Comment by Trevor Crawford, Event Director of IPEX 2014
Survival of the fittest – Change is the key to success
The world is changing, and the key to survival is to change. The printing industry is no exception to this, having undergone seismic change over the past decade or so. Our research and discussions with industry representatives, indicates the issues facing almost every printer, large or small, are generally the same around the world: declining volumes, overcapacity, commoditisation, pricing pressures, finance, as well as the ongoing competition and integration from the internet and other competitive communications channels.
Add to this the ongoing debate as to whether the global economy remains in recession or not and you might be forgiven for wanting to lie down in a darkened room. But, there are promising signs, especially in the economies of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and even here in the UK there are also areas of growth in many areas of print. Sectors such as direct marketing, packaging, label printing and print logistics, for example, are all looking strong. According to the latest ‘Printing Outlook’ published quarterly by the British Printing industries Federation (BPIF), printers in the UK are reporting improved confidence and renewed optimism. Likewise, the Printing Industries of America (PIA) which represents print businesses across North America, Canada and Mexico are reporting generally stable print volumes. Dr Ronnie Davis, Chief Economist at the PIA told us: “We are experiencing modest growth here in the US, albeit at a low level of about 2.5%, but there are definitely green shoots in certain areas of the industry.”
So, while there are challenges for all businesses, there is potential for business is willing to adapt. This coupled with a more optimistic economic outlook, leads to the view that Dr Davis. “You can’t bring back the market, but you can adapt to the new challenges and manage that change.”
There are many examples of companies that have successfully adapted to the new market conditions. These companies have evolved their businesses to tackle issues head on. In the process, they’ve often identified cost efficiencies as well as developing new strategies, be that investment in the latest technology or entering into new markets which have enabled them to reach new revenue streams.
Innovate to drive success
Innovation is central to any successful business, investing in the latest technology solutions is essential to efficient, cost-effective production while delivering the best quality print and customer service. Kathy Woodward, Chief Executive Officer at the BPIF believes driving efficiency is crucial. “It’s the primary investment focus for almost three-quarters of respondents to our latest Printing Outlook survey, which shows that there is continued investment in kit, training and product and process improvement in our industry.”
Digital print, and in particular inkjet technology, is another key enabler for print businesses to respond to their customer’s increasing demands for shorter print runs, versioning and personalisation. Equally, the internet, once seen as the enemy of the printing industry, today has a vital part to play. Every print business should be using the Internet to drive sales as well as market its services. In addition, web-to-print solutions are giving print businesses greater access to their customers as well as deliver a more efficient, streamlined and profitable business model.
Financing this new technology in the current economic climate has often been a barrier, with traditional methods of raising capital putting huge strains on a business. However, by approaching this from a different angle, can pay dividends. Some companies are now looking at financing their investment on a pay-for-usage basis in partnership with their equipment suppliers. At the end of the day, this arrangement can be a win-win for everyone involved; printers can make use of the latest technologies without a huge initial capital outlay; manufacturers can generate sales income that would otherwise not be possible; and customers get a better range of services from their print provider.
But it’s not just about the technology alone, an opinion shared by Neil Falconer, industry consultant and organiser of the Ipex 2014 Masterclasses. Neil, who has first-hand experience of working with printers across five continents, told us “The real issue for printers is how to maximise the technology they have, be that offset, digital, wide format or hybrid solutions, instil a culture of change throughout the entire organisation, and have the right business model in place to drive the company forward.”
Chairman of the BAPC (British Association of Print & Communication) Sidney Bobb, believes it’s all about developing a USP. “It’s vital that printers today can differentiate themselves from their competitors, be that through investment in new technology, the latest software, or by introducing new value-added services.” This is a trend that is being adopted throughout the developed world, where companies are moving to areas such as database management and integrated media services. These new services complement its traditional print-based operation, enabling them to enter into the more lucrative sectors of integrated marketing services.
Ipex 2014 – To educate and inspire change
If print businesses can recognise the growth areas, and have the strength and leadership to move forward, there is definitely the potential for growth. Ipex 2014, which itself has had to adapt to the new industry, is therefore well placed to inspire printers for the future. Not only as a showcase of the latest product enhancements and technology innovations, but also through a programme of seminars, workshops and master classes designed to address current issues and equip printers with the tools needed to respond positively to the changing marketplace and ensure a long term, profitable future.
Trevor Crawford has ‘lived and breathed’ Ipex since 2000 when he joined the team after a successful career in business publishing.
Having been the Sales Director of Ipex 2002 and Event Director of Ipex 2006 and 2010, Trevor is now overseeing Informa’s International print portfolio.
Prior to working at Informa Exhibitions, Trevor was part of the publishing group Miller Freeman, known today as CMP, where he was the publisher of a range of leading titles, including Electronic Times, Electronic Engineering and The Engineer, before becoming Group Publishing Director of Printing World, British Printer and Packaging Week.