Automation Won’t Solve the Print Industry’s Staffing Challenges
The printing business is awash in advanced technology and automation. One can walk around the trade shows to observe software and equipment everywhere that handles many of the tasks formerly dependent on experienced printing professionals. Automation enables printing companies to produce more work in less time and at lower costs. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for skilled humans to envision solutions, monitor progress, and include new technology in efficient workflows. And legacy equipment still in use at most print facilities will require educated operators.
For quite some time this industry will need talented individuals dedicated to keeping print a viable and valuable means of communicating information-and that’s a problem.
Print companies surveyed by Printing Industries of America (PIA) reported that 30%-50% of skilled workers are looking at retirement in less than ten years. Many pressroom employees are mature individuals in their 50s or older. Replacing those human assets will be a challenge.
Though print companies are adding equipment like digital presses and software-controlled finishing devices to their production floors, most organizations aren’t discarding the investments they’ve made in legacy software and processes. We’ve seen few operations that willingly scrap fully depreciated presses, folding equipment, or cutters to bring in the latest and greatest the industry has to offer. In most shops, the shiny new equipment is running alongside machinery that doesn’t feature artificial intelligence (or even a modern computer) to control its actions.
Print companies will still need employees that understand offset printing, color adjustment, plate making, imposition, and pre-press-at least for a while. Unfortunately, those areas of the business aren’t very attractive for younger people in early stages of their careers. Trade schools aren’t turning out students with those skills already in place. Print companies will have to train them.
Recruiting New Employees
Use the advanced technology spreading through the printing industry to attract young people to the business. Focus on giving employees chances to learn practical applications for areas such as artificial intelligence or augmented reality. Tell job candidates you need their ideas on how to keep print relevant in a digital world. The automated environments can attract the talent you need. Then take these smart individuals and help them learn the legacy skills upon which your operation still relies.
Print company executives should prepare themselves for paying higher wages than they may have previously offered. We’re in a tight labor market with low unemployment. The individuals you are recruiting are being courted by employers in all industries. To make a career in print appealing, print companies must promise reasonable wages, communicate career advancement prospects, and offer employees opportunities to craft creative new solutions.
This Industry Needs New Blood
Updating the staff to include young people in touch with millennials is a good strategy. This demographic is now occupying positions of power in the organizations of your customers. Staff members of similar age and experience will keep your approaches and products fresh and relevant to client decision-makers.baby boomer mentor
Hiring the top of the class will be tough. High-achieving individuals will have plenty of offers from industries they see as more interesting and exciting than the print business. It may be necessary to focus on other groups where recruiting success is more likely. 40% of high school graduates have no plans to continue their education in college, but technology still attracts them. Focus on this available and affordable labor pool as a better strategy for filling many of the positions vacated by retiring baby boomers.
The print business is transforming. The products we produce and the way we create them frequently involve intelligent devices and software. Staffing practices must evolve along with technology and automation to ensure printing organizations deploy modern methods to grow their businesses.
For more ideas about attracting employees to your print business, read our post “Future Employees”.
In 2001, Roger Gimbel founded Gimbel & Associates, an international consulting firm providing business and market development services, skills training, and expert public speaking in the graphic communications and digital solutions industry. The mission of Gimbel & Associates is to help clients identify new business opportunities and implement leading-edge solutions using expertise in organizational development, technology selection, implementation, and work processes.
Roger oversees a team of Consultants with expertise in sales training, workflow analysis, MicroModeling, multichannel marketing, marketing plans, transactional printing, trans-promotional applications and creative strategies for mergers and acquisitions, business development workshops and seminars.