Differences in Workflow Software Usage: In-plant vs. Commercial Printers

Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL
For the last few months we have been designing and analyzing our latest research on workflow software. Sponsored by Xerox, the research will be published and available at Graph Expo later this year. We combine several lists and ended up with over 400 responses. The two largest categories of printers were commercial and in-plant, which has led to some interesting comparisons.
It’s important to recognize that the data and analysis are preliminary, but here’s how the results appear.
Generally speaking, most in-plants were smaller than most commercial printers. Almost 75% of the in-plants had less than $5 million in sales, while most of our commercial printers were larger. At the low-end of the scale, 8% of our respondents described themselves as billing less then $1M, which increased to about 15% for printers in the categories $1-3M, $3-$5M, $5-$10M and then peaked at 22% for printers $10-$20M before declining.
That’s not to say that there are not large in-plants or commercial printers; we had similar numbers for companies over $40 million in revenue. Staffing followed that same trend with most in-plants staffing less than 20 people, while more commercial printers had 2 and 3 times the number of staffs.
In terms of investments, more commercial printers invested in web to print, print MIS, PDF workflow, VDP software, and cross media marketing software in the last three years than in-plant printers. However, the in-plants felt that their investments were more worthwhile. We are not sure what this means yet, but this is something we will follow-up on in phone interviews.
Of course, no NAPL study would be complete without looking for differences between leaders and the rest of the industry. In other words, do leaders invest or use workflow products differently than the rest of the industry?
For example, one trend we already see is that leaders are much more effective in using workflow products than the rest of the industry. How they do this will also be part of the follow-up interviews. We will have more answers to these questions when we announce the findings at Graph Expo in both the NAPL and Xerox booths.
What are your investment experiences with web to print, print MIS, PDF workflow, VDP software, and cross media marketing software? Did you make an investment in the last 3 years?  How worthwhile was that investment? Did it pay for itself? Did it help or hurt your ability to build your business?
We’re curious to hear your thoughts, and be sure to stop by Xerox booth #1213 at Graph Expo to hear the results.

Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research.

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