WOA 50th ANNIVERSARY -- Web's Balancing Act
Printing clearly continues to be a consolidating industry, Frick agrees, but he sees it as part of a broader business trend. Companies are streamlining the way they do business and buying more products and services from fewer providers, he points out.
"We are doing the same thing. We've gone from having more than 20 paper suppliers down to six," the Lehigh exec reveals. "We are seeking partnerships. That is one of the most overused terms in the business lexicon, but it is a real concept and is critical to success. It means identifying the irreducible number of core providers in a given category—equipment, supplies, etc.—and building stronger relationships with a commitment to sharing information," he says.
"The commercial printing industry in general, and web offset in particular, remains a sunrise and not a sunset industry," Frick adds. "The success drivers for printers in the future will be customization, specialization and differentiation."
Sandy Alexander's Stillo see navigating the new market realities as the biggest challenge for industry members going forward. The current business conditions include a poor economy, rapidly changing technology, unskilled workers and overcapacity, he says.
"In response, we need to assess every segment of our businesses and make sure we operate with minimum or no waste and implement the changes necessary to run a tight ship," Stillo advocates.
"The web printers that survive will have more opportunities in the future," he continues. "This recession has forced us to learn how to manage our business better. I also hope it has taught a lesson to the equipment manufacturers that act negligently by giving equipment away—with creative financing—to companies that are 'very high risk,' thereby disrupting the competitive equilibrium in local markets."
To keep Sandy Alexander competitive, Stillo says management will continue to focus on ways to reduce labor costs and will invest in equipment or technologies that help achieve its goals. "We also are investing in employee training," he adds.