Technology Advantages Favor the Commercial Printer
Jim Workman, Vice President, Center for Technology and Research, Printing Industries of America
Technological capability is a critical competitive advantage for commercial printers. It is one reason that even companies with in-house printing capabilities rely heavily on commercial printers for their business printing needs.
The issue came to the forefront again during a recent survey of 400-plus marketing and business executives at medium and large companies across different industrial sectors. Printing Industries of America and FedEx Office jointly conducted the survey, which delved into the executives’ use of and attitudes toward business printing.
Among the many topics explored in the survey, respondents indicated if they would like more services in seven specific areas. Technology-related services were three of the top four print-related requests by business and marketing executives. The top four included the ability to print from the Cloud, access to advanced technology for color printing, access to advanced digital imaging, and the management of digital assets.
Print’s marketspace is evolving in a very specific direction—from the simple provision of printed products to adding ancillary services to providing communications solutions. It’s not uncommon for in-plant operations, such as those at universities, businesses, and government entities, to be well behind the curve when it comes to reacting to changing customer needs. It is doubtful, for example, that most of them can provide an easy way of submitting files and ordering print via Web portals. They are unlikely to be able to enhance direct marketing campaigns with customized and variable-data printing. Nor are they as responsive as commercial printers to providing new digital print technologies and applications, such as signage, posters, and point-of-purchase displays.
Make sure your firm is on the proper trajectory in technological evolution and in thinking about how you can take advantage of technical and process superiority when selling against in-house print resources. Emphasize the careful attention given to product quality, since the survey showed that product quality was the number one reason why customers rely on commercial printers compared to in-house resources. Customers of commercial printers reported lower instances of content being displayed incorrectly, color consistency problems, color accuracy problems, and product quality challenges.
You might even consider joining the group of printers that are getting involved with print management services, by which we mean the practice of a customer outsourcing all of their print needs to a commercial printer—not just on a job-by-job basis. In that situation the commercial printer is managing the overall printing process for the customer. This may even include operating and staffing the customer’s existing in-plant facility.
The complete survey findings, contained in an eight-page Flash Report, should be very helpful to company owners and executives determining how best to position their company against in-house competition. PIA Member companies can read the full report.