It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. New and emerging technologies are driving transformations in nearly every industry, especially the print industry. Change is the key to print providers’ ability to thrive in today’s market.
According to author Josh Linkner in his book entitled The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation, one of the most common—yet easily avoidable—reasons that businesses struggle is the failure to reinvent. Successful print providers are coming to understand that it is necessary to continuously reinvent themselves to remain successful.
Linkner states, “I’ve seen leaders freeze in the face of an oncoming upheaval rather than act because they’re so concerned about the negative consequences of change. They overestimate the resilience of the status quo and underestimate the need for driving innovation.”
Many companies have felt lasting effects from a changing industry and economy, a key effect being the pressure to constantly drive down costs even as materials and labor costs increase. Identifying higher-margin opportunities and differentiating products and services offered can be a solution to this price crunch.
The key principles for reinvention that Linkner outlines are letting go of the past, understanding the justification for key investment decisions, having a willingness to retool existing products and operations, and relaunching the company.
Let Go of the Past
A traditional offset business model may no longer be profitable to pursue. If so, it will be necessary to let go of beliefs and practices you’ve been holding onto for years and venture into uncharted territory. This can be scary, but it can also be freeing.
Digital print technology, specifically inkjet technology, can present exciting growth opportunities for those willing to explore it. According to InfoTrends’ data, production digital inkjet technology represents the fastest growing segment of the market. Global digital inkjet print production volume totaled about 180 billion impressions in 2014 and is expected to exceed 500 billion by 2019. This represents a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24%. Digital inkjet is driving innovation and economic growth for many successful print providers.
Understand the Business Justification
It is critical to consider the magnitude of an inkjet investment. The transition will alter workflow, the sales process, and the overall value proposition that you deliver to your customers. Carefully analyze your opportunities, take the time to identify current volume that can be migrated and explore new applications.
Retool Products for Higher-Margin Solutions
Customers increasingly want more personalization, shorter runs, and electronic distribution. Addressing these needs might mean eliminating offset equipment altogether to migrate to an all-digital infrastructure. But that migration can open up a whole new portfolio of services that incorporate cross-media, complex variable data, content management, web access, and production capability. This can add value for your current customer base and allow you to pursue new business. Migrating to inkjet technology can open up new color applications as well. Be mindful of the challenges that come with the transition to full-color inkjet production and look for a partner offering services like project management, complete installation and implementation, and training in color management. Making sure you’re being guided and provided with the knowledge needed to be successful ensures a smoother transition and flattens the learning curve.
According to Linkner’s book, operational innovation is the concept of completely overhauling the way a company does business to create a competitive advantage. Rethinking the way you currently do business and identifying outdated technology and inefficient processes is an important part of this retooling. Ask yourself, what can be done better? What new applications can be explored if better tech is in place?
Some companies already undergoing this overhaul identify their goals as smarter management of print resources, unifying work processes, simplifying the conversion process, and accommodating a wide range of print streams. Implementing the ideal workflow provides the efficiency needed to achieve these goals.
Accurately Estimate Print Costs
A key challenge in adopting full-color inkjet printing is being able to accurately estimate printing costs. Inkjet quality is excellent, but the cost will depend very heavily on the consumption of ink. Lower coverage jobs will be more cost-competitive than higher-coverage jobs. Workflow software that provides an accurate on-screen proof is an excellent tool to estimate color coverage before printing. Keeping track of the actual color coverage after the job is printed is another important part of gaining control over pricing and securing margins on jobs.
Streamline the Planning Process
Implementing full-color inkjet printing also means approaching workflow in a new way. The de facto toner-based workflow of first-in-first-out (FIFO) is not well-suited to the planning necessary for effectively using inkjet printers. Workflow software that identifies job characteristics like color requirements, media attributes, and special effects, makes it easier to sequence the work, the deadlines, and other requirements will ultimately streamline the planning process. The ability to plan workflow through the software allows you to organize production operations more efficiently. Improvements like minimizing paper changes, optimizing offline finishing processes, and grouping print jobs with similar media attributes together will mean you’re using your equipment to its maximum potential.
Simplify the Conversion Process
Introducing a white-paper-in/full-color-out workflow can mean the elimination of preprinted shells and all the inefficiency they carry with them. Planning this conversion can be tricky, though. Make sure you partner with a company that can guide you through the conversion process. With the right software, it is possible to convert physical inventory of preprinted forms into a digital library containing all of the required designs. This can greatly simplify logistics and free up expensive floor space from housing forms.
Accommodate a Wider Range of Print Streams
A critical component in the white-paper-in/full-color-out workflow is the generation of print data streams. Being able to continuously evolve as customers move away from old-style legacy data streams is key. As your customers adapt and change, so must your business. Expanding your workflow capabilities to accommodate a wider range of print streams for enrichment and optimization will allow you to better adapt to these changes.
Remember that retooling is a journey and not a destination. Stay open to new ways to further refine processes and stay in touch with changing customer needs.
Launch Version 2.0
Now that the reinvention process is underway, your customers need to know. Investing in sales, marketing and customer education is the essential final step. You should be rethinking your messaging during and even prior to your overhaul in order to successfully educate your customers. Don’t expect them to understand the added value of the inkjet transformation without some help from you. Websites, marketing materials, and sales staff should reflect the new face of the company.
In these challenging times, having the courage to reinvent means new possibilities are endless. Upsetting the status quo proactively will position your business as a leader and innovator and poises you for economic growth.