Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant

NAPL

Graph Expo 2012 BoothInplant printers had a much more visible presence at this year’s Graph Expo show and some could argue a greater sense of optimism. There was a dedicated space for inplants on the showroom floor called the networking hub. The Graphic Arts Show Company provided a space on the showroom floor called the “Inplant Place” that offered attendees educational seminars, networking opportunities, and a place to sit down and relax. There were at least 6 inplant seminars. The IPMA event was best attended with about 125 people, but mine and other presentations had 50-75 people.

After attending several of the events and talking to many people in those sessions, I felt that there was a sense of optimism. For the last 3 years, it seemed like inplants were under more scrutiny than ever before. But in conversations at the show, it seems like things were getting better.

I heard several people say that as the recovery continues to improve the business of their parent organization they are seeing increases in print volumes which is improving ability in to achieve their financial goals.

False Sense of Security?

Does this mean that companies should relax? No, we are still struggling through cyclical and structural changes that are reducing the demand for printed products. The cyclical changes are tied to the economy, while structural changes come from technologies that are disruptive to the printing industry, such as the Internet/email, cell phones, and e-books, among others.

While there will continue to be a small portion of the demand for print that will return as the economy returns (the result of the next wave of cyclical change), the structural changes are more profound and will have long-lasting results, and the declines resulting from these changes may never rebound.

As a result, we recommend that you don’t fall into a false sense of security. Because considering the depth of the recession and the begrudgingly slow recovery, this does not mean that anyone can relax. For many traditional products, the pricing pressure continues and the importance of automating, streamlining, and remaining competitive remains just as important. In addition, as the volumes decline for existing products and services, the need to identify new products and services and respond to customers’ changing needs has never been greater. The bottom line is that the importance of proving and improving your value will never decline.

If you’re an inplant printer, I would be interested to hear if you think your business is improving and if you are more optimistic.

__
Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.