Printers Haven’t Grown Up. At Least not a Lot of Us
I contend that VDP was commoditized before it was widely adopted by the user base. In much the same way the stock market succumbed to what Greenspan famously described as “irrational exuberance,” so too did our appetite for shiny new digital objects. Prior to the point of critical adoption, our market was already burdened with excess capacity.
Barriers to entry were low, borrowing was cheap, and a swarm of players entered the market. In many instances, the business case was, “This is so cool, it can print my name in a cloud!” Some players may have approached their purchases analytically (I think I heard about someone who is said to have performed a discounted cash flow analysis, but that’s just a rumor I haven’t been able to verify).
Here we are, roughly two decades later, and where do we stand? Some companies have been able to get a return on their VDP investments, and there are fantastic case studies to prove it. PODi and other groups do a great job of organizing these resources and disseminating information.
But overall, we as an industry have failed to realize the technology’s original promise. Many in our industry consider it a loss leader, a “have-to-have” to qualify for the work they really want.
Technologies are converging. Offset and digital are being mashed up into things like four-color hybrid imaging, and new inkjet systems are challenging the status quo—presenting promises similar to those of two decades ago.
So, how will we all respond this time? Are we as eager to unwrap these new toys, or have we matured? Perhaps this time we’ll ask some questions of our customers, do some forecasting and put together a business case to validate our investment.
We’ve been through the economic collapse this time, so perhaps we’ll be more responsible. Or perhaps our banks, like grown-ups with kids on Christmas morning, will ensure that we are.
A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC