STATE OF THE INDUSTRY - Far from Dead
Sunrise on the Industry
Commercial printing is growing. Shipments grew 16.59 percent between 1996 and 1999, while employment grew 17.84 percent during the same period. The PIA's annual market survey reports that first quarter 2000 sales growth was 7.3 percent, up from 1999's 6.6 percent. Other sources project commercial printing's growth from 1999 to 2000 to be 5 percent, and 5.2 percent to 5.7 percent.
Contrast this predicted growth with the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Both "The Survey of Professional Forecasters" and "The Livingston Survey," released on May 22 and June 16, 2000, respectively, by The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia forecasted average annual real GDP growth for 2000 to be 4.9 percent over 1999.
America's for profit and not-for-profit sectors have not abandoned printing as a means of reaching their customers or constituents. Print buyers we have queried are projecting growing print budgets at 10-15 percent annually. They see no other existing media as a substitute for their printing materials. It appears that rather than "killing" printing, the Internet companies have become commercial printing's newest customers. Internet advertisers are buying printing to drive visitors to their Websites.
The commercial printing segment is also undergoing a revolutionary technology change to digital throughput. This began in the early '80s with desktop publishing and it now embraces all departments in the manufacturing process. It is far from a smokestack industry and is, in fact, one of the most digitally efficient of all industries.
The commercial printing process at the leading commercial printers is a highly digitized process that includes:
- Electronic transfer of text and images from client to printer;
- Electronic manipulation of text and images in preparation for printing;
- Electronic transfer of text and images to film;
- Electronic transfer of film to plate;
- Electronic control of the printing press;