Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct



By: Nick Howard  |  August 29, 2011  |  Contact the Author
The title suggests another “commentary” dribbling on about the fate of our industry. Change, both positive and negative, is a catalyst for opinion.

Man was designed, I guess, to carve and dissect issues of the day into smaller sized pieces that can be easier to conceptualize. As a machinery supplier, I come with the same traits, prejudices and biases. So consider this take on the topic.

Print is definitely not dead. it’s entering a new phase. However, depending on what part of this planet you reside, the metamorphosis of a changing industry is quite different. In the world’s largest economy, it’s not so much a decline but more to do with delivery (of printed materials) as well as one’s ability or desire to finance equipment.

The USA represents a wide spectrum of change. Decreasing business in certain sectors (directory, books, data management materials) has affected many companies that held the same business model for decades. At one time, the industry had Lithographers. These people took great pride in their skills and end products. New technology especially in the pre-press area has simplified things considerably and a lot of those skills are redundant now.

Across North America, especially in the USA, “Web-to-Print” is growing very fast. Courtesy of the WWW. Web-To-Print has embraced the speeds of this communication to now almost instantly receive an order, print jobs and deliver without ever talking to the customer. Online is where it’s at - fast and, more importantly, cheap. The old fashioned printer has problems competing with constantly lowered print pricing and keeping the customers he has.

Even though many types of printed materials are and continue to move to the web, there is actually just as much print now as 10 years ago. New machinery, developments in digital and software are making print remain viable.

Other parts of the world have similar structural changes. But, in much of the global industry’s developing countries such as India and China, there is a wider technology gap between top and bottom performers. Not so in western Europe and North America. Two-color and even singe-color machines are still bought and sold in these markets. Yet, the top level companies have technology equal to the USA. India is seemingly a bottomless pit for printing equipment importation. They may not all have the financial strengths, but printers in India sure have the work.

Financial issues are playing a major role especially in North America. Vendor/Finance relationships have been curtailed in most cases. Coupled with the desire or confidence by printers in North America to invest or take a leap of faith, the result is new machinery sales are at record lows. Confidence is in limited supply and the catch 22 of all this is simple. Without 1st world market's investment in new machinery, the road to profit for many will become even harder.

Print is, in my view, not dead but changing to compete and compliment net driven communications. Many a successful printer exists in all parts of the world - each with unique issues. Web-to-Print or Print-On-Demand concept will keep costs down for those that choose to invest. There are too many great minds in our industry to bet against ourselves.

Print, if anything, is in a state or reorganization. As they say in Vegas, “don’t bet against the house”.

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