waiting for corporate and large retail demand.
What to Do?
There are print users inherently able to understand the short runs, versioning and customization—direct mailers and catalogers foremost among them. AEC (architects, engineers, construction) belongs on the list, too.
In the long run, the greatest gains will come only when forces already at work elsewhere in our economy lead commercial customers to take advantage of digital presses. Shorter times-to-market, reduced cycle times, more frequent new product introductions and updating all point toward adoption, as do continued demands for cost-cutting in the form of reduced inventory, down-sizing and outsourcing. These tendencies and other competitive pressures will lead buyers to digital printing.
Meanwhile, it's necessary to do missionary work for short-run digital business. Moving upstream in the customer's organization is difficult at best and sometimes an outright political risk, requiring high-order diplomatic skills to keep threatened print buyers happy, while you conduct the education process with marketers in your customer's company.