Our summer blog post series on different analog and digital printing technologies revealed how ongoing advances in digital printing technologies are creating major shifts in how printing businesses are operated. Here are seven points to consider as your print shop continues to evolve.
The digital transformation of the print business is part of a much larger transformation of how products are manufactured, marketed, and sold. All types and sizes of products are likely to be ordered online and manufactured in smaller batches closer to the point where they will be used. On-demand manufacturing will reduce shipping and inventory costs, minimize inventories, and decrease waste.
Different types and sizes of digital printing devices can produce short and medium runs of almost any type of product formerly printed exclusively with offset, flexographic, screen printing, gravure, or pad printing.
Production inkjet and electrographic presses can produce the types of labels, folding cartons, books, catalogs, magazines, and billing documents traditionally produced by offset lithography.
Digital label printers and electrographic presses can complement flexographic printers in making labels and flexible packaging.
Grand-format and roll-to-roll and flatbed wide-format are replacing automated screen printing presses used to make large-format signs and display graphics.
Direct-to-object and direct-to-shape presses are reducing the use of pad printing or specialized screen printing equipment have traditionally been used to add text and logos to three-dimensional and cylindrical objects.
Dye-sublimation printers can print fabrics for apparel, upholstery, stage backdrops, curtains, and soft signage as well as photo gifts and custom decor products and large-format photo, art, and decorative panels, tabletops, signs, and displays.
Specialized industrial digital printers can be dedicated to printing wallcoverings, aluminum siding, architectural glass, ceramics, wood laminates, containers, and other products.
Large-format 3D printers can be used to print custom mannequins for store displays or props for theme parks, experiential marketing, and stage productions.
Analog presses will continue to be used.
While digital printing devices eliminate the prepress, setup, and job-changeover time associated with using plates or screens for each ink color, analog printing methods are still more cost-effective for high-volume runs.
Print businesses equipped with both analog and digital presses can sell all sizes of print jobs, and route each job to the printing device that best meets the cost, quality, and turnaround requirements of each project.
The equipment your shop uses will be determined by what niche markets you serve.
Although many digital-printing devices are extremely versatile, it makes sense to develop a marketing focus that helps your print shop stand out among targeted groups of customers.
While printing is a manufacturing process, buyers don’t choose a print-service-provider based on the type of equipment you use. Instead, they look at the full range of services your business can provide. They look for providers that can help them solve specific challenges such as:
- Data management for integrated, personalized online and print marketing campaigns;
- Order fulfillment for a mix of print-on-demand products;
- Design and production of corrugated packaging and displays;
- Production and sewing of fabric graphics and fabrication and set-up of custom displays;
- Planning and coordination of event graphics that combine printed and digital displays;
- Fabrication and installation of permanent museum exhibits;
- Publication and shipping of books and magazines in specialized markets;
- Design, fabrication, and installation of printed and digital signage;
- Production and installation of graphics for out-of-home advertising campaigns
- Design, production, and installation of customized interiors
Workflow automation and web-to-print storefronts are essential.
As more of your customers use artificial intelligence and automation in their marketing and operations, they will expect print service providers to do the same. Business buyers are also growing accustomed to purchasing more products online.
If your shop isn’t currently putting automated systems in place to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enable online ordering, you risk falling behind. Look for versatile, easy-to-use, scalable systems that enable you to manage a growing number of multi-part, short-run, fast-turnaround jobs on a changing mix of printing and finishing devices.
Digital communications will continue to affect the demand for printed graphics.
Magazine, newspaper, and book publishers were the first printing business to feel the impact in electronic forms of communications. Now, digital signage and displays are being incorporated into a museum and trade-show displays, experiential marketing activations, and all types and sizes of events.
Some sign and visual-communications companies now offer a mix of indoor and outdoor sign fabrication, digital sign management, and sign installation services. Buyers of on-premise signs prefer not to go to two different suppliers when seeking advice about what types of signage is best for different areas of large hospitals, universities, schools, and office buildings.
Staying on top of new developments is critical.
Innovation is rampant in the printing business today. It’s important to pay close attention to new products that can help you reduce costs, improve customer service, and prevent disruptions from innovative business models or unexpected sources of competition.
Follow us on social mediaIf the changes in the printing business seem overwhelming, Ordant will continue to publish posts that help you understand the changing vocabulary, materials, and costs associated with running a printing business. To serve the changing needs of our customers, we work hard to keep abreast of both changes in the printing business and changes in automation and software. Follow Ordant on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.